In case you didn’t realise, it’s of my husband, and a little girl.
He met her when we went camping in the
She was quite a character, about four or five years old and the oldest of her brothers and sisters. Utterly bossy, compulsively cheeky and very playful.
Owen’s heart melted, I could see in his eyes he was won over completely. He played with her for hours, and they connected. They laughed and joked and climbed and ran and explored and giggled and jibed and jived and made each other happy.
And oh, my god. I felt so fucking broody it’s untrue.
I had never realised, up until then, just how much of a good dad Owen would be. I had always, because of the way he generally spoke about children and because of the relationship he has with his own father, assumed that he would be, in his parenting style, very awkward and detached and grumpy. I figured somehow that he would never quite enter into the spirit of a family fully. Then Thomas, my nephew came along and he started to prove me wrong. He is very good with him, reading books for hours and helping Sophie bathe him. That was nice, seeing that, but I’m not really a baby fan. They cry too much and I don’t understand why. I am so scared of breaking them. HHhhhhhHHowever, I do admit to being wholeheartedly a five-year-old fan especially when they’re children who are confident and funny and yes, quite cute. Seeing him react and interact like that with Neve was so intoxicating it was almost primal. I just wanted, for the two or three minutes when this photo was taken to drag him to the tent and make a baby. I wanted to ride him long and hard and have gruelling explosive sex. I wanted…well…sperm rather than cock. My oh my I have never felt anything quite like it.
Now every time I see this photo I get an echo of the same feeling. I want to delete it, but somehow can’t bring myself to.
This is doing my nut for three reasons.
1) I have always stated that I don’t want children
2) We can’t afford one child, let alone the two or three I would want if, hypothetically we did have children.
3) I am severely mentally ill and don’t know if I’m well enough to cope with a family.
Yet, after Neve came into our lives, albeit briefly, something has changed between the two of us. I never mentioned my feelings, but I knew Owen could tell. Also, I could tell that something in him was changing, like the way he was looking at pregnant women and young mothers in the supermarket. Last night it all erupted and we had a funny ‘hypothetical’ conversation that boiled down to discussing parenting styles and school preferences (as in types of rather than specific ones) and the best age for us to do it. It was all very strange, like totally new territory, peppered with phrases like ‘well we never said definitely never,’ and ‘I’m not saying we will, but if we do then what do you think about…’ The whole thing was just very strange and weird and oddly exciting. This is just stuff we have never ever discussed because it was never important to us. I don’t know what’s changed really.
However, we would be stupid if we refused to ever think about the possibility of a family of our own because we are so family orientated already, and I’m never going to be career driven, I’ve accepted that already. I want to categorically state that I don’t have a tick tock sense of time passing. Nevertheless, it would be sad if we didn’t even properly discuss the issue until we were thirty-five and then it was getting on to being too late. Also, for us getting pregnant is going to be a huge, long and dangerous process because it will involve me gradually coming off my medication and proving that I can live drug free- a massive step that could take years- before we could even think about going ahead and actually trying to make a baby.
Like I say, the whole thing is rather troubling. Not simply because it’s a 180 degree turn around from even a month ago, and not only the annoying fact that both of our families told us that exactly this would happen, but because it’s a part of a wider picture.
I am having to really accept that I have a future.
Ever since I had to leave my OT course because I wasn’t well enough to cope with it, and then the suicide attempt, where I gave up on life altogether, I have refused to face up to the fact that I could have some semblance of a future ahead of me. I have constantly frustrated my Doctors, nurses and shrink by remaining bleak about my prognosis. ‘Ten percent of us die from this fucking illness’ I said, again and again. My death wish is so strong at times I just knew I would be one of them. Despite the fact that I am happier now than I have been for years, and genuinely healthy and loving life, there is so much of me that thinks each day that passes like that is a fluke. Sure, today was fun, and I enjoyed it, you could even say I’m doing well but how long until the next breakdown, the next relapse? For months after my hospitalisation I refused to even think about my options, and every time my CPN, Nick, would gently prod me about my future, I would laugh in his face. ‘I have no future.’ I would say. ‘Haven’t you read my diagnosis, haven’t you read my notes? I’m totally fucked. I’m doomed to go round and round in this eternal mood swing cycle of elation and depression. I will deteriorate further and further. The illness will destroy my functioning and relationships until one day I will crack and it kills me. That is my future. I am resigned to that. Now just leave me to my fate and go and spend valuable NHS resource on someone who actually has a chance of getting better. Someone you can actually help.’
They would sigh. And disagree, in the strongest terms. But I wouldn’t listen.
Now, something is shifting within me. I still have bleak moments, and I am still resigned to the fact that I have bipolar disorder and my life is never going to be the easiest.
It doesn’t have to kill me. I don’t have to be one of the 10% who wind up swinging or jumping or slashing themselves into an early grave.
It doesn’t mean I have to be housebound, or dependent on my husband for everything.
It doesn’t mean I can never work.
It doesn’t mean I can’t be happy on a long term basis.
It doesn’t mean my marriage is doomed because he will get sick of me eventually.
And, I suppose:
It doesn’t mean that I would inevitably be an awful mother.
That’s the scary thing about seeing Owen with Neve. That’s why it has been playing on my mind so much. Because in a way, it’s all about me facing up to my potential and doing the brave thing with my life. I don’t mean whether or not we have children. The point is I have to face the fact that unless I get hit by a bus or develop a malignant tumour etc. then I’m not going anywhere anytime soon. I have to accept that deep down. I can’t afford a repeat of last October, and I know that now. It’s about realising that, yes, I love life and also about realising I am worth something. Not just to other people but to myself.
Neve was a symbol more than anything else. In some senses a symbol of hope, yes. That I have come a long way and have a future, a life ahead of me that can bring me a lot of fulfilment and happiness, in whatever form I choose. But she was also a symbol of the fact that I am now tied to this earth and along with all the happiness comes a shitload of pain. I will lose people close to me, I will have relapses and crises, and other illnesses and heartache. Neve is a symbol of the fact that now I can’t deal with that pain by drowning it in booze night after night or jumping off a bridge. Not anymore, that time is passed forever. I’ve moved into another phase, one with much more happiness but also much more risk. I have to process the pain, I have to feel it, I have to let it go.
Also, with this idea of a future comes the responsibility to make the best of what I’ve been given with the talents I have. I can no longer use my illness as an excuse. I have to face up to the fact that I am a talented, loving human being with a lot to say who can really contribute to society be it through writing, teaching, working, campaigning, or… you know… raising three kids in a radical way. Or a combination of the above. I have to face up to the fact that I do have some control over my moods, they do not just come out of nowhere. My lifestyle, attitude, honesty and compassion for myself are key to my happiness rather than just pink pills and ‘the luck of the draw’. It’s all about taking control and my responsibility seriously.
I didn’t expect to be alive today. Now I’m thinking about in ten, twenty, fifty years time.
We are talking about the future again. Houses, kids, countries, jobs, ideologies, dreams, golden wedding anniversaries and book ideas. That’s simply something we didn’t dare to do for a long time. It’s a testament to Owens faith in me that we have got to this stage, but also to my own determination and hard work that I’ve got this far so quickly.
I’m half excited, half terrified.
Thank you, little Neve. You’ve opened my eyes to what could be and helped me and Owen more than your five-year-old brain could ever possibly comprehend.