If you took one look at our Family Christmas card this year, the last word you would probably choose to describe us would be unconventional. By 2017 standards, we could appear to be the dictionary definition of the conventional family (minus the dog, although I am working on that one right now). In the picture, there is a mum, a dad, a wide eyed toddler, and on the surface we look like picture perfect happy conventional family. We are a happy family, don’t get me wrong, but I definitely wouldn’t describe our story as the conventional one. The problem nowadays though is defining this ‘conventional family’. What is conventional in 2017?
When I was younger, I could have pinpointed it. A mum and a dad, married, living in their own house, with a garden, some kids and a dog. Conventional, expected, based on my own experiences in large part. Nowadays, ‘conventional’ looks very different. If all of the families in Harrisons’ nursery class were to create cringey christmas cards every year, we’d be able to see that he has little friends with two mums, two dads, step-brothers and half sisters, diverse families, and the conventional label is a lot harder to pin down. Hallelujah. If I could have told you when I was child how my family would have panned out, I’d have still gone with my idyllic picture perfect story. Girl meets boy, a beautiful engagement, a house, a wonderful wedding and then a baby. In that order. But that would have been too perfect…
Me and Jordan hadn’t been officially together for long when I fell pregnant. There’s that word – ‘officially’. We met while both working in McDonalds (who says romance is dead) and spent years just messing each other around and wasting time. The foundations of our relationship were built on drunk nights out and hangover Chinese’ – not exactly the fairytale story predicted. I fell pregnant and alas we had to become grown ups. We traded the pub and the drunken texts for a mortgage and nursery fees, and we’ve not looked back since. Our 2017 saw us grow up along side our growing baby, who forced us to face up to the reality of being adults. I’m a strong believer in everything happening for a reason and I’d like to believe this was always supposed to be our ‘fairytale’, albeit the less than conventional one.
Conventional is boring, I mean, an unplanned pregnancy keeps life interesting after all. But then again, I always thought we would have to try for a baby. We can’t always plan these things and the fact that it happened when it did is something I’ll forever be thankful for, but I still thought we would have to try. I thought I’d have to come off birth control, I imagined myself eagerly buying tests, longing for that positive result, and then being able to share it with the world and watch everyone be happy for us. I say I imagined these things, but truth be told I never really gave them too much thought – these were simply my expectations of what was ‘normal’ when it came to starting a family.
With my first pregnancy, I felt guilty more than anything else. Guilty that we didn’t have to try. Guilty that so many couples were desperate to have children at that very moment in time, who had to go through IVF, to look for sperm donors or consider surrogacy, continually experiencing the heartbreak of infertility, and yet here I was, pregnant without a second thought. Never again will I take for granted a pregnancy or the little life it brings, and I’ll be treasuring every second of my next, swollen ankles and all.
The very fact we have pictures of the three of us to create a 2017 Christmas Card is a miracle in itself, as Jordan was the last person I thought I’d be able to rope into a clichéd tradition. He sacrificed some dignity to let me take the pictures, he’s also sacrificed his Saturday nights in the local pub, the extra money he once had at the end of the month, and a large chunk of the hair that was once on his head. This year has been full of sacrifices, for both of us, but every single one has been worth it.
We are not the picture of a conventional family, but it’s the best family I could have asked for. I was naive about having a baby and the impact it would have on us; I expected our child to simply slot into our life, whilst everything else remained in tact and unchanged. If only. We’ve struggled, we’ve bickered, but we’ve adapted and learned. We may not have followed the traditional order, but as the years go on the traditions are changing. Times are moving on, everyone is more accepting and situations are diverse. The idyllic story of childhood sweethearts who take each step at a time is a lovely story, but it wasn’t ours. So here’s to the new conventional. And Family Christmas cards, because they are underrated.