When I talk to anyone about my nephew I know my eyes sparkle. I imagine I sound like a teenage girl mooning over her pop star crush — he’s SO funny! He’s SO clever! Ohmygoodness, he did this thing the other day that was SO hilarious! <Insert dreamy sigh> He’s just amazing….. And he is really is. I can provide documented evidence of how Noah is possibly a MENSA-level genius and already displaying the comedic ability of a young Ben Stiller. And that’s before we get to the fact that he’s the Cutest Kid in the Universe.
I know I am biased when it comes to my nephew. I know that all of us who love little ones are biased — it’s part of the deal. We see the magic in them through the lens of our unconditional love. I have moments when I look at Noah and have actual physical aching in my chest. Having the privilege of watching him growing up — and, even better, being an active part of his world — is the greatest gift I have ever been given. It’s been the absolute making of me — I can’t really remember my life before him. It all feels so grey in comparison (okay, so biased aunties also tend to be a bit melodramatic).
Whenever I am with Noah I am 100% present. We play, we dress up, I wipe his bum, we jump on the bed. I do my best to help his mum out and try to be the most hands-on auntie I can be. I’m too busy dealing with my exploding heart to think about my own stuff. But when I get home, back to my quiet life in the city, I feel it hard. Mostly it’s me missing Noah, but woven through is a little ache that’s been growing lately. Knowing this great love I have for my nephew, who feels like a part of me in the way my sister does, I wonder what it would be like to have a child of my own. Created with love and born from my body. To be a mama, with all the sleepless selfless responsibility that involves.
While no one has actually said this to my face, I know there is this crazy idea out in the world that unless you have children of your own you don’t really know what selfless love is. Or maybe it’s unless you’re a mother you don’t know what real love is. Or is it that women who choose not to have children are selfish? Whatever it is, it makes me feel like shit and it’s patently untrue, as any auntie, uncle, grandparent, godparent and carer can attest. I didn’t do the feeds in the middle of the night and I know I don’t carry the responsibility that my sister and brother-in-law do (though I carry the worry with them 100%), but I love Noah as if he were my own child. It feels bigger than just “family” — I feel like I am his second mummy. I don’t know how else to explain it.
I’m at this very delicate point in my life where I have to face the fact that my fertility is declining and the likelihood of me having a family of my own is becoming remote. This was brought home to me last week as I sat in the office of the doctor who’ll be surgically removing my fibroids. He mentioned my age three times in our 20-minute appointment. It was unpleasantly sobering.
I honestly don’t know what the next few years will bring for me romantically or reproductively. There is still the possibility of my own child, and yes I know adoption is an option — the sperm donor route, however, is not for me — and perhaps my future beloved will have children of his own I will grow to love. But just as I wish to find the best most brilliant uncle for Noah, I still hope to make a cousin for him. And typing that makes my eyes prickle with tears, so I know that is the absolute truth.
I don’t have a neat ending for this post. It is what it is. This is my life, my right now, and just as I know circumstances can change in the (missing) beat of a heart, I also trust that this is the path I am supposed to be walking. It’s not comfortable but it is real.
Noah turned four earlier this month and asked for a Frozen party, so we all pulled together and made it happen. It was MEGA.
And bowling for the first time the day before:
I try not to spoil him but I know I do. I spoil him with love, with my attention, with presents, yes, with presents, too. I can’t help it. I am just so honoured to be a part of his life. I feel so incredibly lucky to know him and be the recipient of his kisses and cuddles. I love cosying up on the sofa with him and scooping his little body into my lap and burying my nose in his hair. My love for this small human is tactile and deeply felt. I still get butterflies on the way to see him; I mope around the house the day I get home. It’s hard not seeing him every day, but when I’m there I am THERE, completely present, totally his.
The first morning I had to send an important email to a friend, so I perched on the bed with my laptop typing as quickly as I could. Noah wandered in and stood beside me, watching intently. “When I’m older I can write on the computer like you,” he said. “Yes you can,” I said, pressing send and closing the screen. An hour or so later my sister and I went looking for Noah only to find him sat on the bed with my laptop open, typing an “email”. I swear my heart exploded into a million pieces right there.
Watching him play with two of his little friends I understand how he is a particularly active child, shall we say. Always on the move. Always talking. Always peforming (my sister and I have vowed never to tell him to stop showing off.) He is a live wire, a shooting star, our very own Billy Elliot. He loves his princesses — Jasmine is his current favourite, though Ariel and Belle are close behind. Panda is his favourite soft toy, a furry friend he sleeps with each night, keeping him safe. He LOVES dressing up — Auntie Susie may have bought him a Merida dress at the weekend :) Our boy loves being a boy and he loves doing “girl” things, too — it’s all glorious fun to him and he inspires me to own who I am because he models it so well. Our little guru wearing sparkly leggings, pinging a bow and arrow around the room.
On Saturday I treated him to a teddy bear that’s as tall as him, and I said: “If you ever miss me and you feel sad then you can cuddle teddy and he will help you feel better until I come back.” I say these things and I never know if they register, his nearly-four-year-old attention flying from shiny object to TV screen to iPad to his princesses. But my sister told me he came home from nursery the day I left and declared he was missing me and hugged teddy. I nearly cried. I always make her tell me the things he says about me when I’m not there, my heartache-y auntie need to know he still loves me. And he does… he does :)
And good god, I love him so.
First, the year in stats:
Number of teeth removed: 1
Number of moles removed: 1
Number of stitches: 3
Number of muscles built: a lot
Number of years on the planet: 40
Number of first dates: 6
Number of second dates: 1
Number of third dates: 0
Number of new tattoos: 2
Number of trips abroad: 1
Number of new courses launched: 1
Number of book contracts signed: 1
Number of years deleted from my blog: 3 (2006 – 2008)
I feel ready to say goodbye to 2013. After all the outward movement of last year, 2013 has been positively hermit-like in comparison. I started January wading through the depression my return to London had triggered, and for the rest of the year my goal has been to heal myself, physically, mentally and emotionally. Knowing I couldn’t do this on my own I reached out for help and found Wendy, my therapist, and Carrie, my personal trainer. I’ve been diligently working with these two wonderful women (who are both Americans living in the UK, interestingly) each week and the progress I’ve made in both my physical fitness — planks and push ups weren’t even on my radar last year — and emotional health has been enormous.
Of course, committing to an inward journey like this has meant I’ve been less present online this year. I’ve been plugging away at this biz of mine since I created my first ecourse back in January 2009 — after four years of steady growth, and a LOT of time at the computer, it was time to pull back and devote energy to my offline life. This hasn’t been the most comfortable transition, but it was definitely necessary. As I gave myself space to figure stuff out, I also started online dating again, and though I haven’t had that many dates the few I have had let me see the gap between my online and offline life needed to be tackled. My solution was to blank slate the first three years of this blog, a decision that’s helped me let go of the grief story I’ve felt defined by for so long and stand firmly were I am now.
As I greet the new year as a single woman, it’s clear the dating hasn’t been the greatest success, and while there’s a part of me that wants to quit, the desire for love and companionship still burns strong. I’ve made big strides in the direction of my dreams, and opened my heart in ways I hadn’t expected, so while this year didn’t bring me what I wished for, it’s certainly moved me closer — I have to believe that.
In summary, it’s been a quietly challenging year and I’m leaving it physically stronger, mentally clearer and emotionally humbler. I feel raw and opened, but rather than close down, I’m staying this way so I’m ready for whatever 2014 has in store for me.
Fave books of the year: Shockingly, I haven’t read any fiction this year, but I’ve had non-fiction coming out my ears. Some of the most useful include The Highly Sensitive Person, The Dark Side of the Light Chasers, True Refuge, Writing Down Your Soul
Fave music of the year: Gabrielle Aplin | London Grammar | Haim
Fave moment of the year: with Noah in the John Lewis loos
Fave week of the year: The week away with my family in May was wonderful, and my birthday trip to NYC in February was just what I needed, but it was our Redfox retreat in October that truly blew me away
Physical accomplishment of the year: maintaining a respectable level of physical fitness all year by going to the gym and working out with Carrie — her arrival in my life has been such a blessing.
Bonus physical accomplishment: giving up gluten has transformed my body, in a really good way. Decades of digestion issues have finally been resolved.
Fave posts of the year: Journaling & me: a love story | 40 lessons from 40 years | Eight years | This boy | Three | Notes on being a hermit | The exercise-hater’s guide to loving the gym | How I shoot with my iPhone | This is why therapy rocks
I’ll be finishing my workbook tomorrow with candles, incense and a heart full of intention. Thank you for sharing this space with me this year. I know I haven’t been here as much — in all honesty it’s been weird not to be able to blog about every aha as I had it! — but I’ve got plans for some ace new stuff in 2014, and I think you’re going to like it. xo
Other years in review: 2012 :: 2011 :: 2010 :: 2009
Wishing you all a peaceful end to 2013 — I’ll be back here on Wednesday with my word of the year (have you picked yours yet? The workbook helped me nail mine down, so give that a try if you’re still undecided. Then tell me what it is on Wednesday :)