I guess that as I write this, you are drinking and dancing your way through your mid-twenties. In the years to come you will wonder whether this was a mistake, whether you should have settled down with someone – anyone – and had a family. You will wonder whether all that partying was a waste of precious time and particularly whether back-packing around the world for a year was a fool’s errand.
The problem is, that if you do things differently, you may never meet him…the one. And he does show up eventually, just before your 30th birthday. However, with all that is to come, there will be times when you will wonder whether that was where it all went wrong.
These thoughts will come and go, but eventually they will pass and you will learn that (almost) everything happens for a reason. There is a reason you don’t meet him earlier and that is because you are not ready. If he turns up now you’d dismiss him as easily as you dismiss the others. Timing is everything. There is a reason your twenties are full of adventure and nights out and best friends, because when the darkness comes, you will need to draw on those memories to get you through the worst times.
The truth is that nothing could really have stopped what happened. Were you to settle down with someone now, you would only be miserable in the long run and that wouldn’t achieve anything. I’m not sure if that would be any better than the current situation.
My life now, is a world away from your life. From the nightclubs and the carefree existence. On the surface of it, my life looks fantastic. Big, gorgeous house, lovely clothes and holidays, enough money not to have to worry, good job, BMW Z4, caring and wonderful husband. There are just two things missing. And this is going to be a shock.
I know you’ll be in disbelief, but this is true. In July 2014, our amazing and wonderful brother will be killed in a car crash. A foreign driver on the wrong side of the road will plough headfirst into him killing him instantly. Two months later you will find out that your husband has a very mild version of Cystic Fibrosis and cannot naturally conceive children.
The strength, resilience and determination needed to survive the past four years, is going to push you beyond your limits and past breaking point. You will break. But have faith, because you will also survive. When the phone call comes through and you find out that Gareth has been killed, your heart will stop and the bottom will fall out of your entire world.
You won’t believe that you can get through it, you won’t believe that life can ever hold any meaning again, or that there will ever be any joy. It won’t be easy and it will take many years, but you can claw your way back from the depths of this nightmare. You will become ill, both mentally and physically, but this too is something you will survive.
After the initial shock has subsided, you will have to adjust to a life without Gareth in it. A life where you have to face the driver in court, where you will read out your statement to the judge just so that you can bring a little bit of Gareth into the proceedings. You will have to witness his beloved café being run by other people, but most of all you will have to stand by and watch mum and dad try to piece some kind of life back together, all the while understanding that they will never be the people they were before – as nor will you.
In addition to this and at the very same time, you will endure at least four cycles of IVF. You will administer over 100 injections to yourself, and painstakingly wait whilst six embryos, one by one, fail to implant and you lose them. You will have to consider that you may live a life ‘childless not by choice’ and you will learn to be an infertility warrior, spending time raising awareness of this brutal journey.
…I know what we thought. I know it was supposed to be ‘love, then marriage, then a baby in a carriage’. It was not supposed to be trauma and death and devastation. In three weeks’ time I will be 39 and we are still childless.
So how will you survive all of this? By keep breathing and keep putting one foot in front of the other. The world will turn, whether you turn with it or not and eventually you will engage with life once again.
You will have to learn how to look after yourself, the term ‘self-care’ becomes not just important, but critical. You will learn about mental health techniques, your life will begin to involved things like meditation, a lunchtime walk, morning yoga, eating healthily and drinking plenty of water – all the things we know are good for us but never get time to do, you will have to make time.
And you will survive.
It isn’t the life we thought we would have. I pictured a couple of cheeky toddlers running around by now, with ‘uncle Gareth’ winding them up, chasing them and tickling them. But this is not to be. I’ve had to let go of that dream and build a new one, one that is achievable. Life is short and at some point you have to live it, otherwise it was all for nothing.
So enjoy the drinking and dancing, relish the 12 months backpacking around the world – those memories will last forever. And remember what Gareth would say… “A-may-zing Sis”.