Oh no, a serious one.

February 26, 2007 at 10:12 am | Posted in embarrassing moments | 31 Comments

I had a whole ‘nother post thought up for today, but this one sprang up on me on the train and seemed to write itself.

As a child, I believed I was a miracle baby. I was born four and a half months premature (or so I thought), and yet there I was, a healthy and fully-functional young lad. A little on the small side for my age, granted, but what could you expect? I was one of nature’s miracles!

I remember the exact moment it hit me. I was about 12, finally old enough to realise that sex before marriage was not just a possibility, but in my parents’ case, a likelihood.

Sitting on the bus from Castle Park into town, I worked out that it was only 20 weeks between my parents’ wedding day (14 December) and my birthday (mid-May). As I sat there marvelling at being the world’s only baby born 20 weeks premature with no congenital defects whatsoever, I suddenly froze. Why was I not in the history books, famous for my embryonic escapades, my foetal flagrances? The truth, awful and obvious, hit me in the stomach like a medicine ball dropped from a roof. It made me sweat and shiver.

Holy God, I’m a bit of a bastard! I thought. Then, on the heels of that: I am the reason they got married. Then: they would not be together if it wasn’t for me. Therefore, my young mind concluded, I am responsible for their miserable marriage and its subsequent break-up when I was ten. Go me!

I spent the next few years wishing I had been aborted. I lived in a constant state of embarrassment at my audacity – how dare I be alive – for being a burden on other people, particularly my parents, but also my grandparents, who looked after me and my sisters while mam and dad were out at work. I became an apologist, quiet and quick to succumb to the wishes of stronger personalities. I was grateful just to be alive, so why complain when things did not go my way?

I know now that my mam and dad should have been a bit more up-front about the situation, but fucking hell, they weren’t far from kids themselves when they had me. They must have been terrified, and I think they did their best in what was an extremely tough situation, particularly given that both came from traditional, do-the-right-thing-and-marry-her-even-if-it-makes-you-miserable kind of families.

Reading Annie‘s post “Three years too late” (go read, it’s excellent) was difficult. Not because I disagree with her choice; on the contrary, I applaud her decision and think she is incredibly brave for going through with it. Over the past few years, I’ve gradually swung from being on the fence to being firmly pro-choice. However, that’s neither here nor there. The reason it upset me was because, through Annie, I saw how my mother must’ve felt at 19, her life just opening up for her, and suddenly with not a clue what she was going to do with herself. The thought of an unexpected baby and its attendant responsibilities is an overwhelming thing; I know.

It took a while to understand that what happened wasn’t my fault. They fucked (up), and I’m the consequence, but the fact that I was the champion sperm is a bit out of my hands as far as accountability goes.

The guilt is diluted by the passing years.

It wasn’t my fault*, but it has shaped who I’ve become. It doesn’t embarrass me anymore either, though it’s not something I tend to talk about, and I’ve never written about it until now.

*I know that sounds trite, like Robin Williams’ mantra that cures Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting. So fucking what?

PS: Allow me to clarify something: I was not born prematurely. My naive pre-pubescent mind led me to think that my parents first had sex on their wedding night, I was conceived there and then, and was born prematurely five months later. NOT SO. My mother got pregnant with me in September, my parents married in December, and I was born in May. Just to clear that up, because I think some people took me literally.

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  1. Four and a half months premature? Sweet devine Lord, you ARE a miracle. And I’ll always know that you are a miracle…will that do?
    I always thought I was adopted. I was not planned either as my parents did not get on, they could hardly talk to each other so how I happened I’ll never know. But I do not blame myself for their separation. Because I’m great! I am!

  2. I like the way you lied about “health & fully functional young lad” bit.

    We all know thats not true.

  3. Thank god things have changed somewhat these days although I did get the whole “we’ll throw you out of the house if you get pregnant” speil off my parents when I was about sixteen. Being forced into marriage because of what the neighbours will say is definately not good.

  4. There are two things you wrote there that parallel my life, Kav:
    I was born premature by two months; granted, you were certainly a miracle to survive, four and a half months is a seriously short pregnancy.

    Two years ago I also discovered I had a bastard half-brother twenty years my senior.
    It shocked my father more than anything else.

  5. ‘They fuck you up, yer mum and dad…’ Larkin was right.

  6. Flutt: Nor really four and a half months, like – that was just my childish foolishness. But I agree. You’re great. Now show me your bebo.

    Niolk: Good to see you. Well, not you, exactly, but your words. I ought to change it to semi-functional.

    ams: Yeah, and to be fair to them my entire family has changed a LOT since those dark days. I think Ireland has too. It’s not a huge deal anymore.

    Dario: See my comment to flutt – that was supposed to be amusing but I can see I failed miserably! That is messed up about your half-brother though! Do you two get on?

    FMC: I’ve been meaning to get that – do you recommend it?

  7. You have swearing lady’s bebo page? If so, I’m the 3rd person on her ‘friends’ section, and looking fabulous! You’ll understand that when you see me! Leave a comment too!
    http://www.WURZ-GUMMIDGE.bebo.com

  8. Oh cuz, this is really weird to read. My parents are still together, but my brother’s aren’t, so I’ve kind of seen how awful it is to come from a broken home.

    It must have been terrible to be a little kid and be so apologetic about your existence. But I have to say that despite it all you seem to have come out the other side rather well — we may not have met yet but you seem like a great guy, kind and loyal and warm and funny and stuff.

    When I wrote that stuff about the abortion I never really considered what other people might feel about it. My parents already knew the whole story, so I wasn’t worried about shocking them, and then when all the feedback I got was positive, I was glad I’d posted it.

    HOWEVER, I recently found out that a very close friend of mine was very upset and pissed off by what she read (although she already knew what had happened) and while she has never approached me about it personally she has been venting about it to another friend and I haven’t heard from her since, which is worrying.

    It’s a really touchy subject for some people, and not for others. I’m sorry if it offended some people, but ultimately I wanted to write about how difficult it was settling into Iceland and that was a massive, massive part of it.

    I like the way you write about things and I’m glad you can be open about this kind of stuff. It’s not easy.

  9. My brother and I suspect we have an older half-sister somewhere in South Africa. We reckon it’s not for us to ask, it’s for my dad to tell. We might never know for sure and to be honest I don’t think about it much. I think the difficulty, which you came to, and I did, is that it’s hard to imagine your parents as young and not unlike ourselves; to find out the boss of you is fallible is unsettling; for them to have existed as people in their own rights before we came along is a curious thought – I guess it’s a sort of narcissism of childhood or something.

    When we get our heads round that we begin the painful process of growing up, at least that was true for me. It rarely strikes us at convenient times though!

    Great post, Kav.

  10. Let me in! I’m blocked God damn it! I already know you killed someone so what are you trying to hide, add me add me add me! I crave friends!

  11. My half-brother doesn’t visit all that often – all this happened when I was a baby, and I only found out about it recently.

    He’s been to the house a few times; a bit of a laid-back hippie, but cool enough all the same. Apparently he was the product of one of my father’s many wild nights out as a crazy nineteen year old working in the GPO here in Dublin. Alcoholism and no condoms coming together wonderfully there.

    It was a shock to learn that I wasn’t (technically) the only son in my household.

    And I feel like an idiot now for not understanding the subtle joke behind you being a ‘miracle’. My head is full of RNA and plasmodesmata (nope, don’t know what they are) so I’m running a bit slower than normal today.

  12. Well written post on what some would consider taboo, by the way. There seems to be a fair few deep thinkers blogging away today – Jefferson Davis has some philosophical thoughts on his page too.

  13. I don’t recommend any poetry except McCavity the Mystery Cat and The Raven. I wash my hands of anything else. It makes me feel faint.

  14. I can’t believe some people didn’t get the premature biz. I’d say that a massive percentage of Irish people were premature!!!
    Sorry you had to carry that crack around with you all these years, Kav. I often marvel at how we muddle through life, we carry such baggage and garbage – and that’s only the ordinary stuff, imagine if we suffered rape, abuse, violence…..

  15. Can we call you “supersperm boy” or “champion sperm man”?

    Great post!

  16. What a shock the realization must have been. Sorry it affected you as it did for those years, but it does help once you grow enough to recognize that your parents were human, fallible, doing the best they could with the options they felt were available, etc. Most parents won’t be very open about an early date of conception, and I suspect quite a few people think they were born prematurely when they were nothing of the sort.

  17. Wow, Kav. I was laughing my fool ass off until you nearly made me cry.

    Reproductive decisions aren’t easy (having made one, I can say that), but you really aren’t responsible for the choices your parents made. It’s not your fault.

    And I, for one, am very glad you’re here.

  18. Flutt: I wrote you something – I signed up to Bebo just for that?! I have no clue what you’re on about, but will work it out as I go…maybe.

    Annie: Thank you. Like I said, I think it was a brave thing to do – it’s an emotional topic, though I think your friend is not right to be avoiding contact. I’m all for having things out, clearing the air, and moving on. I can’t stand holding on to stuff.

    Sam: True dat, word, etc. I think becoming a dad helped me realise that more than anything else. And holy crap….are you not driven insane with suspense wanting to know about your extended family?

    Dario: Cheers. Speaking of things in common, I was reading your archives and noticed you got and A1 in English in the Leaving – me too.

    Must be weird to think of your dad as a prolific shagger – I can’t even imagine mine like that, and we go on nights out together all the time (when he’s over).

    FMC: Ahhhhh…confusion. I thought you were referring to the book called “They fuck you up” that I haven’t read. I found that Larkin poem, it’s pretty cool.

    Mairéad: That’s what I tell myself – it’s not a big deal, it’s just normal shit. People have so much worse to be dealing with, I berate myself because my stuff is so trivial.

    jali: You can call me whatever you like 😉

    Melissa: ‘Twas a big shock, but I kinda think, well, I wouldn’t be who I am today if it had been different. Helps me stay humble.

    Sassy: Thank you very much, that means a lot. And I love the idea of making someone laugh and cry in a single post. Am I sadistic?

  19. It has in the past but not so much now. It only came up about 10 years ago, before which i don’t think he even had any idea himself. He’s never spoken about it and I haven’t pushed him. Maybe I should, after all: I also discovered, a few years ago, a boy in my year at school was my first cousin. All through school he knew I was his cousin and was always really nice but kind of wierd round me. I knew he didn’t fancy me, it wasn’t that kind of wierd but I never ever figured it out, despite thinking on more than one occasion he looked like my uncle.

    I was mad when I found that out. My other cousin told me he thought we just didn’t want to admit we (all the rest of the million or so cousins in my family) were related to him, and the worst part was – as my cousin told me – he was all right with that.

    I felt terrible that he’d thought that we knew about him and just ignored it, and about the hurt that must have caused him. I also felt confused because I thought at the time he was gorgeous. We were prefects together on canteen duty for a while, which seems very odd to think about now, especially as i was sort of half-assed attracted to him (I was with another guy at the time so it wasn’t even an option at that point so I wasn’t really looking for that and squashed the feeling). We got on really well but I just didn’t twig. And all the time he must have thought I was just too ashamed or embarassed to acknowledge who he was.

    If the adults in our lives hadn’t kept us in the dark things could have been a lot better. They all knew, but had never told us. That makes me angry.

  20. Sorry for going on.

  21. In his 50’s my youngest uncle found out he was my oldest cousin. Born to my eldest aunt in the late 40’s he was slotted into the family.

    The family knew of course. The neighbours knew. Even I knew. But he wasn’t told until his mum knew she was dying and came clean. He had a breakdown.

    He’s fine now but still hasn’t told his own kids. They suspect something but it’s his call whether to tell them or not.

    He always had a strong bond with his ‘big sister’. She was the first one he’d go to with his problems. And she to him. That they’d shared so much over the years was what got him through the breakdown.

  22. A1s in English … they’re great, aren’t they?

    It was the only result I beat both of my friends in – the only thing that stopped Rob O’Brien getting 600 was an A2 in English. Sweet.

  23. I didn’t mean that your troubles are trivial, Kav, far from it. I meant that our troubles are killing us and it’s amazing how we keep going BUT how much harder for others.
    Congrats on the A1, Kav! Brill, but it shows!

  24. When we were kids, we used to love going into our parent’s room to play with the mirrors. They had one on the headboard and one at the footboard and if you put your head in the right place you could see endless repeats of your reflection. It was great fun…

    …Until as an adult I was recalling this to someone else and it suddenly dawned on me why my parents had the mirrors.

    *Shudder*

    OK, I wasn’t emotionally scarred, but I thought you might find it mildly amusing

  25. What do you mean “no congential defects whatsoever”? We’re talking about YOU, right?

  26. Dude. I copied and posted your writing, typo included. Damn you, Kav!

  27. Sweetheart, I think they should be thrilled to have you as their son. Are you not the most handsome, most funniest, witties, intelligent specimen that Ireland has ever produced????

    Ok, maybe not.

    Thanks for sharing that. Have you ever talked to your mother about what it was like for her to become a mum so young? What she was thinking, feeling etc?
    I think you should.

  28. My parents didn’t have sex before marriage. They didn’t even have sex after they were married. La la la, not listening.

  29. Actually, my parents were a test tube and a pipette so that’s absolutely true.

  30. “My parents didn’t have sex before marriage. They didn’t even have sex after they were married. La la la, not listening.”
    JESUS!! Neither did mine. Ever, never, ever, my mother…I…Jesus farking Cheeerrriissssst…NEVER!

  31. sam: God, what a weird feeling that must’ve been. I don’t understand who families do that – hold stuff in that’s really not such a big deal, but in being suppressed becomes a big deal.

    sneezy: Holy shit, another example of hiding the truth from the one person who deserves to know it. Glad to read that he got through it.

    dario: Rob sounds like a brainy fucker. Jeebus almighty, is he doing actuarial or something?

    mairéad: Ah, I see what ya mean, and thanks.

    kim: *shudder, then chuckle* Childhood naivete is priceless. I’ve got a few of those I must write about.

    cindy: Gah, I’m anal about typos. And yeah, besides the obvious spazziness, I’m relatively normal.

    steph: Cheers, yeah, I’ve spoken to her about it. She was just a normal girl, more or less, and it destroyed her. I think if her and my dad were the only ones involved in the situation, they would not have stayed together, but he would’ve supported her, sorta thing. I’m glad they got married though – I’m much closer to my dad’s family now, and my mam’s family has always been a biteen odd, to say the least.

    foot eater and FMC: Well, I’m pretty sure mine only did it three times. Actually, that reminds of of this one time in the middle of the night and I woke up and –

    No…sorry, can’t. Too painful.


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