MARION McGILVARY admits to anguish when her own daughter was expecting

MARION McGILVARY admits to anguish when her own daughter was expecting

My nine months of helpless Granxiety: She could never understand her own mother’s fears when she was pregnant. But here new granny MARION McGILVARY admits to a nagging anguish when her own daughter was expecting

  • Marion McGilvary recounts her mother worrying when she was pregnant
  • Reveals she kept her own worries to herself when her daughter was pregnant
  • Marion was unable to visit her daughter after giving birth because she had covid 
  • UK-based writer was finally able to hold her grandchild for over an hour last week

When I told my mother I was pregnant with my third child, rather than the general jubilation and parade with full marching band I was expecting, her face fell. ‘That’ll be me worried for the next nine months,’ she blurted out.

Way to burst my maternal bubble, I thought, quite offended by her reaction. There I was feeling a fairly uncomplicated joy, and yet for her, my condition was a source of nagging anxiety.

I didn’t get it back then. Instead I felt guilt that I was causing her worry and slightly resentful that she’d visited it upon me.

Forward on 30-odd years and it’s Mother’s Day. My eldest daughter is on the phone and just as we’re saying goodbye, she casually drops into the conversation that she might be a ‘little bit’ pregnant. I whoop so loudly and for so long my partner comes downstairs to see what all the fuss is about.

Marion McGilvary (pictured) admits that she felt quite offended when her mother said she would be worrying throughout her pregnancy

Thrilled was an understatement. I’d resigned myself to the fact that none of my children wanted families and beyond a fleeting wisp of regret, I wasn’t too bothered.

I’d raised four kids who had all made regular forays back to the hotel de mama, one with a wife in tow, and the youngest had only recently checked out and moved into her own flat.

I didn’t feel I needed a grandchild to complete me. I had all the Brownie badges for mothering and adding to the collection was not high on my priorities. Heck, I didn’t even want the responsibility of a dog, let alone an infant to coo over. Yet there I was beyond elated. I even started knitting.

But then something even more unexpected began to happen. The worry kicked in.

It wasn’t much to begin with, just that occasional little niggle at the back of my mind, like a pot left on the stove that needed stirring every now and then.

Of course, that’s not so unusual in the first months, which are always fraught with uncertainty — but then, the worry didn’t let up. It still gurgled away in the background during the day and occasionally kept me awake at night, my thoughts circling around those oh-so-rare-but-they-happen times when colleagues and friends had suffered tragedies.

Unlike my own mum, however, I kept the worry to myself. My role was to be reassuring and calm and to celebrate with my daughter, and that was it.

It definitely wasn’t my daughter’s job to allay my fears, as I’d felt duty bound to do when I was pregnant with her.

But I did need to talk to someone about it. It surprised me how much those fingers of apprehension gripped me, so much more than when I was having the babies myself. Was it just me, I wondered?

Marion (pictured) said you have to think good thoughts and realise that all the fretting in the world does no good and does not affect the outcome

I took the question to my modern-day confessor — social media — where I exclude my kids and have the grand total of about ten friends and ten other people I hardly know yet am on daily intimate terms with (yes, I’m that popular).

Am I being irrational? I asked.

Nope, came the answer. Ping, ping, ping, came the instant messages one after the other. Some fretted with good cause, as it turned out. Others tied themselves in knots needlessly, but all worried themselves senseless.

One friend said it was far worse watching her daughter in labour than going through it herself. Another agonised over the thought she could not protect the daughter, to whom she’d devoted her life.

We keep them safe from harm, pain and heartbreak but when we see them becoming mothers themselves we realise there’s nothing more we can do.

I told myself to get a grip. Every time I went out, I’d see women pushing prams and reassure myself everything would be fine. If I believed in God I would have prayed. I prayed anyway. I briefly toyed with the idea of carrying around a Hand of Fatima charm in my handbag, and a blue bead against the evil eye for good measure, which had been among the baby gifts this daughter of mine had received from her Arab relatives when she was born.

But I pulled myself together at that point and reminded myself that I was not superstitious. And anyway, I couldn’t find them.

At some point you have to trust. You have to think good thoughts and realise that all the fretting in the world does no good and does not affect the outcome no matter how many times you wake up in the middle of the night.

Marion (pictured) said she dropped everything when her own daughter gave birth, then found out she wasn’t able to see her because she had tested positive for covid. 

Nor is there any use in recalling the real-life things that have gone wrong for others. They are not cautionary tales, and it seems disrespectful to view them as such. Whatever the outcome, I realised that wringing my hands like Lady Macbeth was neither helpful nor seemly.

But as my daughter’s due date grew close, I began to get twitchier than ever. Would she be all right? Would it be a long labour? Would it be manageable? She was my baby, I didn’t want her to suffer.

The due date passed. Every night for a week either side of it I went to bed clutching my phone. I’d wake in the night and stalk her on Twitter and WhatsApp to see when she was last online, trying to figure out if her absence or presence meant she was in labour.

The last thing you want when your baby is overdue is someone constantly checking in, so I did it by stealth instead, ringing her father, her siblings and allowing myself one phone call every three days. The worry was rampant, out running free and gnawing at me with sharp little teeth .

In the end, two weeks ago, I discovered I had a grandson as I walked off the bus in London where I’d gone for work. By text. There was a picture of a squished-up little scrap only minutes old in his beatific mother’s arms.

I immediately dropped everything and rushed home to gather provisions for the hospital — but to my horror I couldn’t see her. I was barred.

She was in a private room and allowed no visitors, not even her partner, because mystifyingly — and terrifyingly — she had tested positive for Covid.

For all my fretting, this was an eventuality I hadn’t factored in. I’d assumed that once my daughter was in hospital, the labour over, all would be well and my worries would subside. Yet now they skyrocketed.

Marion (pictured), who met her grandchild last week, said she is so proud of her daughter and how she coped while battling covid 

She and her partner had been self-isolating for weeks before the birth and had only seen the midwife. Yet still, somehow, she had Covid — and a newborn with her. All that energy I had wasted fearing bad outcomes, and the bogeyman sneaked in the back door.

Worry? Ha, now I laughed at worry. It was as nothing to the grim fear of the ten days of her quarantine. I read that pregnant and ‘recently pregnant’ women were more likely to get ‘severely ill’ from Covid than non-pregnant women, and wished I hadn’t Googled.

The hospital sent her home and I could only see her and the baby through the window. That was almost more agonising, as I longed to hug everyone. FaceTime is no substitute for touch. Every day I held my breath lest there was a cough or a sneeze, or even the slightest flicker of an eyelid.

I kept looking at the pictures on my phone transfixed, wishing I could wave a magic wand and take all the stress from my daughter.

I sat on my hands to stop myself from phoning every five minutes, chain-smoking imaginary cigarettes.

But we were lucky. She, her partner and baby were all symptom-free. The adults had been double-vaccinated and apparently very few babies catch Covid. I twitched to rush in and help, but in fact, I think my daughter enjoyed that time alone in the cocoon of her new little family — they got to bond in a way they might not have had people been tramping in and out of their house.

She coped amazingly well, and I am so proud of her — she only saw a midwife once in that time and had none of the usual health visitor visits.

Thankfully, apart from exhaustion, they’re now all thriving (touch wood, salt over the shoulder.)

On day 11, just last week, she was finally out of isolation and I got to cuddle my daughter and the babe. I held him for an hour and a half, wishing my own mum was there to share the moment.

She has been gone now for 20 years, but I remember the stricken look on her sweet wee face all those years ago when I told her I was expecting and think, yes Mum, now I get it.

She would have been so happy to see her great-grandson. She always wanted a red- headed baby.

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