Stars Below

Friendly enquiries from vaguely recognisable school friends down at my old coming-of-age pub; the kind woman at the check-out at Sainsburys; curious new colleagues over coffee. It doesn’t matter the time or place, I’ll be right in there first with a pre-emptive joke about getting my last orders baby in, and hitched, in the year I turned 40. Maniacal laugh optional, from them or me. Sometimes that’s enough to foil the social touretted query about having another, sometimes it’s not. I’ve a few stock responses for the latter, just in case. Being on that Halle Berry diet is currently doing the rounds. Another round of laughter. Mine from marvelling at my own ability to bluff it as an adult long enough for someone to hitch their grown up wagon to mine to have ‘just the one’.

We won’t be having another baby. Sometimes I think that’s a bit shit, but we’re coming to terms with it in our own way.  We know our good fortune. If a day late, I no longer hatch the fantasy of telling our daughter the good news that she can ditch her imaginary friends (James and Molly) when the new baby comes, or solve our space problem with bunk beds. Yeah, right; as if I ever had to be late. Other people’s pregnancies don’t seem to go on forever anymore; I’ve started to share the names I had shored up, and don’t roll my eyes with the same speed at the openly stated fears from others at the (un)likelihood of their child being an only one.  ‘Any of my pregnancy’ is my new phrase replacing “all of my pregnancies”, which I still hear in a slightly whiney voice bordering on pride, depending on the person uttering it. Sort of like a 30-something Ann Widdecombe crossed with a young Joan Burton.

On the day of her birth, I kept closing my eyes trying to remember what she looked like if I had to pick her out in a line-up (you never know). For the first month of her life, I swore blind we would shelter her from the downpour of life, a promise I set about proving by singing Stars Above by Maria Doyle Kennedy on loop in the half-light until the words were indistinguishable from tears. For the first two years of her life, we wanted to give her another little one. She would’ve made a great sister, as evidenced by her care and attention to detail when nursing her furry friends to sleep, the inclusion of James and Molly in most activities, and her rip roaring laugh at herself when she messes up.

For the rest of my days, I’ll be poised and ready to break up any pity-parties held in her honour. Not for her any tilted heads of sadness, nor worry at not having anyone to fight over her parents’ meagre inheritance with, or slag them off. That’s our job, for which we’re beginning to forgive ourselves.