New Year's Eve, fourteen years ago, was the most momentous I have ever, or probably will ever have. During the early hours of 31st December, 1996, I gave birth to my fourth daughter.
It was a home birth and the midwife in attendance had made herself a little bed out of duvets, pillows and cushions in the corner of my bedroom to rest whilst I was resting and presumably conserve her energy for seeing in the New Year later that day.
My previous three babies had all weighed in at around the 7lbs something mark. Baby number 4 was a whopping 9lbs something. Those extra 2lbs made one hell of a difference!
Newborn babygros that I had laid out ready for my new arrival had to be discarded in favour of the next size up.
My other three children were all asleep in bed as I laboured and gave birth. Five year old Ivy awoke shortly after the midwife finally left. She was thrilled to be the first one to see the new baby sister, leaping around excitedly at the foot of the bed and chattering at top speed with her messy blonde hair and cute little lisp. (Now I think of it, apart from having darker hair, Ivy hasn't actually changed one bit in the 14 intervening years!)
When my other two girls woke up (at a much more respectable hour) they were surprised to find that the pregnant mum they had said goodnight to had been replaced with a somewhat shattered mum lying in bed cradling a brand new baby.
I remember very little of how the rest of the day unfolded or even if we made any attempt to celebrate the end of 1996 and the beginning of 1997. I do remember putting in a lot of effort to hide my post natal depression from friends, family and health workers. A lot of my life with my first husband passed by in a blur of disappointment, unfulfillment and depression. Despite this, I loved being a mum and I don't think that my relationship with my children ever really suffered. We all enjoy close bonds that mean the world to me.
I thought that baby number four would be my last but fate had different plans for me.
Since that day 14 years ago, the last day of December has always been a juggling act between birthday celebration and seeing in a New Year. It is difficult to get the balance right but we always try.
This year, we started the day with birthday presents and stepdad cooked his famous pancakes at the birthday girl's request. We then had a buffet lunch with aunt, uncle, cousins and grandparents with a pile of chocolate and pink buttercream loaded cupcakes decorated with silver balls, sparkly sugar, white chocolate stars and birthday candles spelling her name (which fortunately for me could be made out of the letters of the H.A.P.P.Y - C.H.R.I.S.T.M.A.S candles I bought and forgot to use in the excitement of Christmas Day!)
After our guests left, we watched some of an obligatory New Year countdown on TV, this time "Most Annoying People of 2010" then abandoning it in favour of a Harry Potter Lego board game that I was lucky enough to win in a blog giveaway.
It made me smile, as we started playing the game, how everyone's behaviour perfectly reflected their individual characters. Taylor, practical and capable, immediately got to work setting up the lego board. Charis, obsessively striving to create order out of chaos, started categorising components and laying them out in beautifully neat arrangements. Ivy, ditzy and a bit bonkers, made a pen to contain Harry, Hermione, Dumbledore, Mrs Norris etc and started acting out little scenarios with them. Turning the mirror on myself, I held onto a little bag of lego, dishing the pieces out as required in an attempt to feel useful!
As the minutes ticked by towards midnight, the emphasis slipped naturally away from "Happy14th Birthday" to "Happy New Year". We launched a Chinese Lantern onto which we had each written a hope or dream for 2011 and toasted with champagne in new Xmas gift champagne flutes. Just as our lantern floated gracefully out of sight, a whole load more floated by. If I hadn't known better, I might have thought we were being invaded by a fleet of UFOs. It was quite magical and quite the nicest seeing in of the New Year I've ever known.
2011 begins with warm family feelings, hope and a resolution to create opportunities for plenty of fun and a good sprinkling self improvement.
I can't wait to blog about it all!