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.