(Addendum to last post: all’s well, back to sweating the small stuff with renewed vigor…)

It is with a smidgeon of guilt that we leave the eye test. It has been about a year and a half now during which time marque 2 has dropped continual hints to his hard of hearing mother. In defence of my non-action I call upon his lucidity. He is sharp as a tack and perceptive as hell. He helps me out when driving. Little nudges that, for example, the lights are now green and we can proceed. That there’s a cyclist coming up on the inside so best to hold off on the old left turn. He is my other set of eyes. And I know I’m not allowed to say this because I am his mother and therefore disqualified – but he has a smashing set of eyes. Big hazel ones with lashes to cry over. So as the hints have been dropped I’ve been in denial. Eyes that good can’t be hazy. It just doesn’t make sense. Until one day he prises my glasses from me and puts them on. His face lights up.
‘It’s like everything is in HD’ he says. That is the moment when I take my dim head out of the sand and make a call. We’re going, at last, to Specsavers.


We traipse off – marque 3 and 4 with us for solidarity. Which is just as well because we really need them. The optician works away and keeps saying ‘good’ and ‘excellent’ so I think we’re getting out of there issue free. When she finishes she tells us the good news. The eyes are perfectly healthy. Yippee. Followed swiftly by the fact that he needs glasses. To wear at all times except when playing soccer. Which means at all times. He is short sighted with an astigmatism in both eyes. Perhaps we’d like to go on down and choose some frames. He enquires immediately about contact lenses instead and she says yes, certainly, when he’s about 16. With marque 2 and myself somewhat in shock, marque 3 and 4 get busy advising him about the frames. An assistant gently curls his hair behind his ears and makes encouraging noises. Marque 3 tells him that one pair suits him so much that he’d like to get some too. A smile begins to form. Thank god for the brothers.

As it sinks in, this impending change, he fears being teased the most. He is not one of the jocks in his class. The sporty ones with the gelled coiffed hair who have girlfriends already. He has a great group of friends but currently sits at a table of jocks. They tease him, little jabs and jibes, bubbling away. Courtesy of the longish hair and him being into art and music. One of the jocks told him recently, when he was squinting to read the board, that he doesn’t need glasses – he’s just looking for attention. My pen has been poised to alert the teacher but he thinks that’ll backfire on him. And now he is saying that he needs a hair cut. That he simply can’t be the guy with long hair and glasses. He doesn’t want to get a jock hair cut, just to take the length out of it, shorter layers, and cut it half way up his ears. No problem, his mother who is gathering a little wisdom, never too late, thankfully, accedes.

We collect the glasses, marque 3, himself and myself. Marque 3 throws the sunshine into it, getting him to read far off signs with them on, then getting him to take them off to the blur. We’re having fun, until he catches a glimpse of himself in a shop window, and pops the glasses back into the case. This is going to be a drip-feed process.

He asks for advice on Sunday night. Walk into school with them on and get it over with in a bang. Or take them out for the board only on the first day. Lay the ground work for the days to come. I ask him which he thinks he’d be comfortable with and he’s pretty sure that plan B is the one. His Dad gives him an arming – if alarming – pep talk too. It involves telling anyone who teases him to F*** off (yes really), that they’re to get over the fact that he’ll be wearing glasses because he needs to and if they have anything smart-arse to say about it he’ll be sharing it with the teacher. We’re both feeling the nerves for him clearly.

So on Monday I wait at home wringing my hands, imagining wringing them more usefully around the necks of anyone who teases him. At pick up time I watch him walk towards the car and I’m squinting myself trying to assess how bad it’s been. I practise a few little never mind style mantras. He opens the door, hurls his bag in and beams at me.
‘I have just had the best day ever’ he says. He must’ve bottled it I’m thinking. Lost his nerve. Put it off for another day. Because he can’t just have had the best day ever sporting spectacles for the first time. That wouldn’t make any sense.
‘Did you wear the glasses at all today?’
‘I did. I took them out for the board and it was great. I was getting all these compliments from everyone, how they really suited me and everything, I couldn’t believe it’. Compliments. Now there’s something I couldn’t have dreamt of.
‘Even the guy beside me who didn’t believe I needed them. He was really nice. He high fived me when he saw them’. High fives and compliments for a first outing with glasses amongst 12 year old boys. It restores a bit of faith, warms the heart a little does it not? There’s a lesson in it for me too. It’s time to set the bar a little higher and expect the best of human nature. It’s just been proven to me after all.

Fertility at five


Who are the people who fail to take charge of their fertility when they have their family half raised? Who are the people who turn their noses up at effective forms of contraception, knowing, as they do, that they can just about manage the bed they’ve made for themselves? Who are the people who think that nature is kind and on their side and will not overload them, now that they are finding their feet? Who are the people who think that some sort of Billing’s method is just the ticket for them? Those who think that chemicals and scalpels and plastic insertions are for others. Who tell themselves that it’s practically impossible to fall naturally in your forties?

We are those people. This week while I wait fretfully for the arrival of my ‘friend’ I am one of those. Why did I poo-poo the idea of an IUD? I read all about it. The bits of string hanging down. The T-shaped plastic chemical releasing yoke which may become dislodged and adhesed somewhere else requiring surgical removal to prevent septic shock. They are the bits that I remember. The other side effects, the mood swings and weight gain and erratic bleeding didn’t do much for the cause either. Right now though I’m wishing I had given it a little more thought. There’s a reason why all the sensible women in the world embrace it. They have a bit of foresight. They do not wish to be in my quandary right now. Waiting. Not knowing. Imagining. Hoping. Hovering in the supermarket, gazing longingly at all the lovely tampons. Placed tantalisingly close to the test kits. Which will it be? Thinking of the advert with the array of women who have been ‘caught out’ and need counselling and support. I’d be the one who really should’ve known better. Whose next baby to welcome should be in the form of a grandchild.

In this in-between waiting state everyone is talking babies. The fatal-foetal abnormality debate is on the radio. Where do you stand? But where do you stand now? The kids are talking babies incessantly, reminiscing, asking if there’d be any chance of another as they’d love a little one again and because poor marque 5 hasn’t had one. A mother at the school gate tells me that her last child was a complete surprise. Today. She tells me this today. ‘A lovely surprise’ I find myself saying, all chirpy all of a sudden, willing her to agree with me. Imagine now though, all these years later, could you do another surprise? I just don’t think I could do a surprise. All the worry about something going horribly wrong. About not being able, at all at all. I tell myself to stay calm and trust though. All will be well. You are in safe hands. You will not be tested beyond what you can endure. You fool. You utter fool.

We’re at the playground when a randomer steps into the ring. He knows that I have five. Today he says he could bet on it that I’ll have another. I’m speechless, shaking my sorry head. ‘Ah, taken steps have we?’ he asks, with a conspiratorial nod and grin.
‘Steps’ I repeat after him, as if that’ll help matters somehow. Steps. It sounds so wonderfully simple. I’m dumbfounded on a whole load of levels now. If I open my mouth, it might all just pour out. And anyway, when did this sneak in? This casual shooting from the hip about pregnancy and contraception? Betting and probing. Surely there’s an etiquette code that somebody around here is choosing to ignore. But mostly I am dumbfounded that this virtual stranger has hit the nail on the head. How does he know that at this time I am all consumed with exactly what he is on about? As I no longer appear to be able to do the casual banter he proceeds to tell me about his own steps. Involving the scalpel. The ins and outs of the big snip. I’m in surreal land now, pinching myself, wondering if this is happening or has the stress of the past few days catapulted me elsewhere. Yes, I must be hallucinating. Strangers do not just waltz over to you and discuss their vasectomies. It goes on, this dream state. Vivid details are disclosed and hand on his open heart he tells me that he could not recommend for me to recommend it at home. Not that anyone at home is looking for recommendations.
Snake 2
I begin plea bargaining. If we are let off this time, I swear I’ll sort myself out. Take every little bit of advice and plastic and chemicals going. Help others out more. Take up voluntary work in the spare time that I now have courtesy of the kids being all in school. Sweet heavenly hours of semi-freedom. I’ll sort it all out, I swear. That’s 95% of it. The other 5% remains in dangerous dreamland, in puffy clouds of sweet baby smells. But then again that’ll be the case ’til I’m 90.

He sails in from work having digested my concerns. He is in jovial jokey form. ‘What have you done?’ he says laughing, which is brave of him, considering. Then he flicks open his iPhone and starts to play scrabble with a friend. Oh the joys of the unburdened mind. He refuses to join in on any concern until he has firm evidence. It’s a waste of time to worry without knowing, apparently. Hopefully it’s the PMT. The urge to throttle is particularly acute in me just now.

I collect marque 3 from a friend’s house. The mum brings up the baby topic. Is there a sign across my forehead or something?
‘I can’t believe he’s one of five boys, he’s so gentle’ she says. Six, how about six? ‘Still it’s great to be out of the buggy stage, isn’t it?’ Christ. ‘No more lugging and pushing and shoving them around, eh?’ Yep, that’s the plan. ‘I mean I enjoyed it at the time, but it’s great to be free of it, isn’t it?’ Great indeed. So I’m concluding that if you’re worried about something people can see straight into you and start talking about it. There has never been so much baby talk directed at me in one day. And I don’t have a baby to attract it, unless they all know something I don’t.

I’m out at a school mums night hoping to distract myself from, well, myself. And there it is. All the celebratory talk about being free. Claiming a little time for oneself. No more cots. No more stair guards. No more nappies. No more sleepless nights, unless you choose it, up partying or whatever. ‘You must really be enjoying that’ one mum says to me ‘after the five’. Yes I tell her, fingers crossed under the table. Yes I am. Yes I certainly am. I was, I am, I was. I am.

We’re in the car on a sunny drive in Wicklow when marque 2 pipes up.
‘I had a dream that Mum was pregnant again’. I begin to writhe about in my seat. Marque 2 has an uncanny knack of seeing straight into me. He can speak my thoughts without me sharing them. He can tell me what I’m searching for in the fridge when my porous brain won’t engage.
‘But it was a girl this time’.
‘Finally’ marque 3 chimes in.
‘And her belly was huge and I could feel the baby kicking and everything but she kept saying she wasn’t pregnant’. Yes I can quite imagine denial stretching that far.
‘So I said to her what is that moving about in there then, what have you been eating?’
‘A puppy’ the father throws in, breaking the spell with humour as ever. They’re all laughing now and the dream is forgotten about as I stroke my bloated tummy and wonder.

I’ll use this limbo land to my advantage. When I discover that this is, indeed, a false alarm, a little wake up call, I will savour everything that bit more. I’ll use my time better. Be more productive. More creative. More mindful. More attentive. And book an emergency appointment for that IUD.