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.
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.