Tracey Emin: My Life In A Column

'Two days ago I decided I wanted to have a baby. It wasn't a broody whim: it was like a decision'
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The Independent Online

This column was going to read in my own handwriting, in rather large letters: SORRY THERE IS NO COLUMN THIS WEEK, I HAVE A HEADACHE. But I realise that I would be repeating myself quite badly. It seems that every Thursday (that's the day that I write my column), I have a headache.

Today has been different because today I have been asleep. Not a pleasant sleep, but the kind of sleep that when you wake you feel like you have been dragged back from the belly of hell. You sense a certain amount of trauma and you know that mentally you have been somewhere that you didn't want to go. I woke up hot and sweating, my eyes hurting like I had been crying for about 10 years.

My boyfriend called me to say that in the middle of the night I had sent him a strange message saying that I was crying. I don't remember waking up, I don't remember being awake, I don't remember opening my eyes, or acknowledging anything which wasn't sleep. Everything feels heavy and this frightens me. Mood swings like the weather, jump and turn.

Two days ago I decided that I really wanted to have a baby. Decided so much that I even contemplated doing something about it. It wasn't a broody whim, it was like a decision. A decision definitely based on the question: what is life all about anyway? I think these strong thoughts have come to fruition because of not drinking. It's like, what are all the things you can do that are really positive, that don't involve a party? I'm starting to regret not stopping drinking earlier. Not that much earlier, just maybe two or three years. I'm weighing up the past four years of parties against the idea of being childless, familyless. All of this could possibly just be weakness.

I mentioned my wanting a baby to very close friends and people that it would affect, to be told that I was too old. It could be dangerous. I would have to have a Caesarean. To which I replied: "If it was good enough for the Romans, it's good enough for me."

Of course I'm not too old too have a baby. I'm physically a damn sight fitter than a lot of women who are younger than me. But I don't think the reference to age was just about my physical wellbeing. I think it was to do with the fact that 45 would be too old. That's how it was meant. My grandmother had her youngest son when she was 46. She lived to be 94. Three of her children died before she did. Nothing is for certain in this world. Twenty years of my love could be worth 60 of somebody else's. Then again, two years of someone's love could be worth 20 of mine.

I don't know how love can be weighed, measured or calculated. I don't think it can, but I know that it can be surrendered. There comes a time when you just breathe out and say: "OK. This is what love is. I go with this." Maybe the love that we have is not always what we dreamed of, or what we wanted, but it's the love that we know has come to us.

I have just done a word count. It was 544 at the last count, it's 569 now, and with each word I can feel my headache lifting. Maybe it's the rather large quantity of Panadol I have just taken, or the fact that when you do actually just share something with the group an inordinate amount of spiritual weight is lifted. I can't turn the clock back – and at the moment what gives me a lot of personal anger is the insane amount of time that I waste.

I wish I could use every moment and every minute, but I can't. My life doesn't even ebb and flow. It gushes, spurts and stops. Much the same way as my body physically reacts to the world: sexually, mentally and emotionally. I should feel quite good with myself since the realisation that I am truly what I am, and what I say I am. There's no veneer or cover. When I'm wounded, I walk wounded. My life makes sense on a thin, painful level. There's no comfy landing pad.

My friend said that giving birth could possibly kill me, that's it's not safe for women of my age, not for the first child. I don't know any part of my life that has ever been safe. But, unfortunately, having a child is a risk that you have to share.

Every spring, outside my window, I watch a beautiful bird building a nest. She stands contemplative with bits of twig in her beak, umming and ahhing where to neatly tuck it between the ivy and the rose bush. I watch her happily climb backwards and forth, but I'm not the only one watching her. Docket sits on the windowsill staring down from my bedroom between the curtains, his grey, silhouetted outline mischievous in its cartoon stance.

He watches the nest building like a game of tennis, his little head moving from side to side. I know it's only a matter of weeks before the baby birds are picked off, one by one, Docket usually working up to a grand finale of bringing the last, largest, fluffiest feathered one into my bedroom, leaving me to play God.

Now, if I look out the window I want to shout at the bird: "You stupid cow, every spring you build your nest there and every spring the same thing happens!" But it really isn't for me to intervene. At least she has the pleasure of building her nest.

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