After months of struggle I've given birth… to a book
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When I look back over the past three years I see that my life has changed in ways I had hardly dared to hope it would.
Yes, yes, I may have walked away from a well-paid and successful career and gained a dress size, a few grey hairs and a panoply of wrinkles, but I have also achieved my two greatest ambitions: to become a mum… and to write a book.
I was overjoyed to discover I was expecting. And despite a few scares early on it was a pretty textbook pregnancy, a heady mix of nausea, elasticated-waist trousers and industrial-sized bottles of Gaviscon.
My beautiful baby daughter has brought me more joy than I could ever have imagined. And, unexpectedly, she has also brought me a new career: first this column about what it is really like to be a "mid-life mum". And now The Secret Diary of A New Mum (Aged 43 1/4)" which will be published next week.
The gestation of the book has not been unlike a regular pregnancy: nervous excitement at the start (is this really happening?); stress (is it all going to work out?); a period of queasiness (I can't make this chapter work - heeeelp); a middle trimester where it all seems to go fairly swimmingly; then a lot of pain, pushing and agony to get the darned thing out.
All the same, I've loved every part of the process so far, even if I do occasionally have to pinch myself to make sure I haven't dreamed the whole thing up.
Even before publication, there has been the excitement of seeing the book on Amazon - and discovering that I'd made it into the top 10 in the rankings for Books > Humour > Doctors & Medicine. Although I wasn't quite sure whether to be flattered or alarmed that this listing put me just one place ahead of a book called A Little Fart.
Fun this journey might have been to date, but I would be lying if I were to imply it's been glamour all the way. There was the photo shoot for a national newspaper when the make-up artist turned up an entire week early. (How bad did they think I actually look?)
And while I was checking out venues for the launch party, the owner of one bookshop looked me closely up and down and said: "Self-published I presume". I clearly need to work on my image. Although, oh, the satisfaction of being able to reply: "Random House, actually."
(I admit this would have worked better as an exit line had I not then turned haughtily and walked straight into a large display of Dr Seuss.)
The majority of my new "baby" friends are young. And so it has not been without trepidation that I have publicly outed myself as a mid-life mum. Although I have a sneaking feeling that even if I had chosen to hide behind the hair dye, it would only have been a matter of time before my cover was blown.
But I am getting used to the idea that these new chums have never heard of Reg Varney, Kelly Marie et al. And that they laugh at the fact I'm quite happy to stay in on a Saturday night listening to my record collection - and indeed at the fact I have a record collection in the first place ("Do they really play on both sides?" asked one.)
I occasionally wonder whether going public has made me feel even older. On a day-to-day basis I like to think not - though it is true that on one recent occasion I was greatly alarmed by a sudden deterioration in my nighttime driving vision in the space of just two hours. "Middle age is truly upon me," I wailed, before discovering that I had been so deep in conversation when I got back into the car that I had accidentally put on a pair of sunglasses instead of my prescription specs. Great relief at not quite having reached that stage of ocular degeneration - although…"first sign of senility", I overheard one passenger mutter to another.
And as for the child - she is too young to read Secret Diary for herself, although she knows that's what I've been up to. "Look," she cried on spotting the distinctive cover, "you wrote that book about me."
"I did," I tell her pulling her close. "I wrote it because I love you more than anything in the whole wide world."
"Humph," she says. "You forgot the universe".
'The Secret Diary of a New Mum (Aged 43¼)' is published by Vermilion on February 3