“You never forget a date you, do you?” A good friend of mine said recently, “You’re like the Elephant Man.”
Indeed, I am quite good at remembering dates and elephants never forget, but she meant Rain Man.
Some dates stick fast. When I wake on a morning and realise it’s an important date, I have to have a quick rummage around in my head and try to remember its significance. I know the birthday of just about everyone I have ever been reasonably close to. My memory is in surprisingly good nick.
So, I knew when I realised that today was the 5th September, that somewhere in the archives, it had been an important date. Turns out it was five years ago, and the date I went for my first scan at St Mary’s Hospital in Manchester. I met Mum opposite Whitworth Park and we passed the heavily-pregnant smokers in their dressing gowns and went inside the old maternity unit on Hathersage Road.
We went into the dark room and as the sonographer smothered my belly in that cold jelly, I worried it was twins. There was just the one though, loads more lively than I had expected, twirling around and waving.
“Ooh look,” said Mum, “There it is, we definitely know it’s real now!” And she sounded so excited that I wanted to hit her.
I bought a grainy picture and took it to work with me. It looked like scan photos always do, but it was quite a clear one and it said ‘11.1cm’ beneath it. I put it on my desk, because that’s what people do with scan photographs. I knew I was supposed to be excited but I was actually just really scared. The further in the past my naïve 22-year-old gets, the more surreal the fact I decided to have my baby seems. I wasn’t against the alternative, but I was petrified of how it would have left me feeling.
One of the things that has risen to the surface when I have been writing the book is how much I resented Mum for being excited about the baby when I couldn’t get used to the idea and I was the one who was going to have to give birth to it. In actual fact, Mum just had the wisdom to know that what I thought was the end of the world would probably be the making of me.
One week after the scan, I woke up and I had a little bump. That was around the time it became official, when I had to start telling people. I was doing a work placement in a press office and my boss asked me when I was going back to university.
“I’m going back next September.” I said.
He looked at me as if to say he’d heard that one before. I looked down. I had decided the bump was very noticeable that morning, when I saw my reflection in the window against a black tunnel on the underground train. It had been bothering me all day.
“I am taking the year out because I’m pregnant.”
He congratulated me, but I didn’t really feel as though congratulations were in order, I just felt like a bit of a fool.
People with children always go on about how quickly they grow but it’s true. The grainy little alien on the picture that’s pinned to my wall starts proper school next week.
I wish I hadn’t acted grumpy and selfish on 5th September 2005, I wish I had realised it was an important day and I was actually really lucky.