One heartbeat. That’s it. That’s all it takes. For something to go from as it was to how it will be. In a heartbeat, the second line appeared on the pee-on-a-stick test and I went from being… whatever I was to being an expectant mother.
Then in another heartbeat, everything changed again.
Well, alright, the morning the Son was born, it was a little more than a single heartbeat. But because of the Drama[tm] that occurred the morning of his birth, it might as well have been. One of the few joys of general anaesthetic is that one second everything is as awful as it can be, the next it’s all over and you’re wondering why it’s daylight outside when it was QUITE clearly not light when you got wheeled up here and why have you got tubes where tubes should not be thank you VERY much.
The morning he was born, a little scrap of a thing at 4lb 6oz, the consultant sucked in a breath over his teeth, full on car mechanic style. “I don’t know,” he said, “not sure we’ve got the parts.”
Regardless, they managed an impressive patch job on my 8 weeks premature baby boy and his survival was duly declared both ‘excellent progress’ by the hospital staff and ‘exactly what I expected’ by my ex-husband.
A heartbeat. I went from being an expectant mother to being a mother.
The point is this. While I was pregnant, I worried constantly. Am I eating right? Am I taking the right vitamins? Am I being the best incubation vessel for this nutrient-sucking parasite that I can be? It turned out that apparently my body was doing such a good job, that he only needed seven months to get ready. (I appreciate that clinically his early arrival suggests that I was operating at less than optimal efficiency, but you know, I like to pretend).
Then, after he was born and during the two weeks of his hospital stay, I worried some more. What if I drop him? What if he suddenly turns out to be, I don’t know, a vampire? Or a werewolf? What if being premature results in issues with his health? What if he doesn’t like the X-Men? What if, Heaven forfend, he likes football? How will I ever engage with him?
All of the above issues were duly answered in their own time. I didn’t drop him, although once, he rolled off a bed quite spectacularly. He isn’t, to my knowledge, either a vampire or a werewolf (although he could do with a shave more often at the moment. Nobody wants a ginger werewolf). His health has been, thank goodness, phenomenal. He liked the X-Men and for years, called Apocalypse ‘Pop Lips’. And he isn’t remotely interested in football.
But the parenting thing… has been more difficult in the last twelve months than in the last eighteen years put together. For a year now I’ve been ramping up to tomorrow. Tomorrow is Final A Level Results Day. Tomorrow, in a heartbeat, just as it will do for countless young people across the country, he will go from being whatever he is now to whatever he is tomorrow.
For other parents who are stressing out tonight while their prodigals are sitting there looking cooler than cucumbers, I say this.
In a heartbeat, their lives are going to change. In a heartbeat, my son will become something else.
He might go from being a schoolboy to a prospective university student.
He might go from being a schoolboy to someone who didn’t quite make the grade this time out.
But I’ve come to realise today, thanks to the love, help and support of a lot of people – including my ex-husband, with whom I have remained friends and to whom I am immeasurably grateful tonight – that no matter what happens after he opens that envelope, that Shroedinger’s Stationery Item of Doom, one thing is certain.
He will still be my kind, funny, smart, witty son. I was partly responsible for making him. And no matter what happens tomorrow, I will always, always be proud of him. He’s a fantastic human being and no grades could ever diminish that in him.
For me, across these last eighteen years, parenting has been a roller coaster ride, with more bits that make you go ‘wheeeeeeee’ than make you go ‘eeeeeeeeeek’. This last year, however, has been one big eeeeeeeek. Tomorrow, that ride will be over, one way or the other.
And then it’s time to get aboard a different ride for a whole new experience.