Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Where did the years go?

Today is rather a milestone in the life of our family, being the day when DD turns 40. How on earth can my youngest-born be entering middle-age? Does it mean I can no longer claim that still desirable label for myself?

I know it’s a cliché to say this, but I truly can remember that day as if it were yesterday. She arrived 4 days before her due date, thus making life considerably more complicated for her parents than if she’d waited just a little longer.

I went into labour the night before DH had to travel halfway across the country for an interview. We lived around a hundred miles away from either set of parents, so DH had perforce to stay at home with DS, then a lively toddler, while I was dispatched to hospital in a hurriedly-summoned ambulance, which made an even more hurried return to the hospital. 

Clinging onto my seat for dear life, I asked the ambulance-man (this was long before the days of paramedics) where the fire was, only to be told that they’d had to deliver a baby in the ambulance the previous week and were taking no chances of a repeat performance.

Once we reached the hospital, the system swung into action and I soon found myself in a side-room on the labour ward – alone. The ward was not only very short-staffed because of flu, but also extremely busy, with three births imminent. This was the beginning of a long, painful (no epidurals back then) and tedious night (no birthing pools, music or other distractions either) but one which is also utterly unforgettable.

At intervals a kindly but harassed nurse or midwife popped in to check on progress, but otherwise I was left alone to put into practice all those exercises so carefully learned in pre-natal classes. Eventually I was trundled into the delivery room, where at 6.20 in the morning DD made her trouble-free entrance into the world and was placed in my arms.

She was our second child, so I should have been prepared for what happened next. But somehow, in that long, hard night, I had managed to forget temporarily just what that first glimpse of your new-born baby can do to you. I looked down into her face and fell instantly, helplessly and hopelessly in love with this little scrap of humanity, marvelling, as if no-one had ever done so before, at her gossamer eyelashes and miniscule fingernails, at her neat cap of hair and indeterminate button nose, at all the infinite potential of this brand-new person, our daughter.

It was as though I’d been filled up with all the love I would need to accompany  her through not only the joys of life, but through childhood knocks, adolescent growing pains and the difficulties and disappointments of adult life.

And what a very different world it was back in 1971 when she was born. A world without email, mobile phones or Facebook with which to tell people of her arrival. At that stage we didn’t have a phone at home, and as she was born in the middle of a national postal strike, with all the post-boxes sealed, I couldn’t even write to tell anyone.  All I could do was to get hold of the ward phone trolley and phone both sets of parents to ask them to pass on the good news.

She was born the week after Britain’s currency went decimal, when Ted Heath was Prime Minister and George Harrison was topping the hit parade with My Sweet Lord. When she was born the average house price was around £5000 and a gallon of petrol cost 33p.  This was the year when the digital age was also born, with the invention of the microprocessor and the floppy disk, the year when it became possible for the first time to dial direct from London to New York.

Forty years on, she is a happily-married mother of two lovely boys, a hard-working and competent professional, a woman who in her scarce free time likes to relax with music and books and knitting, and always and forever our loving and deeply-loved daughter. Happy birthday, sweetheart. 

Image via Wylio


  1. My mother is now 95, has just had a hip replacement and is still living independently....she finds it strange to have a daughter with grey hair...it doesn't seem right to her!

  2. I know how she feels, Fly. How can my daughter be 40 when inside I still feel 35?

    Long may your mother go on living independently. Sadly my own mother is long dead, but my dear mother-in-law is still living an activ and independent life at almost 87.

  3. Not having a Google account via which to comment, DD emailed me the following:

    "Thank you! But rather than "middle age" I think I prefer the term "senior youth", which a friend and I coined the other week when discussing the near approach of our respective 40ths :-)"

    I can see her point :-)

  4. My kids are now 30 and 28, and I can still remember the days on which they were born as if it were yesterday. I think would be impossible to wipe out such life-changing memories.

    I like the sound of "senior youth"...I wish I'd thought of that. I'm still in my 20s in my head...I wish I still had the body to match.

  5. Hey Big Sis,

    If you are astonished your DD is forty, then remember also I have been her Aunt since the age of ten! And my Darling Daughter is 30 next month.

    The years are hurtling away just as fast for your Kid Sis.

    BTW have found good fun Bridge Game to play on the computer. You tought me how to plsy a little more than 40 years ago. Shall send you a link...

  6. I'm sure you're right, Ayak. They are certainly branded in my brain.

    Like you I love "senior youth". Does that mean, I wonder, that at rising 65 I'm now in junior old age?

  7. Hey, Baby Sister, you found me then. Have found your blog and can see I have a LOT of catching up to do :-)

    Please, please, please, nothing more that involves the computer. If I sit at my desk any more than I already do, I'm liable to lose the use of my legs.

  8. I have to say this piece actually brought a tear to my eye!

    It also reminded me of this, by Pam Eyres:

    How can that be my baby?
    How can that be my son?
    Standing on a rugger field,
    more than six foot one.
    Steam rising from him,
    his legs are streaked with blood,
    and he wears a yellow mouthguard,
    in a face that's black with mud.

    How can that be my baby?
    How can he look like that?
    I used to sit him on my knee
    and read him postman pat.
    Those little ears with cotton buds
    I kept in perfect shape
    But now they're big and purple
    and they're fastened back with tape.

    How can that be my baby?
    When did he reach that size?
    What happened to his wellies
    with the little froggy eyes?
    His shirt is on one shoulder
    but it's hanging off the other
    and the little baffled person at his feet
    is me: his mother.

  9. Thanks, Zoe! And thanks for posting the poem too. I love Pam Ayres but had somehow missed this. One to treasure :-)

  10. What a lovely post this is. Glad to have found your blog too, and I share my name with your mother..thank you for your comments on my own blog! Anniex

  11. Thanks so much, Annie. It's always enjoyable to discover new blogs and explore them and comments are half the fun ;-)

  12. Oh gosh - this is so much better and more evocative than what I've just been writing! I think I was afraid the son would read it and cringe ...

    1. Thanks, Christine. I think I was so new to blogging and so sure of my anonymity that I didn't feel inhibited. It really was a post that wrote itself and when I sent the link to DD she was very happy with it.


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