Now that my kids are set square on the path of growing up, we are none of us stuck in a non-speaking, non-walking hell, no-one is pregnant, no-one is postpartum, I can feel myself regressing, going backwards, getting younger.
When you have a baby you explode outwards. Sometimes quite literally. But also metaphorically. All your stuff explodes outwards. Your neuroses, your anxieties, your life, your everything goes KAPOW out into the world. Everyone talks about you and what you are doing. Everyone compares notes going "She's really freaking out," or "She's really bossing it," or "She's just so relaxed!" or "She's just SO uptight." None of it is complimentary - not really. It's all a total diss. Even if you are doing well, everyone with more or older kids will look at each other and transmit via ESP those awful, awful words that we have all thought: "You just fucking wait." Yes it's all fine now but wait until you've all got pneumonia. Or until your husband goes away for 3 months. Or until your eldest turns into a horrible bully and constantly pronks kids over the head at nursery all the other mums hate you.
You are so exposed when you have a baby - any baby, no matter what number it is, no matter what you do with it, no matter what it's like. It's like airing your dirty laundry every time you so much as take the buggy up the road to post a sodding letter.
But now... now I feel it's all being sucked back in. Sometimes quite literally what with my weight having gradually, like a feather floating down to the ground on the lightest of breezes, settled back to normal (though I doubt I will ever escape that feeling of everything being too tight round my middle). I feel smaller, lighter, more youthful. I don't think this change is visible to the naked eye - I think to everyone else I still seem the same careworn, knackered, grumpy old mum in crappy Aasics trainers and mostly shit hair. To my husband I still seem the same neurotic bag of nerves, to my children I am the same snappy, capricious lunatic. But I don't feel so old anymore. I don't feel so explody-outwards any more. I feel more private, I feel less like the Ancient Mariner, compelled to grab the nearest person and tell them how awful my life is, how totally up shit creek I am, how every aspect of motherhood and wifehood is impossible.
The downside of this is that I don't really feel like I have very much to say any more. But the upsides are many and varied.
For example, the other morning I didn't have anything to do. For the first time in many years - no work, no admin, no housework. My husband always says that when you have nothing to do you must try as best you can to enjoy it because any moment now the sky will fall on your head.
So I took his advice and decided, as it was a sunny day, to go for a walk on the Heath. I would go for a really long one, I thought, just miles and miles and miles and get lost like I used to before I had kids. So I walked and walked and then I discovered that when I walk for a long time - like over 10 minutes - without a buggy to push and lean on, I get a cracking lower back pain. By the time I had gone over Parliament Hill and reached Swain's Lane I was actually quite stiff.
I immediately rang my friend M- who lives nearby, to beg her for tea and a sit down. "I am off my face on diazepam" she said.
"Ok." I said. "Are you having a nervous breakdown?" "No it's my back," she replied, as if she were some sort of cipher, or avatar, some kind of alternative me.
"Come round though!" she said. "But we will have to talk in my bedroom."
I went round and there she was, resplendent in bed, bra-less in some sort of magnificent kaftan. The curtains were half-drawn and she had the day before spilled some very dusky Serge Lutens scent on the floorboards so the place was reminiscent of a restrained opium den. I sat on the nursing glider in the corner and we talked about our periods for an hour, having the sort of free and frank gross-out conversation that I cannot remember having for ages. Not for years. It felt more like bunking off at school than bunking off at school ever did. (Not that I ever really bunked off properly, you understand - being such a craven shitty little square.)
It was the most genuinely young I have felt in a long time. I wasn't worn down by that nagging sensation that I always get in the back of my mind whenever there is a baby somewhere needing to be worried about.
It is with this youthful zest for novelty and excitement that drew me, when I returned home, to unpack a "courgetti"-maker that my husband brought back for me from America last year.
I'm very late to courgetti, though I've always thought it looked like a perfectly good idea - you use a machine (or just a sharp knife and a lot of patience) to cut courgettes into very thin strips, which you then use as a sort of spaghetti substitute in order to banish yet more evil carbohydrate from your life.
We had it the other night with bolognese sauce, which I haven't eaten enough of in the recent past as I am so terrified of pasta, and it was terrific.
I followed the Hemsley sisters' instructions with the courgetti, which was to sauté it in a lot of butter for 3 minutes before serving, which worked very well. Do use a timer for this because 3 minutes is longer than you think it is.
We ate this with a bolognese sauce, which I won't give you a recipe for because if you don't know how to make a bolognese sauce by now then I just can't help you.