Amazing

Day 1

Eight years ago, on the last day of another heat wave, I paced the hospital grounds, doubling-over as contractions came and went, a terrified first-time, single mum-to-be, held by her mum and a wonderful friend.

I stood alone on a metaphorical 25m diving board, no way down but forward, petrified of random things such as not deserving a healthy baby, not being a good enough mum, and wanting things to be over, without being cut-open or dying in the process.

At the end of an elastic and blurry ten hours, my son was born, with a slightly cone-shaped head, and a little meow, covered in poo as he loves being told over and over again. As he fed hungrily, and considered his new world pensively, a weird but overwhelming hope washed over me that things may actually be alright.

That night, I watched his brand new, unfamiliar face with curiosity, feeling something like “nice to meet you”. A bit like when you meet someone off the internet, only I presume that people off the internet rarely take residence in your stomach for a few months, or root around for your breasts when they first meet you.

From the start, that baby felt like he knew what he was doing to the clueless mother I was.

Tonight, I watch him sleep with the same baby-ish abandon, his golden, muscular limbs splayed as wide as they curled tight eight years ago, hair shivering in the fan’s draught, still both helpless and totally amazing.

To Fenella, who has been there in ways only those who have known wrenching heartbreak can. And to my son of course, thank you for teaching me so much.

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Dread

Today is a wet and miserable English Summer day, which serves as a good reminder of why I was so glad to be moving out to France two years ago, but isn’t enough to make up for the fact that I have to leave tomorrow. I’m not sure what happened but I blinked, and bang, it’s the end of our holiday: Tragedy!

This week felt like one of these heavy, metallic shutters had been pulled down on my life in France in the last 6 months, and everything had happened to someone else.

I felt slow, barely remembered what I had for breakfast (bacon, scrambled eggs and baked beans, mm…) and reckon at least 70% of my brain had been switched off to recover from recent overwork. Meanwhile, the rest of me split the time between sleeping, eating, and enjoying the company of friends and my children.

Alas, work gets in the way of life, and much as I would like to, I cannot remain holed up here for 6 months. In fact, the dread switch has been flicked on: I am going home tomorrow, and have already had a couple of nightmares involving seeing T, who seems to have been cast in the role of the Big Bad Wolf From My Childhood Dreams. Then comes the appeal of a life mostly revolving around struggling to keep my head out of the water, and wondering what to cook for dinner.

I very much feel like stamping my feet, rolling on the floor, screaming “I don’t wanna go baaaack”. At the very least, it would mystify my daughter, who recently started trying a bit of the Terrible Twos on for size.

Ready for a bit of irony?…

…Inna – The sun is up:

Loca

Some people can do magic tricks, others can wolf-whistle, both things I would like to be able to do, but I’m not sure how or why, my trick seems to be that I make friends wherever I go.

Indeed, I have been drinking tea and wine* all day with some English friends, and the hardest thing I’ve had to worry about was whether to go for strawberries or melon for dessert (Note for those who may not sleep for all the suspense: I went for the strawberries).

It is a perfect Summer evening, the sunlight is still warm on the tree-lined lanes, and the dripping-with-flowers cottages. My son met-up with his former school-mates, and we’ve all been hugged to death by old friends. It feels so good to remember life here before T…

And the great thing is that even if you cross the Channel to where our new life is, we have new friends there too.

In fact, as I write this, one of them is packing enough bags to see through a winter in outer Mongolia, as she heads back home to Madison, Wisconsin (practically the same thing, mind you), after a year in France. I will awfully miss our impromptu picnics on my living-room floor, the way we pretend to be 17 and a half when we go out and dance to Loca, how I can ring her after a particularly tough day and cry into dinner, while she finds imaginative expletives to describe T and make me laugh.

I am sure her trip home will be fun-packed, with two connecting flights and three jet-lagged children…Do make sure you pack some ear plugs and get some rum at the duty-free, will you?

To all our friends, here, there and everywhere, thank you for being there. Couldn’t have made it through without you.

*I know English people are weird but no, we did not have the tea and wine together.

Shakira ft. Dizzee Rascal – Loca:

My baby

After a two-hour nap, I sit outside in the sunshine, sipping on some wine, listening to my daughter’s joyous shrieks. Her brother is seeing his dad (Useless Boyfriend) and we are staying with some friends in England.

I cannot remember the last time I felt this relaxed, happy, or hungry – probably not this side of 2011…

My daughter and I used to be together most of the time, until she turned 13 months and our worlds got turned upside down. Then I got too busy sinking, she started spending every other weekend at her dad’s in January, and I started work in March.

I had not realised how much I had felt robbed of my baby.

I watch her babble and reverse a tricycle in a very skilled spot of parallel parking.  She has changed so much in the last six months, and we have a lot of catching-up to do.

The Pixies – Ana

England

Things feel gentler here than in France. The mostly flat land undulating, the infinite variations of green, punctuated with wild flowers, the dull sunlight, and pale blue sky, a textbook worth of clouds, even the cab driver’s easy chitchat…

I have been in England for the last four days, and things feel both familiar, and distant. I have only been gone two years, it has been two years already. Two years gone in a blink, filled with joys and pains so intense, I am left gasping for air, shocked and dizzy.

These last couple of weeks, I had been feeling particularly frazzled and exhausted, and coming here for a work-related course gave me a chance to physically get away from the grief of the last 6 months, and the crushing daily routine. Most importantly, I got a chance to stay with and see two dear friends, who picked me up from where I had fallen, and gave me some rare moments of closeness, balance, and what really tasted like happiness (or was that the white wine?).

I walk past clumps of uniformed children going to school, toddlers eating crisps in their buggies, everyone in shorts and tank tops while I shiver in the morning chill in my jeans, jumper and coat. I feel ready to go home.

To Sandra and Gemma, two amazing women. Thank you.

Placebo – Every you, every me