There’s snow on the ground tonight on the eve of my darling son’s first birthday. He’s ill with a fever and sickness and my heart is heavy with the motherly ache that comes when he’s hurting in some way. Between chasing his Daddy across the landing and throwing my Yaktrax in his cot (we have snow) he’s curling up on my lap and nuzzling his face into my chest looking for all the world like the tiny newborn who was placed on my chest exactly a year ago.
I’ve cried intermittently today, thinking about where we were this time last year, how scared and unprepared I was. I’m still struggling to come to terms with how he arrived; the c-section itself was okay – calm and positive even, all things considered – but the labour before was undignified, uninformed and disempowering. I’m still angry about it all, from my own fear and ignorance to the medical advice and lack of support I was given during the following days in the hospital. I’m allowed those feelings, because it all contributed to the harsh induction into parenthood I had. My post-natal depression almost killed me and I now know it didn’t have to be that way.
A year ago I held my husband desperately and screamed and pleaded with him to make the pain stop. He brushed the hair from my face and in a voice so calm yet so full of emotion he told me I could do it, I could have our baby. I was naked on top of a birthing ball and leaking fluid onto his shoes, my face a sweaty mess, but he looked at me as though I was the most remarkable and beautiful creature on the planet. I remember that moment so clearly. He still looks at me that way now when I’m with our son, and it helps me remember that I did have our baby, I carried him and nourished him, sacrificed parts of myself to birth him, and have since raised him every day with all I have, sometimes wearing myself so thin I don’t know where ‘Mama’ ends and ‘I’ begin.
During the newborn weeks we spent most of our time, Little T and I, curled up together on the sofa or in bed, dozing. I worried then that I wasn’t stimulating him enough or taking care of the house well, but now I wish I’d treasured those precious moments. He was tiny for such a short time, and while I remember vividly his tiny fingers and toes and his black, shining eyes staring placidly into mine, I was too busy wishing those early days away to enjoy them. I miss that tiny baby with every fibre of my being. I watch videos and look at photos of him and I smile, of course I do, but I’m inwardly crying for the happiness I never felt in his presence then. He really was a beautiful baby. So awake and alert, always watching.
He grew into a happy, chubby baby, far bigger than most his age, with a smile too wide for his little face. Gosh, I loved him. A fierce, frightening love that made me tremble if I thought about it too much. He laughed often and scrunched his face up like a goblin when he looked at us – to this day we don’t know why. He crawled at six months and found glee in everything he discovered – watching him made my soul sing, despite the demons I was battling. He giggled at my hair, the cats’ tails, rain on the window, and his favourite activity was rummaging through my cosmetics’ baskets, scrutinizing my nail polishes and mixing them up so I couldn’t find them again. I allowed him every pleasure as long as it was safe and in return he taught me how to find joy in simplicity.
As he’s approached 12 months he’s grown more and more into a little boy, with his mucky laugh and love of funny voices and his dad’s guitar. He tantrums and sulks, but he is still lit up, a sun ray of a child, all messy golden hair and toothy grin. He’s no longer bigger than other children his age, sitting in the middle for most of his measurements, but his personality has exploded, and he amazes me every day. I sometimes think he’s smarter than we are and he’s simply humouring us while we bumble through this parenting thing. He learns by watching and waiting, then suddenly doing and taking us by surprise, with a look of satisfaction on his face that one day I’m determined to catch on camera and turn into a motivational poster.
I tell him I love him every day and that I’ll keep trying to be a good mum and hope he understands that even where I fail, I’m always trying. I’m never afraid to apologise. I respect him as a human being and my equal, because he is, and if anything he has more definitive wants, passions and desires than anyone I’ve ever met. That they’re almost certain to change doesn’t matter; fickleness is another human trait I accept in others and in myself, so why wouldn’t I tolerate it in a one year old too? My son is the best teacher I’ve ever had, his father’s too, and I thank him for that, for bettering us. In one short year and without being able to walk or talk he’s transformed us completely. It’s scary and wonderful just how much power such a little person can have.
What a journey we’ve had. My head spins just thinking about the enormity of what we’ve achieved. Really tomorrow’s our birthday, all of us, the magnificent family we’ve created together.
I will never, ever grow tired of being a we.
Happy birthday, my Little T. I love you with every whole and broken fragment of me. Keep shining beautiful boy. xx