Today is your birthday, you are seventeen years old and, if I remember correctly, celebrating with your friends by drinking far too many WKD’s, dancing like a lunatic to Steps, whilst wearing double denim and platforms so high it’s a wonder you don’t break your neck. You are so care free, so completely naïve, so unaffected from all of the issues that will hit you, as if from nowhere, by this time next year. And there is no doubt about it that right now, you are exactly as you should be.
You’re going to make some wrong decisions over the next few years, some that I’d advise you not to and some that I’d say go ahead and make anyway, because that’s all part of the fun. If I could give you any advice I’d say lay off the hair dye, the glitter eye shadow and the Heather Shimmer lipstick, make the most of these years when you can wake up looking young and fresh without the need to cover your grey hairs or your eye bags. Oh and you really should rethink your wardrobe, that ill fitting white dress that you love so much? Or the fluorescent orange Lycra number you insisted on buying? Burn them! Infact, burn them all! And destroy all evidence they ever existed or, in years from now, those dodgy photos will pop up on this thing called Facebook and haunt you forever!!
Believe me when I tell you that you are absolutely perfect just the way you are. I know your worries about your weight are slowly starting to creep in, comparing yourself to others and feeling as though you aren’t quite good enough. I know that you look in the mirror and wish that you could change certain things, and in truth perhaps you always will, but trust me when I say that you are beautiful and funny, both wild and intelligent, and you are unique, for all of the reasons that you love and hate. But I know that, as stubborn as you are, my advice will always fall on deaf ears.
Hold on to your friends, you’ve got a good group of girls there, some who will still be in your life in ten years from now, others still in twenty. You’re going to go through so much heartache together over the next twenty years, losing partners, losing babies, losing parents, and although you will all follow different paths, and time may pass without seeing each other, when it matters, you will always be there for each other.
Next year you will go away to university, meet your future husband, fall in love, and truly believe that it is forever. And although it won’t be easy, especially as you battle with your mental health, when you discover you are pregnant with your first son, you will soon realise what is important. I know it’s hard for you to imagine right now, when having babies is the furthest thing from your mind, but he is going to be the most precious little baby, the easiest of children, and you will experience a love like you never imagined. And despite all of your worries you will be a good Mum, the best in fact, and when you marry, looking radiant in your dress with Lewis in your arms, you will be truly happy. And you deserve to be.
I hate to be the one to tell you, and yet I think you’d want to know, but you’re going to have a second son, Joseph, and he is going to be so wanted and so precious in just the same way that Lewis is. But, and it breaks my heart to tell you this, you won’t get to keep him, you won’t get to take him home, nor live a long and happy life together. Just days from your due date, when everything you ever wanted is just within your reach, you will lie on a hospital bed and hear the words you have been dreading, that your baby, our baby, has died.
You may wonder why I am telling you this, why I would burden you with this knowledge for you to spend your pregnancy just waiting for the worst to happen, but in years from now, looking back, you will wish that you had known. You will wish, with all of your heart, that you had taken the time to enjoy every single moment of that time you had together; every kick, every wriggle, every beautiful moment of having him squirm inside your belly. You will wish that you hadn’t moaned quite so much about being tired or that you had complained a little less about feeling fat and uncomfortable. And you will wish that, not only had you listened to your gut instinct and insisted on an early induction, but, when the time comes to say goodbye, you had been in some way prepared for it; your thoughts and plans laid out on paper, decisions properly discussed, your camera fully charged, and funeral plans made.
And when you say goodbye, when you leave the graveyard on that hot summers day, when you wonder how you will ever survive such a loss, believe me when I say that you wouldn’t change a thing. How, even knowing that you wouldn’t get to keep him, you’d still do it all over again, even for that short precious time, and you wouldn’t change a single moment of it.
The next couple of years aren’t going to be easy, you’re going to become very poorly, both mentally and physically, you’re going to spend time in hospital, hating every single thing about yourself, loathing your body, your mind, relying on medication to simply make it through each day. You’re going to be tested in every way possible but again, you will survive it. You always do.
And just when you think you’ve made it through, I’m sorry to say that, after eleven years together, your marriage will end. And I’m not telling you this now so that you make different choices, I still want you to love with all of your heart and to believe in forever in just the same way. Because in years to come you won’t ever regret your marriage, nor could you regret the two beautiful children it gave you. You will be thankful of those years together, the good and the bad, and as much as it may hurt at the time, one day, when it stops hurting quite so much, you will realise that it was the best thing to ever happen to you. And I know it might be hard for you to imagine, especially at seventeen when you can hold a grudge for all eternity, but you will salvage a friendship, for Lewis’s sake, and find a way to parent him together. And Lewis will be the loveliest, kindest, caring of boys, and the most rounded of characters as a result.
At thirty, when you have forged a life for yourself, just you and Lewis, when you are feeling stronger and happier and more confident than you have in years, you will realise that the man of your dreams has been standing right infront of you for the last twenty years. I’d love to tell you who he is, but that would ruin the surprise, and when it happens, you’ll just know that you want to spend your whole life with this man. What you won’t know, is that you will go on to have three more babies who will heal your heart in a way you never thought possible, and all of that worry and heartache will have been worth it in the end, I promise.
And so there you have it, like spoilers to your favourite TV show (Ross and Rachel get together in the end!), and yet I know that you never really liked surprises anyway. I’m sorry I wasn’t able to tell you that life is going to be easy, that you will sail through the next two decades never experiencing heartache or loss, but this blabbermouth of ours hides no secrets. I hope it hasn’t scared you too much, especially the part about all the babies, I’m sure at seventeen it seems like a lot to take in. But the truth is, I am only telling you all of this because you are strong enough to cope with it. You just don’t know it yet.
And as much as there will be moments when life is fun and fulfilling, and undoubtedly all kinds of crazy, the truth is that there will be moments when you will want to give up, and times when you just can’t see a way forward. Please don’t give up, even when it’s really hard and your heart is breaking, please hang on in there.
Because one day, in twenty years from now, you’ll be sitting right here where I am today, celebrating your thirty seventh birthday, surrounded by your children, your husband, the best family and friends you could ever hope for, and everything will be exactly as it should be.
Love from Me.