Saturday 18 November 2017

What's another year?

Thirtysomething Liadan Hynes is wondering exactly what happens when you can't hand the children back

I turn 32 in two weeks time. And, in general, I'm fine with that. Getting older doesn't really bother me.

I don't mind wrinkles, and I've decided I'll either be Judi Dench or Edna O'Brien when I'm in my 70s, depending on whether I favour the former's gamine Mia Farrow-style crop, or the latter's full-blown Dallas power barnet. So, apart from the odd much-loved, but now possibly inappropriate, pair of leather hot pants still lingering in my wardrobe, I've pretty much made my peace with the ageing process.

Except that it forces you to come to terms with some inescapable realities.

On turning 31, I suddenly found, for the first time in my life, I'd become the target of a red-tops fear campaign. Not me specifically, admittedly, but my kind. Up to that point, as a white, middle-class, relatively well-educated female, I'd managed to stay pretty much under their radar. But hit 31 while still without child, and suddenly you realise, courtesy of the British tabloids, that there's a world of fear out there. For my demographic, this fear should apparently focus itself on leaving getting pregnant to beyond a certain age. And, the really annoying thing is that, unlike much of their you're too fat/thin/rich/poor/black/foreign campaigns, on this one, they do have a certain point.

As it happens, I definitely do want to have kids. I love kids. At my worst, I've found myself baby-boring the ears off unfortunate male colleagues about cute things relatives' children have done.

Actually, until recently, I wanted four. The boy and I are currently engaged in a round of back-and-forth bargaining that has stalled somewhere around the two mark. I think he might win.

Time and the damn recession are on his side.

So having children at some point has never really been up for debate. But it was always something that would happen in the distant future. Like losing a stone, and getting laser eye surgery; I'd get around to it eventually. It would be painful, but worth it in the end. It would also require a certain effort on my part, effort that, so far, I've never quite felt ready to expend.

Either way, it was definitely not something that would happen before my late 30s. Possibly even when I was 40.

Hitting your early 30s throws a cold bucket of water on that notion. You're forced to realise that having children isn't something you can casually put off indefinitely.

And mostly, that's fine, because you find yourself coming round to the idea of starting a family, wondering whether it would have his eyes, your hair, and such like.

Hanging out with relatives' or friends' young children is genuinely one of my favourite things to do. It's practically impossible not to switch off and stop stressing when you're playing with a two year old.

Not to mention the flattering gratification a small person's adoration provides. It's hard to not be in a good mood around children, I find.

Kids are generally in good form, and, if they aren't, it's because they're tired and at that point you merely hand them back to their parents. Therein lies the crux.

How, or more to the point when, do you reconcile a dwindling window of opportunity, a fertility with a shelf life -- as the British tabloids would no doubt put it in screaming italics -- with an inability to imagine giving up life as you know it.

Issues such as how would my cat take to a baby, will I ever get my figure back, or my squeamishness at the pain of childbirth, still seem far more pressing. I was told, at the tender age of 18, by a rather lascivious older man that I had child-bearing hips; God knows what actual childbirth will do to my almost 32-year-old hips.

And, while I do enjoy an occasional browse through the baby section of department stores I happen to find myself in, mentally styling a future child, the simple fact that none of my friends are doing it and I don't want to be the only one forcibly stuck in on a Friday night, not only far outweighs any hint of a ticking clock, but probably proves that I am far from ready to take on the responsibility of having children.

So I'll be celebrating this birthday with a champagne-fuelled blow out, followed by a hangover that I may need to indulge with at least one day in bed.

And if said hangover leads me to give up drink for a few weeks, calm down, it's not because I'm pregnant.


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