We've talked about babies quite a bit on Love My Dress recently. The response to both Jess' post on her experience of living with endometriosis and Annabel's own account of her journey to motherhood reveals that fertility, pregnancy and starting a family are all issues that many of you are, or have been, thinking about.
Today I'm going to share my own story of becoming a Mother. It's a little different to the others. I didn't agonise over the decision to start a family. I wasn't worried about whether there was a 'right' time to do it. In fact, I hadn't even given the idea of having children much thought. 'One day, perhaps' would have been my answer had anyone quizzed me on my desire to procreate. You see, motherhood was thrust upon me. This is a tale of unplanned pregnancy…
There is no other way to tell you I peed on a stick, other than to say 'I peed on a stick'. I've tried to think of some great literary flourish with which to describe what I was doing in the dimly lit bathroom that morning in August 2004, but I can't. So, I was peeing on a stick. There, I said it.
I closed the lid on the pregnancy test and waited. There was no anxiety. No panic or dread. I just waited and watched as the moisture slowly crept along the plastic wand and the two windows at the other end gradually clouded over. A distinct pink line appeared. I was pregnant.
The events that followed are somewhat blurred in my mind. I cried. I know that much. A day or so later I found myself at my GP's surgery being examined by a locum doctor. I hoisted myself up on to the couch and waited for her to tell me I was 5 or 6 weeks pregnant while she poked and prodded my tummy.
The doctor took out a tape measure and held it up to my abdomen.
'You need to go for an ultrasound to confirm things, but you're probably about 18 weeks pregnant'.
I didn't know my body then, not like I do now. I didn't feel every peak and trough of my hormones, didn't understand the subtleties of my irregular cycle. Nor had I felt pregnant. At least not until immediately before I peed on the stick when I suddenly found myself throwing up breakfast three days in a row.
At the hospital, a scan placed me at 18 weeks and 4 days, to be precise. Four and a half months. I'd been pregnant less than a week, and I was already in my 2nd trimester.
Carl, the man who is now my husband, was 23 to my 21 when, after not even 6 months of 'sort of seeing each other in a casual but exclusive kind of way', we found out we were going to have a baby together. I mailed him a letter containing the news. I couldn't face talking to him. I was frightened of the moment that would change his life so dramatically.
He opened it at home and called me later once he'd broken the news to his family. I don't remember the conversation at all. Not a word of it. I knew he was going to be part of things, and that we were going to find our way through it together, but it's not a memory that has stayed with me.
I remember the first person to congratulate me on my pregnancy though. Two weeks after the news broke my Godmother-Aunt sent me a card. She had waited years to start her own family, enduring failed IVF attempts and plenty of heartache before finally giving birth to twin boys. 'Sorry I haven't put pen to paper earlier,' she wrote. 'Congratulations if that's appropriate – well I think it is!' Through all the doom and gloom, the mutterings about abortion and concerns for my future, she saw the pregnancy for what it was. A new life.
It took a long time for me to allow myself to feel happy or excited. I can recall smiling the first time I felt the delicate flutter of the baby moving inside. I was stood in the chilled section at my local supermarket, gazing at cooked meats, pizzas and cartons of fresh soup. For the most part though, nothing about being pregnant felt like cause for celebration.
My closest friends were amazing. Free of judgement, and full of support and love. One left work early and battled against public transport to attend my first scan with me. The other showered me with gifts, kept me company on otherwise lonely evenings at home, and basically did everything she could to put a smile on my face. My Mum and Dad did what they had always done; let me find my own way, offering advice and encouragement when I needed it most.
Isabel Faith was born just before dawn on January 31st 2005. Along with her younger brother Jesse, who arrived four and a half years later, she is my greatest achievement.
From the moment I discovered I was pregnant, I have struggled with the notion of children as limitation. Starting a family, even under less than ideal circumstances, has enriched our lives no
end. So called 'sacrifices' simply don't feel like loss when I have gained so much. Everything I have accomplished since has been weighted with extra
significance because of the two other lives I am responsible for.
There's no denying having children makes it harder to do certain things, but I don't believe anything suddenly becomes impossible. Since having Izzy I've gained three grade A Alevels, achieved a first class degree while working part time, had another baby in my final year of university,
completed an MA, and embarked on a career as a freelance writer. In many ways, I've done more with my twenties than many of my childless friends.
We've travelled with the
children too, and there are few things that beat exploring another
country through the eyes of a small child. My children constantly remind
me that the world is full of wonder everywhere you look.
I can't deny I sometimes feel sad I've missed out on all
the planning and excitement that comes with the decision you're ready to try
for a baby. I also know I'm incredibly lucky to have fallen pregnant so
easily in a world where a woman can struggle for years, regardless of when they start trying. I would also dearly love to have had friends
sharing the experience with me, but I've made peace with the fact I'll probably have a 10
year old by the time any of my best girls decide to start a family.
I wouldn't change a thing though. For me, there is no 'right' time to start a family. I think you just need to believe that when you do, it will be right for you. I've always loved the John Lennon lyric 'life is what happens while you're busy making other plans'. It reminds me to be grateful for the gift I never even knew I wanted; motherhood.
Read more from our 'Life and Love' section here.