Joanne Toner – Knowing

June 30, 2014 | By | Reply More

You just know”—words I’ve heard in reference to so many life events. When you’re in love. When to change career. When to move house. For me, the strongest experience of this was when I discovered I was pregnant.

I approached turning thirty like many other young professional women I know. Dredged in fear and anxiety at turning older, lamenting the things I had yet to do, as though the end of my twenties marked a definitive end of living. Panicked at the thought of what the next decade would bring and why I hadn’t made my fortune or found success yet. Surely that was all supposed to have happened by now? There is so much pressure to have reached certain milestones by thirty that I almost convinced myself I was a complete failure. The biggest anxiety I experienced was concern about starting a family. It was impossible to ignore the numerous magazines, blogs, newspaper articles and documentaries that saturated every consumable space in modern life. All of which seemed to exclaim that one of the biggest concerns women face as they reach thirty is their dwindling fertility.

Cohabitating but unmarried, working, but not quite at the stage I desired, writing but as yet unpublished . . . I felt that I’d been working towards something and still hadn’t quite reached it—even though I was still unsure of the destination—there was still some way to go. I was reluctant to express my concerns with my partner, through fear of him misunderstanding the sentiment and translating it as pressure to start a family, or to get a ring on my finger. Men have a way of misconstruing a serious, yet casual, conversation into something that would result in the total destruction of week night drinking, Sunday football matches and life as they know it.

In my youth, I’d confidently explain that I wasn’t sure if I’d ever have children, or if I’d ever get married. I was happy in the knowledge that if I did, it would be because I had decided to, not because I felt I had to. As I got older, this feeling transcended into a deeper more innate desire that forced me into accepting that it wasn’t something I would perhaps, if I fancied it, choose to do. Having a baby was something that I unquestionably wanted. It was daunting and took me by surprise when I realized that I had to accept that I did not necessarily have a choice in this. If I ignored it, I might well regret it. It was something I could only really speak to my girlfriends about, and to my relief, many felt exactly the same. The biological clock that lay dormant in all of us through university, new jobs and city-based flat shares, had started ticking, deafening the old mantras of “I must be successful. I must be successful.”

It happened on the beach. I was lying there, next to my partner, soaking up some September sun in Portugal, on a group holiday for a friend’s birthday. The epitome of everything that is great about being thirty: Young enough to take off to Europe to go surfing with a group of my nearest and dearest without any worries or responsibilities; old enough to be able to afford it (or at least justify the spend on my credit card). As I was dozing off, post lunch, I felt a tiny, almost insignificant twinge in my lower abdomen. Normally, it would be a sign of my monthly cycle, entirely ignored, but in that moment, something sparked and seemed different. Unplanned, unprepared, no lists made, no structure in place—my approach to almost every other aspect of my life and career—something life changing was happening. I disregarded it in that moment as a silly thought and drifted off to sleep. But looking back, now at 28 weeks pregnant and beyond excited at the thought of introducing our baby girl to the world, that was the moment that I knew. And for someone who tends to live life with a vague plan of action, or at least a set of annual goals to tick off, the most spectacular experience and life-changing event that I could ever imagine, just happened. And I could not be happier.

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Category: Knowing

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