When I told my mother I was pregnant with my third child, instead of the general jubilation and parade with full fanfare I expected, her face fell. “I’ll worry about that for the next nine months,” she blurted out.
Some way to burst my maternal bubble, I thought, quite offended by her reaction. There I felt a rather uncomplicated joy, and yet my condition was a source of nagging fear for her.
I didn’t get it then. Instead, I felt guilty for worrying her and a little outraged that she had taken it out on me.
Forward in 30 years and it’s Mother’s Day. My oldest daughter is on the phone and just as we say goodbye, she casually joins the conversation that she might be “little” pregnant. I yell so loud and for so long my partner comes down to see what all the fuss is about.
Marion McGilvary (pictured) admits she was quite offended when her mother said she would worry during her pregnancy
Excited was an understatement. I had resigned myself to the fact that none of my children wanted a family, and other than a fleeting glimmer of regret, I didn’t really care.
I had raised four children, all of whom had made regular trips back to Mum’s hotel, one with a woman in tow, and the youngest had only recently checked out and moved into her own flat.
I didn’t feel like I needed a grandchild to complete me. I had all the brownie badges for motherhood and adding them to the collection wasn’t high on my list of priorities. Hell, I didn’t even want the responsibility of a dog, let alone a baby to coo over. But there I was more than delighted. I even started knitting.
But then something even more unexpected started to happen. The concern struck.
It wasn’t much to start with, just the occasional little problem in the back of my mind, like a pot sitting on the stove that needed stirring every now and then.
Of course, that’s not uncommon in the first months, which are always full of uncertainty – but after that the worries didn’t stop. It still bubbled in the background during the day and occasionally kept me awake at night, my thoughts circling those oh-so-rare ones, but they happen moments when colleagues and friends had suffered tragedies.
But unlike my own mother, I kept the worries to myself. My role was to be reassuring and calm and celebrate with my daughter, and that was it.
It certainly wasn’t my daughter’s job to allay my fears, as I felt obliged when I was pregnant with her.
But I had to talk to someone about it. I was amazed at how much those fingers of fear gripped me, so much more than when I had the babies myself. Is it just me, I wondered?
Marion (pictured) said you have to think good thoughts and realize that all the worrying in the world does no good and does not affect the outcome
I put the question to my modern day confessor – social media – where I exclude my children and have a total of about ten friends and ten other people I barely know but have intimate contacts with on a daily basis (yes, I’m that popular) .
Am I irrational? I asked.
No, came the answer. Ping, ping, ping, the instant messages came one after the other. Some were concerned for good reason, it turned out. Others tangled themselves needlessly, but all worried senselessly.
A friend said it was much worse watching her daughter give birth than going through it yourself. Another worried about not being able to protect the daughter to whom she had devoted her life.
We protect them from harm, pain and heartbreak, but when we see them become mothers ourselves, we realize that there is nothing more we can do.
I told myself to get a grip. Every time I went out, I saw women pushing prams and reassuring myself that everything would be okay. If I had believed in God, I would have prayed. I prayed anyway. I toyed with the idea of carrying a Hand of Fatima charm in my handbag, and a blue bead against the evil eye for good measure, which had been one of the baby gifts this daughter of mine received from her Arab relatives. had received when she was born.
But I held myself together in that moment and reminded myself that I wasn’t superstitious. Anyway, I couldn’t find them.
At some point you have to trust. You have to have good thoughts and realize that all the worrying in the world does no good and does not affect the outcome, no matter how many times you wake up in the middle of the night.
Marion (pictured) said she dropped everything when her own daughter gave birth, then found she couldn’t see her because she tested positive for covid.
There is also no point in remembering the real things that went wrong for others. They are not cautionary tales and it seems disrespectful to regard them as such. Whatever the outcome, I realized it wasn’t helpful or neat to wring my hands like Lady Macbeth.
But as my daughter’s due date approached, I started to get more nervous than ever. Would she be okay? Would it be a long labor? Would it be manageable? She was my baby, I didn’t want her to suffer.
The due date has passed. Every night for a week, I went to bed with my phone clamped. I woke up at night and stalked her on Twitter and WhatsApp to see when she was last online, trying to figure out if her absence or presence meant she was in labour.
The last thing you want when your baby is late is someone checking in all the time, so I did it secretly instead, calling her dad, her siblings, and allowing myself a phone call every three days. The care was great, roamed freely and gnawed at me with sharp teeth.
Finally, two weeks ago, I discovered I had a grandson when I got off the bus in London where I had gone to work. By text. There was a picture of a crushed little scrap just minutes old in the arms of his blissful mother.
I immediately dropped everything and rushed home to collect supplies for the hospital – but to my horror I couldn’t see her. I was excluded.
She was in a private room and was not allowed to visit, not even her partner, because she had mysteriously — and terrifyingly — tested positive for Covid.
Despite all my ruminations, this was a possibility I hadn’t considered. I had assumed that once my daughter was in the hospital, the labor would be over, everything would be fine and my worries would disappear. But now they shot up.
Marion (pictured), who met her grandchild last week, said she is so proud of her daughter and how she coped during her fight against covid
She and her partner had been in self-isolation weeks before the birth, seeing only the midwife. Yet somehow she had Covid – and a newborn baby with her. All that energy I’d wasted for fear of bad results, and the ogre snuck through the back door.
Worrying themselves? Ha, now I laughed at the worries. It was nothing for the grim terror of the ten days of her quarantine. I read that pregnant and “recently pregnant” women were more likely to get “seriously ill” from Covid than non-pregnant women, and I wish I hadn’t googled.
The hospital sent her home and I could only see her and the baby through the window. That was almost more painful, because I longed to hug everyone. FaceTime is not a substitute for touch. Every day I held my breath for coughing or sneezing, or even the slightest flicker of an eyelid.
I was transfixed looking at the pictures on my phone, wishing I could wave a magic wand and take all the stress away from my daughter.
I sat on my hands to keep myself from calling every five minutes, chain smoking imaginary cigarettes.
But we were lucky. She, her partner, and baby were all symptom-free. The adults were double vaccinated and apparently very few babies get Covid. I shuddered to run in and help, but in fact I think my daughter enjoyed that time alone in the cocoon of her new little family – they bonded in a way they might not have had if people moved into their house. and walked out.
She did amazingly well, and I’m so proud of her – she only saw an obstetrician once during that time and didn’t have any of the usual health visits.
Thankfully, barring exhaustion, they’re all thriving now (touch wood, salt over shoulder.)
On day 11, just last week, she was finally out of isolation and allowed to hug my daughter and the baby. I held it for an hour and a half, wishing my own mother was there to share the moment.
She’s been gone for 20 years now, but I remember the defeated look on her sweet little face all those years ago when I told her I was pregnant and thought, yes Mom, now I get it.
She would have been so happy to see her great-grandson. She always wanted a red-haired baby.