You don’t look old enough to be a parent

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Isn’t that such a strange thing to say?

I’ve had 2 people say that to me on separate occasions and I don’t know how to respond.

It was said completely innocently, as a compliment more than anything. But it confused me.

Technically we can have babies from as young as 11, and at 21 I am at the height of my fertility and physically the best age to bear a child.

So is the implication that I don’t look mature enough to be a mother?

I’m not going to dwell on this though, because really the intention isn’t malicious or judgemental and if anything is complimentary. And as I’m not self-conscious about having had a baby young, I’m not offended or upset. I’m just a little confused by why anyone would say this. It’s only in recent years that people have started waiting until their thirties and even forties to have babies, but no-one would ever be told they look too old to be a parent.

All I can say is, Hey lady, go down and tell that to my flat stretchmark-free stomach, tight vag and indestructible pelvic floor!

The Whole Story

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I just found this that I wrote in March.

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This is what happened.

We slept together for the first time in late September. Then a couple more times in October and few more times in November and early December. It was nothing special. It could have stopped when I went home for Christmas. In January it continued.

February was a turning point, like the emergence of spring, although it snowed. The Paris snow turned quickly to grey slush. People asked questions. It’s hazy in my mind. I went on holiday to Naples and kissed an Italian. I came home to his bed. It started to feel like we might be in a relationship. 

In late spring/early summer I asked, nestled drunk in his bed, if we were going out. We very clearly were going out.

He said, That’s a serious question. 

I didn’t get a straight answer. Neither of us, apparently, wanted to have sex with anyone else. But he didn’t want to call me his girlfriend. 

The next day I wouldn’t speak to him. We had goodbye drinks and joints with a friend who was leaving and I went back to a friend’s apartment and cried. 

I wrote him a short letter of apology. 

We carried on as we were. 

We spent the whole summer together, in France and England. I think I might have fallen in love with him.

One night he came home from his mum’s depressed and wouldn’t have sex with me. He missed his ferry the next day to spend some time with his mum. I didn’t see him for a week. 

On returning to Paris, looking back I saw less of him, but at the time thought it was simply that I was less busy and so noticed his absence. I had few other friends and only worked from 4.30pm so spent lots of time alone. We often met on his lunch breaks but not as much in the evenings. I finished work late and was often tired (pregnant!) so didn’t think much of it. 

In October my friend told me another friend had spotted him on the metro with a blonde girl. I messaged him saying I’d heard some rumours about him, not believing that it was anything.

He told me it was a girl from work. They met for a French-English exchange. There had been two girls there. She had been flirty with him. He’d said he was with me. It was nothing. He was sorry he hadn’t told me. He even made up a name for her. 

I wrote him a letter. 

I don’t believe that this was nothing – why wouldn’t you tell me? Your best friend is your ex – so why would you lie about this? Why wouldn’t you invite me even? I invite you to everything. Obviously we don’t have to (and shouldn’t) do everything together all the time, but why wouldn’t you say anything. I don’t want to find out about things about you from Riley, or from anyone else. Do you want to go out with me? If you don’t want then let’s just be friends. I don’t want to go out with someone who doesn’t want to go out with me. I know that I’m not good with talking and being honest about how I feel, I think we should both be more upfront about what we want. Sometimes I feel like you’re really secretive and I don’t feel like I can talk about these things with you – because I’m bad at being open and also knowing what I want (making decisions!), but also because I feel like you don’t want to talk about real feelings or anything serious and uncomfortable like that. Sometimes I do think things have to be labelled, otherwise you end up in these sort of situations where you don’t know what you’re allowed to do. I feel like I don’t trust you now – like how many times do you meet people and lie to me. I think we’ve needed to have a chat for a while, maybe you feel confused about what we are too and I don’t think you trust me either, but ever since that time that I asked you if we were going out and I felt rebuffed by your response, I don’t want to bring anything up. I know that you like me but I feel like you don’t want to officially go out with me – I feel like it’s because you don’t like me enough, but maybe it’s because you’re scared of getting hurt, or because you don’t know how I feel, or because you’re waiting for something better. I don’t want to marry you! I just want to stop feeling insecure! Obviously we had a weird start to our relationship and maybe that set a precedent from then on. I never wanted to properly like you because you had a reputation and I always assumed it would continue to be a ‘friends with benefits’ situation, so if I seemed not nice or not committed to you, it’s because I was protecting myself. Maybe you were right and I was looking for the next best thing, but if that was the case it was because I didn’t want to get hurt. We are definitely in a more intense situation being in Paris – maybe I rely on you too much. I want us to get on but I want you to be honest with me. Sometimes the way you act makes me feel a bit shit. I know you’re a really good nice person (I think you should be more confident in yourself and maybe I should compliment you more – maybe I don’t try hard enough to make you feel good about yourself) and of course you know that I have my faults (!), and I don’t want you to think that I think badly of you because I don’t, I think very highly of you. Sometimes I think we would be better off just as friends. 

He read the letter. He said I was his best friend and his girlfriend. 

It was all forgotten.

That same month he went to London for a long weekend for a his grandad’s funeral. I hadn’t had a period in 3 weeks but had just come off the pill so assumed it was normal. As I was going out drinking on the Saturday, I decided to buy a test on the Friday to do on the Saturday morning. I felt ridiculous buying the test. Obviously I wasn’t pregnant. I had been so tired and felt a bit under the weather that week, like I was fighting something off. Tim had said he was unwell so I thought nothing of it. Obviously I wasn’t pregnant. 

It was positive. 

That night I went to a bar with some friends, one of whom I’d told about the positive pregnancy test. That night I heard just how friendly he had been with this blonde girl. 

He messaged and called that night. I didn’t answer. 

I did another test. It was positive.

He kept messaging. He was worried. I said I didn’t want to see him for a week or two. I needed a break. It was nothing to do with him. I just wanted some time on my own. There was no need to worry. 

I went to a doctor with my friend Katie to confirm the pregnancy, but he was a pervert and I paid 25 euros to be sexually harassed. 

We had a beer on the steps by the Sacre Coeur looking out over Paris. It was the annual wine festival and it was sunny. I messaged him to tell him I was pregnant. 

He was on the way to his Eurostar but missed it and stayed the night with his dad in London. 

I told him about what I had heard of him with this blonde girl. He wanted to call me but I didn’t want to speak to him. I was crying and I had to babysit. 

He told me he was so sorry. It had been nothing. Just flirting. It was nothing. He would come round after work the next day. 

He brought chocolate, red wine and a potted flower. I don’t remember what sort of flower it was. We made dinner and had sex on the floor. 

I told him I wanted an abortion. But I think I knew even then that I would keep it. I just couldn’t bring myself to say it. 

After going back to the UK and cancelling our holiday to Croatia and then not going for the abortion, I came back to Paris and he met me at the train station and he was so nice and affectionate. It was a Saturday night. The next day he left after a coffee to help a friend move house. I told him I was homesick. I didn’t want to be on my own. I spent the day ignoring the fact that he had left me on my own.

On the Tuesday he was working from home and I went to his for lunch. We went for a walk. He seemed sad. I kept asking what was wrong. He said nothing. He was fine. We went back to his. Suddenly he had his arms round me and was crying. He wanted to go for another walk. He bought cigarettes in a Tabac while I waited outside. We walked with our arms around each other’s waists and he smoked. 

He told me he’d had two girlfriends for the past year. 

I remember it took a few seconds before I dropped my arm from his waist. 

We were walking towards the metro. I had to go and pick the girls up from school. 

He told me her name. She’s from Brighton as well, he said.

I said, Wasn’t that the girl you were seeing before?

I said, crying, I was going to have an abortion for you.

I got on the metro to go to work. We messaged after that. There were so many questions. 

I thought I would never stop crying. I thought the baby must be dead. I thought I would cry so much it would bleed out of me. It would be deformed with pain.

I thought, I’ll get over this.

The next week we met for a drink and I was over it. Was it the next week? Or was it only that weekend? The Saturday or Sunday. Four or five days. I was over it. I was over it. He was pathetic. I was fine. 

He told me he would tell her the next Sunday. 

She had a problem with her landlord and moved in with him.

He told me he had told her. She cried and hit him, he said.

I didn’t know she had moved in with him.

I called him one night, upset beause I had lost something, crying on the phone.

He said, Hang on, and hung up. 

A couple of hours later, he messaged to say that was the first time he had told her.

I told him I never wanted to see him again. 

I wanted to cut him.

She texted me and wanted to meet. 

I wanted to be over it. I was over it. I was fine. I had other things to think about. I was pregnant. I was busy. There were Youtube videos to watch. There was food shopping to do. I was fine. I played music and sang along. I wore makeup. I was fine and he wasn’t because he was fucked up. 

I was fine.

I thought I was fine. 

We were together all Christmas. I met his mum and brother and his brother’s girlfriend. He met all my extended family on Christmas day. Then he went back to Paris and I cried every day for hours on end. 

Love at first sight…

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I had been depressed in the pregnancy. There were days, before I got my reception job at the children’s centre, that I would cry for hours.

I think it was the night before my due date that I cried to Tim because I wasn’t excited about the baby being born.

In retrospect, I think that was why the labour was so hard. If I had been excited, the beginnings of labour would have been exciting. But I found every minute of it awful.

Once he was born though, and I lay there legs akimbo, once the adrenaline had worn off and the shock had subsided, as they stitched me up (and yes I farted) after a good few puffs of gas and air (which by the way does nothing for the pain) to endure injections into my actual fairy (after all it had been through!), as I lay there then, the happy high of birth rose in me and never left. The depression slunk off and we have all been happy ever since.

But I didn’t love him at first. I was very happy. I stared at him all day, I stroked him, I fed him, I rocked him, I nearly cried when he, screaming, had his IV removed, but he could be passed to anyone and I didn’t mind, I could have left him for hours (I didn’t) and I don’t think I would have missed him. I was very happy but he felt like a stranger that I had to get to know.

He was a lovely little stranger. For the first 2 weeks he slept and woke only to feed. I spent every minute with him and watched him grow from tiny 6lb 10oz twiglet to a real chunky bubba who smiled and made gentle little sounds and screamed in rage when the boob didn’t arrive into his angry rosebud mouth fast enough.

Then one evening, when Tim was in Paris, I looked at him and cried because I loved him. It had taken about 6 weeks but the little stranger felt less of a little stranger and the love and fear had grown in equal measure, because they always seem to go hand in hand.

It wasn’t love at first sight, but it was really ok.

Difficulties I’ve discovered looking after a tiny baby…

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Pooing! (Not even his bowel movements, but mine.) For 2 reasons:

  1. The sudden desperate urge to poo always comes when he is either feeding or sleeping on me. And
  2. Piles! For the second time in the 6 weeks since he was born, my arsehole is ruined and it had nothing to do with anything sexual (well actually technically yes it did).

The above kind of summarizes the main difficulties of looking after a tiny baby: it’s difficult to do anything! Such as eat, shower, poo, leave the house (especially when it is this swelteringly hot).

I hope we make it through this heatwave.

I hope my bum eventually recovers.

Birth

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My waters broke at 11pm on Thursday 6th June.

I woke up to a tummy ache. I thought the movement in my tummy was the baby and I put Tim’s hand to it. Then I felt water leak out. It kept coming. I lay there for a second. Then I said, Tim.

I think my waters just broke.

My teeth started chattering.

It was only 2 days past the due date. I thought he would be 2 weeks late. I was measuring small. And I wanted a good night’s sleep. It was too late at night. I was too tired for this.

We called the hospital and they said to come in at 10am the next day. We lay towels on the bed.

The pains carried on all night, like the worst period pains.

My dad drove us to the hospital in the morning. I had thrown up my breakfast but I could still have a contraction in silence.

They checked my sodden maternity pad, my pulse and temperature and my notes, and sent us home.

The pains got worse. I ate icecream. I threw it back up. I felt hot, then I wanted a blanket.

We called the hospital at around 3. The contractions seemed to be 3 in 10 minutes. I hadn’t felt the baby move all day. Because there were not enough midwives, the hospital was on divert to a different hospital further away. We were sent there.

I screamed the half-hour car journey. But we reached the hospital and I was only 3cm.

They sent me for a bath.

The first photo of him

I was put on the antenatal ward for the night. No-one there was in proper labour. I was the only one moaning and screaming all night. I slept the few miniscule minutes between contractions, and woke in agony, delirious, hitting and scratching Tim. Sometimes he would feed me bits of banana.

Finally, at midnight on Friday 7th June, 25 hours after my waters broke, I was wheeled screaming to the delivery room. They strapped me up to the heart rate monitor and stuck an IV in me. My temperature had risen and they thought I had an infection.

At 2am we thought it would be very soon.

I needed a poo. They said it was the baby’s head. I was pretty sure it was a poo.

At 5am he still wasn’t born.

It was starting to get light outside.

They wheeled in a special machine for sick babies. The paediatricians and doctor were brought in. They were going to take the baby away for antibiotics as soon as he was born. The machine was there in case he was ill. They were worried he was a very small baby.

I felt annoyed at all their fussing. I thought they just needed to pull him out. I was too tired to push him out. The contractions had slowed down and weren’t strong enough. I was falling asleep. Everyone was falling asleep. They gave me juice for energy but it wasn’t enough.

Finally, they put me on an oxytocin drip and, after pooing before a roomful of people, I pushed him out at 6.24am on Saturday 8th June 2019, 31.5 hours after my waters had broken and the pains had first started. He was plopped on my chest covered in blood and meconium and I thought, Oh, not on my top! He looked exactly like a baby.

Then they took him to be stabbed all over with needles, looking for a vein for the IV. It was a violent beginning.

Day 3