Forty-five is a hard birthday. Forty didn’t bother me when the day actually arrived: it’s the ones that end in five and nine that I hate.

The half-way ones herald the downhill slide towards the next big one. The nines are a kind of death row where you say your final farewell to a decade you’d prefer to stay in. I know I should have learnt to cherish my birthdays because of my mum’s early death at 39, but it doesn’t seem to work like that.

I turned 45 last Sunday and sank into a cranky, miserable malaise that lasted till about Tuesday. Warning: it was maudlin and self-indulgent. I rooted around in my head to find the source of it. I’m ashamed to say that it was mostly related to not having cards and presents to open on the day, because my family hadn’t sent any and I hadn’t yet procured a gift on behalf of my husband. And some of my nearest and dearest forgot to text me. It rained hard all day, too.

So far, so shallow and navel-gazey. I felt a bit forgotten. It’s as simple as that.

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My point is, it had nothing to do with not having children. I tested out that thought, wondering if it would be nice to have kids that make a fuss of you on your birthday. Nah, I wasn’t convinced at all by that one. If I examined my current anxieties, they involved my crap career, my increasingly urgent search for a new house, and other practical obstacles I needed to address. All wrapped up with a dash of age-related existential angst, but lack of children did not figure in the equation. I craved contact from the people in my life, nothing more.

I’d like this to be heartening news for any non-parent looking towards their forties and dreading those special occasions without kids.

Just make sure your birthday is on bloody Facebook so everyone “remembers” it, and get yourself a decent present to open on the day.

A week later I’m completely cured. A dear friend sent me the most thoughtful gift in the post; my niece’s late card arrived with a beautiful message; and at the weekend my husband bought me an incredible present that I’ve been coveting for months. I reminded myself that I would never have got my hands on that beauty if we had childcare to pay for.

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Image of Fujifilm XT2 taken from bigheadtaco.com

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