Malorie Blackman has a list of accolades to her name longer than numerous limbs. Hugely successful author, OBE recipient, BAFTA winner and Children’s Laureate. Her first book, Not So Stupid! was published in 1990. Since then her books have filled bookshelves across the globe. Arguably her most famous, the Noughts and Crosses series, was recently made into a BBC TV drama. Malorie has campaigned to improve diversity in children’s books too. Last but not least, she’s mother to adult daughter Elizabeth. We feel dizzy listing out all her incredible achievements. She sat down with Gi to talk about watching your kids becoming independent individuals, the many emotions of miscarriage, her biological clock and pregnancy after loss.
“It’s funny when you say she’s my adult daughter. Because she’ll always be my baby” laughed Malorie, even though Elizabeth is 26. “I guess there’s never a point where where Mums go ‘yep you’re fine now'”. Yeah. Sounds about right!
A network of women
Coming from a big family, Malorie always imagined she would have two or three children, but before Elizabeth was born she had two miscarriages. She was also warned it would be very tricky to have another child.
Her miscarriages were ‘eyeopening’. She explains: “After the first miscarriage I thought I’m not going to tell anyone until after 12 weeks. As soon as I hit 12 weeks, I told everybody and then I had a miscarriage at 14 weeks. It was one of those things where you feel like you’re really alone. But when I started telling people, so many other women said ‘I’ve had one too’. And I had no idea. I had no idea that so many women had gone through the same thing. It was lovely because it was like this network of women saying ‘it happened to me. These are some of the strategies I had for getting through it’”.
Unexpected bouts of depression
It took her longer to recover mentally and emotionally from those miscarriages than she expected: “What I didn’t expect were the bouts of depression that I suffered. There’d be times when I would be trying to work and it just wasn’t happening and I would phone up my husband in tears and saying ‘can you come home?'” It was six or seven years between her miscarriages and Elizabeth’s birth.
But when she hit 30, Malorie recalls her biological clock “kicked her butt”, despite her not believing in it much before then. She says it wasn’t just ticking, but booming. When she became pregnant with Elizabeth, she felt a real loss of innocence after her miscarriages. As a result, she chose not to tell people until she was around 16 weeks. She recalls not feeling “settled” in her pregnancy until she was around six or seven months. Then she started “to kind of enjoy it and would play music for her and chat to her”.
A series of letting go
For Malorie though, parenthood is “a series of letting go”. She explains: “For example I used to do her hair when she was very young and then she got to the age where it was ‘I can do it thank you Mum. I can do it myself.’ And then it was things like taking her shopping for clothes and ‘thank you mum, I picked them myself’. It was a realisation that this is what you have to do for your children to be to grow up and be independent and be able to cope on their own.”
She adds: “I kind of feel like it would be so lovely to put her in my pocket and keep her safe. But that’s not healthy. She’s got to go out and she has to make her own mistakes in some things. What I need to do is just be there to support her. Whether she fails or she succeeds in whatever she’s doing, she knows she always has my support. But I can’t go out there and make her mistakes.”
For more of Gi’s chat with Malorie Blackman, check out the complete episode wherever you get your podcasts (we’re on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts and Spotify) or check out the YouTube video below. Listen to all other episodes of Happy Mum Happy Baby here.