My beautiful friend is four months' pregnant and she is glowing. The midwife says her bump is impressively big, the sign of a healthy baby. She has reached the stage of needing to wear maternity clothes, trousers with large elasticated waistbands. Her husband is working on 'the porch' - an extension to the house which will allow a bit of extra room for when Baby is here. There is plenty to do.
Still, we all find time to go for a walk in the woods past a huge variety of dogs (cocker spaniel, golden retriever, sausage dog, dalmatian, plus some like small bears, sporting long strings of saliva) and their owners.
We plough through a catalogue and look at the paraphenalia of motherhood - breast pumps, breast pads and special clothes that allow easy, discreet breast-feeding (though some of them just look wrong - fleeces with velcro nipple flaps, rugby-style shirts with nipple buttons).
She has decided to buy terry towel nappies and other washable nappies rather than contribute to the landfill with more rubbish. She thinks she will need 30 nappies, and has 10 so far. I said that I would buy her a few really nice cloth nappies which her baby could use on special occasions perhaps. I want her to know that I'm there for her and will help as much as I can. She is lucky that both her parents and her husband's parents live nearby and will all help out in their own way. She points out that she has joined the 'mummies' club' - other mothers have welcomed her into the clan. She will be someone new to share experiences with.
I hear the news that the family from my friends' wedding have a new addition. Mum had a third baby girl and all seems well.
So how do I feel? Well, I am genuinely happy for my beautiful friend - she is happily married and I love them both very much. Each new stage she reaches will bring out my love for her, curiosity about her life experience and, no doubt, plenty more self-reflection.
When there's something on your mind, you see it everywhere. It haunts you.
Maybe you know what I mean - when your heart is in tatters, every song on the radio is a sad one, every advert makes you bawl.
I see pregnant women everywhere. I see couples with wedding rings, going on honeymoons, signing up for mortgages, taking their kids to school.
It was so hard being at my friends' wedding last Saturday watching these two beautiful little girls, the younger one hopping around on the dance floor with a helium balloon, while Mum and Dad looked on. Now I know it's just a snapshot and it's all quite idealised, but I loved watching them. I don't know the parents that well, but they seemed to really love their girls. They were keeping a good distance - they were there in case they were needed, but not interfering. Mum was heavily pregnant again with their third child.
Before I might have thought: "one day that might be me" and smiled, wondering how I'd cope and what my experience would be. Instead, I thought: "I don't know if that will ever be me". I felt tremendously sad. I found myself sobbing (only two glasses of wine, so it wasn't just the booze). Zarah (now 3 months pregnant) put her arm around me and then Ciarin came to see if I was okay. I told him why I was crying. I then made a swift exit to the car, because I couldn't face being so sad in front of everyone. I didn't want to ruin the celebrations. He came and he sat with me while I cried, talked and cried some more. He was patient and I felt no pressure to pretend or to change how I was feeling. Nor did he didn't try to distract me or 'fix' what was wrong. He was just there for me. One of many things I love dearly about him.
Ciarin is really well suited to me: he's extremely kind, thoughtful, relaxed, insightful, easy to be around, great company. But that's what makes it so hard when I think about our future together. I don't want to give him up.
It's easy for people to say that I should split up with him to avoid the heartache a few years down the line. "I know it's hard, but why couldn't he stay in your life as a good friend instead?" I could split up with him and look for someone else to settle with. I know I could find someone if I wanted to, but I don't want anyone else. I don't want to be without him. I would be missing out on a very special, honest and warm connection, not to mention the promise of good company on a grand adventure. I know I can't do everything in my life, that I have to make choices about what I want most - career, family or adventure - but I'm not ready to throw anything away just yet, not until I'm sure.
Unless he changes his mind, it seems like I have a choice to make. But I'm not ready to make it. Until I know clearly what to do, I will just be carrying on. I feel sure that the right answer will become clear before long. Life has a way of forcing an answer when things are uncertain. I just hope that it's not unbearably painful when it comes.
I have some simple life goals: 1) to be successful and satisfied in my career, earning well and enjoying my work 2) to get married to the lovely Ed, who is undisputedly the prince of my dreams and 3) to have a loving, healthy, harmonious family together