I have something to confess. There is a new man in my life. The fact that he is much younger than I am shouldn't surprise anyone who has followed my life with any degree of interest in the last year or so. On the other hand, the news that he needs to be waited on hand and foot, can't control his bodily functions and spends a fair amount of time crying, may make my choice surprising to some. Still, I don't mind, because there is one thing I know for sure – he will grow out of it.
Thus, it is with the greatest love and pride that I announce the arrival of my nephew. Exactly two weeks old today, and the second most beautiful baby boy I have ever seen.
This new arrival is my younger sister Macaron's first child. If you missed the pregnancy reveal, then here's some rapid-fire background info – Macaron isn't married, the baby's father doesn't live here, they are no longer in a relationship and she conceived her baby during the year in which she also turned 40. For anyone who knows and loves my sister, the news that she was pregnant represented the fulfilment of a dream. For everyone else, it presented a golden opportunity to be catty, judgmental, narrow-minded or all of the above.
Macaron had lived on her own for close on 20 years, but the thought of her continuing to do so following the addition of an infant caused Coq Au Vin (our older sister) and myself to panic. Not wishing to offend, but quite prepared to strong-arm her if necessary, we visited her when she was around seven months along, taking a large box of her latest food craving (stuffed chillies) with us. We then proceeded to launch into cogent arguments about why she needed to come live with one of us.
Admittedly things got a trifle competitive between Coq Au and me since both of us wanted her to pick our home over the others. Coq Au pointed out that her two daughters would make better babysitters than my one son, and I loudly declared that she and her husband hosted far too many dinner parties making my house the quieter and more peaceful option.
When we finally paused for breath Macaron applauded politely and said "I am not going to move in with either of you. Hold on! Before you start lecturing AGAIN, I do agree I shouldn't be alone. That's why I have decided that I am going to move back in with our mother. Don't look so shocked. It's my old home, there's plenty of domestic help and I think having a baby around will make her really happy"
Of course that made complete sense. So Macaron moved in with our mother, converting her old room into a nursery. Since she hadn't wanted to know the baby's gender, she chose shades of green, effectively turning the room into a sunlit forest with lots of plump and gender neutral baby animals gamboling about.
Apart from the careless and sharp tongues of people who didn't matter, Macaron was on a relatively even keel. Then, four weeks before the baby was due she called an emergency meeting and Coq Au and I rushed over.
Macaron: I want to inform you that I have, in the last fortnight, received no less than three proposals of marriage
Coq Au and me: What?!??
Macaron: Indeed. I would like to state for the record that I have now been proposed to exactly 4 times more than either of you. This I think firmly established me as the most desirable sister. A desirability increased by my ageing by still clearly fecund and currently spherical body.
Me: Nonsense! Coq Au has always been the most desirable one
Coq au: Thank you Bouche, I beat you by a hairs breadth I assure you
Macaron: Oh shut up both of you
We then sat down to discover who these erstwhile suitors were, one came as no real surprise - a colleague of Macaron's who had loved her devotedly but entirely unrequited for years; while the second suitor (rather morbidly and creepily) was a recently widowed friend of the family who was technically closer to our parent's generation than he was to our own. As for the third?
Well, that's where it gets sticky, Macaron confessed. The third had come completely unexpectedly from the baby's father, who had suggested via Skype that 'given Sri Lankan society' perhaps getting married would be the best thing for the child. This from a man who had said he would put his name on the birth certificate but couldn't commit to anything further.
Macaron looked at us pleadingly "What should I do? I don't think this is something either of us would have wanted under any other circumstance. And then what? Imagine if he meets someone, or miracle of miracles, I meet someone. What happens then? A quick divorce? Still...this is about the baby, not us"
It was a tantalizing problem. What would be best for the child? Legitimacy in the eyes of the law was always a good thing. And yet.....we could see from Macaron's face that her essentially romantic soul quailed at this pragmatic bit of reasoning.
So we did the only thing three grown women could do - we asked our mother.
"Well naturally darling you can't marry that septuagenarian, in fact I believe I will call him and tell him off for even suggesting it. That faithful swain of yours is rather a wimp so don't have him either. As for the sperm donor, he is attempting, in a half hearted way to do the right thing. However, the real gesture would have been to come back here and see if he and you could actually take this relationship work. It seems to me that he is a cold fish. You were prepared to do this without him, and you certainly don't need to be married to him into the bargain. Just say No"
Maternal wisdom thus dispensed, the three of us took a stroll around the garden, Macaron suddenly burst out laughing "A septuagenarian, a wimp and a cold fish. When it comes to proposals I seem to have quantity over quality!" We had to agree.
So, marital status unchanged, Macaron delivered her baby via c section in early June. With no male to witness his arrival, I was lucky enough to be the one with her in the operating theatre. I was the first to see her baby and the one that gasped with delight and said "Macaron! A boy! You have a son!" I took an extremely bad series of photographs of her smiling down at him. Blame my trembling hands. All the tears in my eyes didn't help either.
Over the last two weeks Coq Au and I have spent a great deal of time at our old family home, and I have watched my sister do that all too familiar new mother dance that I did myself so long ago. A dance that couples love and pride and joy, with complete exhaustion and utter panic; one in which you are dying to sleep, yet unable to bear to close your eyes and risk missing a moment. Wanting to do everything for him herself, yet overwhelmed by the responsibility of it all. Feeling fiercely protective, and strong enough to fight demons, and yet well aware, that now that you have a child, you are more vulnerable to pain than you have ever been before.
She named him after our father, and our entire family has fallen completely in love with him.
For myself, I am truly indebted to that baby for one entirely selfish reason - he has succeeded in distracting my son Trou from his recent heart break. After being cold shouldered and then unceremoniously dumped, Trou had hit rock bottom the way only a teenage boy who had lost his first love can; avoiding his favourite music class because he couldn't bear to see her, listening to the same mournful songs till the wee hours of the morning, attempting to grow the worlds saddest moustache and generally refusing to speak or take his eyes away from whatever screen he was gloomily and mindlessly staring into, he was driving me to despair.
He showed a flicker of interest when the baby arrived and genuine delight that it was a boy. But then seemed to revert to being a mascot for misery, when I came home one afternoon to find him out and he didn't answer his phone, I was seriously worried. Then Macaron called "Hey" she whispered, "You need to come over right now, don't worry, it's something beautiful, come and see".
She showed me into the baby's room. There on the bed she has placed in the nursery was my son, fast asleep, and next to him, surrounded by pillows was my nephew. "He volunteered to sing to him while I showered" explained Macaron "And when I came out the baby was asleep, and a little while later so was Trou"
So Macaron and I stood there, doing what mothers do, watching our children sleep, both of us completely and utterly certain, that right there in front us, was the most beautiful sight this world had to offer.