A Messy Critical Phase

Circa 1991 – Treewoman and a restless alien

Now, because this is my blog, and I really want to do this, I’m going to bolt two seemingly disparate subjects together like brand new dance partners, and see if they can tango.

So first, and continuing with a brief history, we were living in a tiny Gloucestershire village close to a spectacular section of the River Severn known as the Noose, when I had my first child. Husband at the time was developing foetal scalp monitors so there was a bit of pressure to take a high-tech ‘belt-and-braces approach to birth-giving, which I resisted vigorously.

Didn’t take too well to natural Childbirth classes either though – the group meditations caused my shoulders to shake with silent mirth and once I had to sit up quickly with obvious tears rolling down my cheeks. Blamed them on my contact lenses.

The classes seemed aimed at making us realize, at a very deep level, we would be in painful labour for a good 14 hours, there would be crying and shrieking, vomit might put in an appearance, and even though we didn’t want to, we might well have to cave and accept painkilling injections in the spine, or a cesarian. Oh FFS, I would think to myself, surely it won’t be that bad?

Not being shy, I took issue with this gloomy prognosis on more than one occasion. Yes even then I was an irrepressible proponent of the power of positive thinking. I was also very disenchanted with the pregnant state, which felt more like being inhabited by a restless alien than anything wholesome and beautifying. So I pictured those few strenuous birthing hours, the messy critical phase of this carry-on, as a very welcome opportunity to finally get cracking and shove something worthwhile out of me. I wasn’t going to hang about.

Our fount-of-all-natural-childbirth wisdom, Angela, looked at me indulgently with a half-smile and a cocked head, as if to say, “Ah yes, but you’ll see…”

It was with wild satisfaction then that, following a very curious yet effective not-really-medical procedure delivered by a young registrar at Gloucester General so that I didn’t have to endure an induced labour (can’t go into details here, but I was impressed by his audacity…), I managed to give birth, noisily, in under 2 hours, with the help of a mere 2 paracetamol.

Oh, soooooo much is said about the gloriously fulfilling emotions that race through one’s being during and immediately after the life-affirming event that is childbirth! I’m here to tell you the best feeling in the world is of FINALLY getting that other bloody person OUT OF YOUR ABDOMINAL CAVITY.

And then everything goes back to normal. Ha! And you have to find a way to keep your brain alive whilst being 24/7 life-support for small, wriggly off-spring. That’s when the capacity to multi-task really delivers. Personally, I don’t think it’s innate in women, I think it’s learnt at this point in our lives. Along with not giving a fuck about housework.

It’s unsettling, I know, but here’s where we’re going to divert, careeing off the subject-highway with squealing tyres at 90 mph in a completely different direction.

Notwithstanding my total lack of interest in school (as described in previous blogs), or maybe because of it, I’ve always written, read, drawn, studied, and investigated avidly for myself. Like a good many of my contemporaries, who I’m guessing only really enjoyed sport or art, left to my own devices, away from exams and permanently exasperated ‘teachers’, I am pretty much knowledge-insatiable. So my days of multi-tasking with small children in tow included a large amount of reading with one eye while monitoring risky infant-activity with the other, studying in the landrover while parked outside of Playgroup, and writing with a toddler on my hip (trust me – it’s not that hard). And I have to say, as someone who’s done it continuously over the time frame, following one’s interests, soaking up new subjects and associated info, delving into new realms and finding stuff out – it’s become, in the space of about 30 years, so fabulously easy. It has! There’s no comparison! When my first child was very young we still had Betamax video tapes, computers running on a system called DOS, phones with dials and something called decent handwriting.

Anything you could ever want to know has become readily accessible. Every subject there’s ever been, every opinion under the sun, every enlightening statistic and it’s contradictory counterpart, every obscure latin name of something common, every useful equation, every life story. So knowledge is no longer scarce, or powerful by itself, or unattainable due to your lowly status. Knowledge is at everybody’s fingertips.

The challenge forming over the last few decades, like something emerging slowly from the mist, is how on earth to handle this? Make no mistake, it’s the biggest social leveller in the history of time. Automatic dissemination, unstoppable decentralization, the potential delivery of hitherto unknown forms of power to everybody, without qualification. All this combined with a massive commercial incentive to make such changes realities – the more hardware sold, the more software downloaded, the bigger the profits. No question.

When, about 30 years ago, my shorthand teacher at Stroud Tech told me typewriters would be obsolete in under 5 years, I believed her. But the speed at which technology has altered our world, and even our future as a species, during my relatively short life-history totally blows my mind. If you really don’t know it yet, we’re on the brink of a massive revolution. A tipping point like no other, right over the cliff edge into the unknowable.

There is a tree in all this. We planted one, an Oak, in the back Garden in Arlingham before we left, 3 months after my son was born. I remember carrying my baby across the lawn to say goodbye to it. This current generation of young people have some awe-inspiring world-changes to give life to, and I know exactly the kind of approach I’d recommend – relentless positive thinking whilst dealing with the messy critical phase of this carry-on, followed by an enthusiastic welcome for the opportunity to finally get cracking.