For now, I Can Still Carry You

Tonight, the last night you will be two years old, I lay next to you in your bed, and you pulled my arm under your head, as you always do, and with three cars clutched in your hands, you said to me; “I want to get in Mummy’s tummy.”

I giggled and asked you; “why?”

You said; “to hide.”

Minutes later you were sleeping soundly, so I kissed my two-year-old goodnight for the last time, retrieved my arm and snuck out of your room. Just before story time I’d grabbed you and pulled you across my lap. I said I was checking to see if you still fit there, and you did. You still fit in my arms. Just. You pointed out that your feet were sticking out and you were right. They were miles away.

Another year has passed and we’ve sped through it together, despite both our efforts to slow things down. You, with your feet dragging on dog walks and constant questioning; “what’s that? What’s that? What’s that?” and me, with my addiction to grabbing you and holding you as tight as I can, while you wriggle to be free.

You’re not so much a toddler any more, my little man. You’re about to be three. You’re a little boy. You still ask for my arm at night and I still have to lay with you until you fall asleep, and more often than not you end up in our bed at some point, but I treasure those moments as I know how quickly your next birthday will approach. Last year, I was thinking; for now, you still fit in my arms. This year, I am thinking, for now, I can still carry you.This year will see changes coming our way. Pre-school is on the horizon. You’ll have to leave these arms and trust someone else’s. You’ll have to learn to run to them when you fall and scrape your knees. And I’ll have to drive back home without you, to an empty house.

Even now, the thought makes my breath hitch in my throat and tears fill my eyes. That’s what you are to me, my blue eyed boy, you are the hitch in my throat and the grasp to my heart. I can barely look at you sometimes without tears flooding my eyes, without the urge to grip you and hold you so tightly it would hurt. And it’s been like that since the beginning because you are the last one, and the straggler at the end of this beautiful, breathtaking journey. This journey into motherhood that back then saved me from myself, and even now, saves me from the darkness of this uncertain world.

The first time around, I remember holding your biggest sister, when she was oh so tiny, and she had the same big blue eyes that you have, and we stood at the window together in the hospital where she had been born. And I was exhausted and utterly in love and the most excited person in the world. For months I had been talking to her in utero, telling her my plans and dreams, giving her advice, talking to her about life, the universe, and everything. And now here she was, filling my arms, making my arms feel like that was what they had been made to do. Hold her. And staring into that perfect face, feeling the most terrifying yet soul fulfilling explosion of love, enough love to last a lifetime.

I looked at her and thought it would be slow. I thought we had so much time ahead of us and she was so tiny, so fragile and pink and new, it seemed impossible that she would ever walk, or talk or pull her hand out of mine. But she did. So quickly I was left blinking. I held my second baby girl in the murky waters of a hospital pool, catching her underwater and pulling her up to my chest. I was the first person to touch and hold her, and she didn’t cry, not once. I had to unwound the cord from her legs and I was laughing and crying and as high as a kite. It’s still bizarre to me how you can be so utterly in love with a strange, new person.

The third time, I met your brother, and he didn’t cry either. Just lay in my arms and sucked his thumb. I knew by then how fast time would go and I truly thought he would be the last one. But I didn’t want any of it to be for the last time…not yet. So the thought of you was born with your brother. Every time I held his hand, and felt him fall asleep against my shoulder, I longed for it not to be for the last time. I longed to be able to do all those things again. My love for him, my addiction to love, brought you into this world.

You, my angel faced baby boy, you are the last one. And everything we do now is for the last time. A few months after you turned two we had our last breastfeed. Not long after that you wore your last nappy. And now you want to do everything yourself. Soon the last pushchair ride will happen. One day you won’t want me to lie with you while you fall asleep. There will be so many first times and so many lasts.

We know we won’t go through this again, and that one day this journey, in many ways will be over. Children don’t stay. They grow bigger and older and they move on. You look into their faces and you still see the baby and the toddler and the child, like ghosts. You can still hear the things they used to say, the words they used to mispronounce, and I know so much of your dad and I’s future, will involve reminiscing about the funny things you all did.

You’ve just stopped saying ‘deed-do’ and you now say thank you instead. ‘Deez’ is now please. A year ago you were only just putting words together, but now you’re bossing us all about, telling us we’re your best friends, but that we also have to go to prison, and do we want food from your shop? You think everything is amazing; running down hills, scrambling through trees, building dens. And you ‘wud’ everything. You’re soaking up everything I teach you about nature. You point at weeds and ask what they are called and if we can eat them. You remember some of them and tell me first. You ‘wud’ crows and holly bushes, and you ‘wud’ nettles and bees and Oaks. I hope you wud everything and find everything amazing for the rest of your life.

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This time three years ago I was waiting for you to arrive. You were two weeks late, had to be induced and got stuck on the way out making it the most horrific birth I’ve had. They rushed you from the room and it felt like forever waiting for you to come back. But I heard you cry and saw your face and when you came back, I felt like an animal, wanting to snatch you into my arms and sniff you all over. Mine. Mine. That’s the intensity of the love. The person you would kill for and die for. I remember those post-birth moments with all of you, as clear as day. The exhaustion, the cold sweat, the shaking, the after pains, and the weight of the baby in my arms, making everything okay, making the world brighter, life more vivid, me stronger. Never ever wanting to let go.

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But let go we must. Us mothers. We do it every year when you wake up on your birthday. We are letting go bit by bit. When you blow out your candles on your cake, we’ll be looking away and wiping the silly tears from our eyes.

 

You can’t get back in my tummy, my love. We can’t ever go back. I’ll just wipe the tears away when you’re not looking and keep telling you a thousand times a day how much I love you (and it’s more than three) And one day soon you won’t fit in my lap either, and one day soon I won’t be able to pick you up and carry you any more. So for now, let’s hold on as tight as we can. Let’s play hide and seek and read Mr Men books, and serve mud pies and dendelions in our shop. Let’s walk the dogs and go the way you want to go, never on the path, and scratch our legs and find fox holes and rabbit warrens. Let’s play cars, and play-doh and Lego, because one day you won’t want to anymore. Let’s go outside. Let’s snuggle up. Let me and you hold onto each and every day as tight as we possibly can.

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On The Eve of Your First Birthday…

A glass of wine to celebrate…

Head full of ; ‘this time a year ago I was…’

Your brother and sisters are behind me writing in your card. Your presents on the floor, waiting to be wrapped. All I can think is; how? How can it be a year already? A year is nothing. Not a blink or a breath. It’s nothing. I sit here trying to remember how that happened…how those months passed, what happened and when…how old you were when you did this, or that. But it’s a blur, it’s out of my grasp. Surely you were always exactly as you are now?

Your red curls are turning blonde. Your new hair grows in straight. When I look at you I see one of the others depending on your expression and your mood. You are a perfect mix of all of them, and yet totally and utterly you. Walking for two months now, you push my hand away when I try to take yours. Already. You like to climb. You want to do everything that we do. You try to sweep the floor with my broom. You try to carry their heavy school bags about. You put toys down the toilet and try to scale the stairs every time my back is turned. You throw everything. You shake your head when I say ‘no’. You hate going to bed. You say ‘bub-bub-bub’ all day long. You love books. I know how to keep you quiet. Give you a pile of books. Any books. Our books. Your books. Board books. Soft books. Anything you can turn the pages of…and you will sit there for ages, a look of sheer concentration on your face, and that’s when you remind me most of your biggest sister. And when you get cross. When you get all mad and go all rigid and throw yourself backwards, with your mouth an open wail. We are all cruel and sit and laugh.

A year, a year, how can it be a year? They don’t give you enough time. Parenthood is one big rush. One big blur. Tearing about, never catching up. Trying so hard to slow a moment down, to grasp it, hold it, feel it and treasure it, to somehow sink it deep into your bones, into your consciousness, into your memory forever, but you can’t, you can’t, time moves you on. Life rushes you on. Months fly by. So much about you changes. It never seems possible that you will be any different than you are right now, and yet it never seems possible that you have already changed. I’m flagging every step of the way, breathless, left behind, knowing helplessly that every time you change, every time you move on, you are leaving me.

Parenthood is not enough time. Motherhood is the fiercest thing in the world. The thing grows inside of you, is part of you, breathes as you breathe, lives because you live. You talk to it. You are never alone. It kicks you and beats you from the inside, preparing you for the pain to come. It keeps you awake for the same reason. It is a thing, an unknown, a stranger and yet you love it more than you ever knew it was possible to love…

You hate it when the pain comes. The agonies of labour make you selfish. Just get it out. Get it out now. You think only of yourself and you dying. You think only of it being over, over, getting it out, out, out, and then the wet pop. The gush of uterine fluids followed by the gush of maternal love. Love is not a big enough word for it. You want it right away, You want to claim it. After all that agony. Your hands reach down, clawing desperately for the newborn child. You still don’t know it. It is still a stranger.

Until you get it in your arms. Until you pull it up to your chest, smell its hair, muck and all. See its face. Then you know it, and it knows you. And it doesn’t matter about the rest of the world, or anybody else. It is just you and your baby. Your child. Your flesh. Your blood and bones. Your seed. Staring back at you. Eyes look black and sparkling under swollen folds of fat flesh. Hair wet and bloody. Nose flat and wide. Lips full and pouting. Tiny bird like hands curling and flexing. The most beautiful thing in the world. The thing you would kill for.

Silence. Mesmerized. You take each other in. That is the longest moment you will ever get. That is the moment you could almost bottle up. You could almost trap into your bones. That moment goes on, and on, and on.

Until someone speaks. Someone outside of you and your baby. They speak, and things start moving on. Wash the baby, weigh the baby, dress the baby, feed the baby, take photos of the baby. Your moment is broken. Life tugs you both on. Time starts again. Chugging you forward. Into the next day, and the day after that, and the day after that, and the sleepless nights, and the endless nappies, and the first tooth and the first meal and the first noises and the first words and the first steps and the first birthday is here.

From then on you keep looking for that unbroken moment. You seek it out. I know them when they come. I know them and I hold them and I breathe them in, but I am as helpless as ever to the passing of our time. Me and you. Bub bub bub. Pulling at my lip. That little agitated giggle you do when you know you are about to be fed. The way you rest your head on mine, the way you wake up suddenly smiling, and laying your head on me, up and down, up and down. Moments of pure bliss. Pure joy. Feeding you in our bed. Feeling the tug of your latch, the milky swallows, the droop of your eyes, the smell of your head. The feel of your small body in my arms, in my hands, on my lap, on my hip. How I will miss it when you no longer fit…

Happy birthday my sweet boy.

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