September 3, 2010

Puberty Blues Meets Maturity Blues . . .

Starting with giggling into my skivvy at a sex education lecture in Year 6, then reading Puberty Blues in shocked awe by torchlight on a family camping trip and right through the 80s and 90s, going to uni, backpacking around Europe - anything to do with boys and sex was all about How Not To Get Pregnant.

Working up the courage to get the pill, fumbling with inside-out condoms and sometimes whispering urgent prayers to a previously neglected God when a period was two days late, getting pregnant was not an option.

My beautiful, carefree, naive child mother had only just turned 18 when she found out she was pregnant with me in January 1968. By 21 she had 3 children under four. That wasn't going to be me. I wanted to study, travel, have a career - you know, skinny dip in the Mediterranean and drink martinis in Soho and wear high heels and Cue suits to a Very Important Job when I eventually came home to the colonies daaahling.

Then in Melbourne, November 1986, when the hoop earings were big, the hairdos even bigger and George Michael was belting out 'I'm Your Man' (though little did we know he was aiming it at the Pet Shop Boys and not the West End Girls) I had a scary moment.

I was studying for my upcoming HSC exams and eating lots of vegemite toast and Choo-Choo bars when I received a welcome respite - an invitation to the Melbourne Cup from my ex-boyfriend who was still a good mate.

So I brushed my blackened Choo-Choo teeth, washed my greasy swot-vac hair and borrowed a salmon coloured taffeta dress from my Mum which I thought made me look rather fetchingly like Princess Di, but probably more like a giant salmon. In heels.

Twelve hours and as many glasses of an under-appreciated case of Moet later (a nice change from cask Moselle), the mud-drenched heels were flung in a corner, the taffeta was off and I was passed out in the ex-boyfriend's bedroom after an entirely forgettable tumble in the sack.

It wasn't until I'd finished my exams a few weeks later that I realised I was late. Really late. Like a week and a bit LATE! Oh God, it was like Puberty Blues come to life (except with less surf wax and more West Coast Coolers). Sitting on the loo every day, checking my knickers, praying for my period, promising God I'd cut up my fake ID and give up Iced Vo-Vos IF ONLY I WASN'T PREGNANT! We had used a condom, but I have no idea what happened to it. I couldn't even remember if it had stayed on.

Every scenario imaginable went through my head. Could I have a baby? What kind of mother would I make? What about going to uni? Was I destined to repeat my mother's fate? But on the other hand, could I terminate a pregnancy? Despite not having been to church for some years, there was enough residual Catholic-ness in me to reject the idea.

Of course, my period eventually came. I breathed a gigantic sigh of relief and put the whole thing down to HSC stress. What I didn't foresee, however, was that not a year went by when I didn't think about that phantom baby at least once, calculating its age, imagining how different my life would have been. This year, that imaginary baby would have been 23 years old. Good God.

And you know what? It would have been great. I would love to have a 23 year old child. Life would have been different, but I'd have been fine. I know myself and what I'm capable of and I would have coped.

The other thing I didn't foresee was an inability to conceive when I really wanted to in the future. I, like most young women, had it all mapped out. Children were in my future - at least 5 kids - and it would all happen with the greatest of ease.

Instead, life took a different path. Fast forward to the new millenium. It turns out I did end up with 5 children. Three of them, my step-kids, now in their 20s, then my adorable Jack who just turned 7, and finally the much wanted, hard-won, macarena-dancing, trampoline artist inside me who is due on 2 December this year.

But the thing is, I only just got there, just by the spiky little hairs suddenly apprearing on my maturing chinny chinny chin.

It took me 12 months to fall pregnant with Jack when I was 33 and then another 5 years of serious trying to fall pregnant with this one, finally happening with some serious intervention from a doctor on Kent Street. But I'm one of the lucky ones. It so nearly didn't happen. And those 5 years were full of all the ignorance, denial, guilt, pain and grief that so many women feel when they find they can't conceive.

But that's another story . . .

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