I became a mother at what felt like the 11th hour. I was forty and hadn’t been with my partner for that long when we conceived. Before I met said partner I’d truly faced up to the idea of having no child. I’d done some grieving, some rejoicing (for the free life I would have going into to older age) and some good old coming face to face with my true self. It was a bizarrely content moment. I was single, free and really liked myself. And my sadness was uncomplicated. THEN I fell in love – head over heels and slightly bonkers. My breeding impetus went into overdrive. After two weeks I told him he was the Daddy and so it was. I knew I was pregnant the moment we conceived, literally, we both did. Just looked at each other and said ‘oh my god’. That pregnancy lasted 8 weeks. It was beautiful and sad. I was so grateful to have had the experience of pregnancy, whatever happened next. What did happen next was an even heightened desire to be pregnant again. But the romance had faded from our relationship, and it took a doubtful 6 months to conceive again. This time I had the most incredible full pregnancy. Never have I felt so empowered and energised and Life-full. And we had a great birth. At home, in water, all natural. The whole thing – from meeting my partner to giving birth – felt so animal, so natural, so instinctive.
My Mum is a lovely woman. But she was terribly repressed as a child, through authoritarian parents, and just the middle class culture of growing up in Surrey in the 50s. She chose a kind of repressing husband in my Dad, and her stifled nature was of course passed onto me. She did her best, but I have a sense of never having fully been allowed to stretch my wings, to allow my wildness out. I felt boxed in, too much emphasis put on what others thought. She has also inherited a rationalism, which I don’t believe is her true nature. I believe she’s really a poet and a hippy and a radical. But those things aren’t allowed in our family culture, and I hide those sides of myself from her. As a child she said that we were so connected (not her words) that she knew what I was thinking, and as a child I knew that was true, and i knew what she was thinking. Now that bond doesn’t exist. She has shut down something and i’m not brave enough to open it up. there’s also no need. She’s actually kind of happy just as she is and doesn’t need me opening up a can of worms in her 70s. I’m however left with restrictions I impose on myself, embedded by my upbringing. She was kind, she was good, and she never rocked any boats.
Your Mother, You, Your Children
I think, in some ways, having a daughter has brought us a bit closer. Subtly. My daughter has worn some 1940s baby dresses that Mum wore and I wore, and I had a wonderful feeling when i did up the buttons, of a lineage of women. But our basic relationship hasn’t changed. I love the relationship my daughter has with her Grandma. She totally loves her, and fantastically breaks through awkward physical barriers by just clambering on her lap and cuddling her. Most unlike my family! I hope it continues, and she doesn’t get wind of my Mum’s unease, or a t least carries on despite it. I am parenting in a very consciously different way, trying to undo the repression. But I am scared that i can’t. I have found myself tutting and sighing lately at my daughter’s 3 year old behaviour. Those not-so-subtle messages i grew up with of being somehow unacceptable. There’s an anger and a volatility in my relationship with my daughter that flares up sometimes and I don’t know how to deal with it as I have no precendent, and anger is a scary emotion to those who grew up with it as taboo. I’d really like to change that. I want my daughter to be free to be angry, passionate, joyful, wild, miserable, boring, exciting without it affecting her own sense of self worth. And i guess i’d like that for myself too.