My Last Child

Ana Maeve is the third child that if she had been my first, I’d have thought hard about having another. At the tender age of three, it took her all of three repetitions of Longfellow’s poem (written for his own three year old daughter) before she had it off and was reciting:

“There was a little girl
Who had a little curl
Right in the middle of her forehead.
When she was good,
She was very, very good.
And when she was bad,
She was HORRID!”

There was some chord being struck with my Ana Maeve!

And of course I wouldn’t be without her. Ever since I haven’t been able to whisk her off her feet, she has taken to greeting me with incessant kisses, beginning on the part of my body equivalent to her height, just below my waist and continuing all down my legs and then a smothering of kisses all over my feet.

Who is this angel so full of adoration for me?

She almost could have not existed. I mean, here were Mr. and Mrs. Independent, (that is Carlos and me), just after completing an international move from Ireland to Spain with two little ones already on board. A new life in a new city, a new job, no friends, no family nearby. Who needed another child?

Well not me but I did want one. It was an impulsive urge and I got what I wanted, another baby, my Ana Maeve.

As with the previous two births, my mother came out to help out with the familiar crazy beginnings of a newborn’s life. Then Ana Maeve’s early milk allergy came to light, then her recurrent bronchiolitis and pneumonias. My other two children had started school in a Spanish school and Carlos began traveling a lot with work.Life with three young children became tough and very, very exhausting.

Because I love children, I wanted to remain open to the idea of another child but my mind and body were saying no. My uncle, who has been a family doctor for years, joked to me and my cousins about watching out for the turning-forty-and-wanting-the-last-one urge. He had seen it time and time again in his own practice.  My fortieth was coming up. I won’t lie, I did ask the question, “And if we had another one?”

Breast cancer in the beginning simply spelt out breast cancer for me. I really didn’t know very much (or at least remember from my university days) about this disease two months ago. I didn’t know there were lots of different types. I didn’t know the tumour profile is so individual. So I didn’t know that my own hormones could be stimulating the growth of something so deadly inside my own body. And that is exactly what was happening. I had a double positive tumour, which means the female hormones in my body, estrogen and progesterone make it grow.

And one of the ways to stop it is to provoke menopause.


I hate that word. I find it is such an ugly word.

Menopause should be called BUTTERFLIES.

Flutter by,
Floating gracefully
Through time.

To me menopause means hot flushes, a loss of bone density, maybe a change in cholesterol levels and blood pressure and no more periods. No more children.

Being honest with myself, I wasn’t able for any more but the sudden and unexpected closure of the fertility stage of my life is a momentary sad time.

These days in the hospital, every time I see a new mother with her brand new baby, I can’t help thinking back to my first time being a mother. It was such a new and exciting and wonderful time, finding out about these tiny creatures and learning to become a mother as I stumbled along.

That was eight and a half years ago. In my brief seconds of a glance at the first-timers, there is a tinge of “I hope you won’t have to go through this”, mixed up with the desire to go up and say, “enjoy every minute”.

But of course I never would.

I remember being told by my English teacher that good writing should not need clichés. But all the damned clichés are clinging to me,

“Carpe diem.”

“You never know what’s around the corner.”

“Time flies.”

“You only live once.”

Now as I face into my chemotherapy, which will provoke my menopause, my fluttering by into another stage in life, I am overwhelmed with gratitude to myself (and to Carlos for trusting me) for following my impulses and having Ana Maeve, my last child.

One comment

  1. Noel Brennan

    Nicely put, Deirdre, and I wish you well as you embark on the chemo journey next week. Just like I said to you earlier, ‘this too will pass’ and we’ll enjoy many more holidays as a family. I hope that you will pamper yourself over the coming weeks – lay down when you’re tired, drink plenty of water, trust others to do the mothering, go with the wonderful flow of family and friend support, keep your faith in the health system and stay smiling, genuinely positive and inspirational. X


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