Don’t worry. I know how you are really feeling about this birthday. And it’s neither of the answers you tend to give people when they ask – and they will ask – how you feel about turning 30.
It’s not the faux, what-am-I-doing-with-my-life angst that everyone half expects, and which makes for easy self-deprecating listening. Neither is it the gung ho glad-to-see-the-back-of-my-miserable-20s bravado. After all, your 20s have mostly been very kind to you. You have somehow come out of them with a job, a husband, a house, friends – good ones! – and a cat. With all your parents and siblings still alive. And three grandparents, too.
You do know, I think, how lucky you are.
And yet……..what you feel most about turning 30 is impatient. Frustrated. Because, if you’re really honest, you thought you would be expecting a baby by now. That was the plan. You feel as if you have outgrown your old life and are waiting for a new one to arrive – in every sense. Believe me, I understand. You will still, to certain extent, feel this way in two years’ time, I’m afraid to say.
But what if I told you that in six weeks you will be pregnant? Would that help? Would you then be able to relax and truly enjoy the prosecco at the party you will throw in your new-ish back garden, the fence still half-painted, on a September Saturday that’s almost warm enough for the barbecue you insist upon.
If I could tell you that this, believe it or not, is the good part, would you do what you can to hold on to it, rather than rushing it away?
I wish there was something I could say to make you realise how at ease with yourself you are right now – although you don’t feel it at all. Right now though, you are free from the desperate need to explain yourself, to tell your story to strangers on the internet for fear of not being seen. Of never being seen. For fear of existing only in silences, sad glances, and hushed asides from older, wiser women: “me too”. But take heart, look at my children now.
How can I make you appreciate your whole-ness? That right now, you don’t feel as if you are missing a layer of skin. You may feel antsy, impatient and wanting more, more – and the next thing, but you don’t yet have to exist in the world as one giant, un-skinned nerve ending; synapses flayed and fraying, too easily set off by the harum-scarum day-to-day. Vulnerable to saccharine TV adverts, terse emails, sudden noises, small disappointments, birthdays, anniversaries and random Thursdays.
No, you can only feel, at almost 30, like this has to be the worst part. Caught between two places, waiting for a positive test, for parenthood. You cannot see beyond getting pregnant – if only that would happen, you still think everything will fall into place.
And actually, how could I bring myself to take that away from you? After all, would I want someone to tell me? That on my 34thbirthday I will look back at now – at 32-year-old me – and marvel at how easy I had it and how relatively unscathed I was?
No. No, I wouldn’t want to hear it, but also: no, I don’t think I could believe it. Maybe to bear any more baggage always seems impossible.
Yet perhaps this is simply what ageing is – the gradual accruing of things that make our hearts heavy, and slowly learning how to carry them; to continue to move lightly. A kind of psychic resistance training, with many sets and painful repetitions.
No. The obvious conceit of this letter, dearest, is that I cannot – and would never – send it. How could I tell you, me, that in five months’ time you will learn a very cruel way that life really is what happens when you are making other plans.
As much as I would like to prepare you, to tell you to enjoy that first pregnancy and your connection to it; to live deep in that place you will possibly never let yourself get to again, I would never want to sever that golden thread with prior knowledge. It will be severed soon enough anyway, by blood and cramp and ugly phrases you haven’t heard before: products of conception, spontaneous abortion, complete miscarriage. Words you will come to hear again, and again, and again.
If a cosmic postman could be found though, perhaps I would send you this shorter note: You are frustrated and impatient, yes. You feel you are being blocked, held back from your real life – the meaty part of it, anyway. But only you can make you wait. However much you want something, no job, no baby, no bigger house or newer dress will give you the permission you think you need. Only you can make you wait.
Also, take more pictures of your party and the people who were there. You’ll wish you had them two years from now.
Happy birthday, dearest.
Love, a friend. x