It was a Sunday night and a Saturday morning, respectively, when you decided to make your entrances into the world. You were ten days and four days late. In both cases, it felt like I’d waited an eternity. My pregnancies were unremarkable, easy even, marred only in my first pregnancy by the ever present fear that dogged me at every turn, the result of two years hoping for a baby that didn’t come, and an early, but no less devastating for it, miscarriage a year before. When you arrived into the world, my lovely boy, I found myself grateful for that miscarriage. Because whoever that tiny, just-thought-of baby was, whoever it might have become, it wasn’t you.
I didn’t know, then, how you would change my life. I thought I was prepared, with my Mamas and Papas nursery furniture, my latest-model iCandy (it looks quaint now), the babygros laid out neatly, in age order, in the chest of drawers. I’d taken all the vitamins. I’d listened to all the advice. I’d read all the books. I was prepared for the lack of sleep, the midnight walking the floor, the endless round of feeding and changing and rocking and walking. What surprises were there for motherhood to bring?
It turns out there were many. I wasn’t prepared for the long hours of birth, the day when outside the sun scorched the street and I huddled inside, seeking the dark, while contractions came and went like the pull of the tide. I wasn’t prepared for that moment when you were placed on my chest for the first time, and you looked up at me with worried dark eyes huge in your tiny, wrinkled face, and I realised you were everything. I wasn’t prepared for that first night, when, high on Lucozade and diet Coke and adrenaline and love, I watched you from my bed, and every time I found your eyes they seemed to be open, taking in your wondrous brand new world. I wasn’t prepared for the second night and the arrival of a doctor to tell me that he feared you had an infection, and you were taken away. I had to follow the sounds of your screams to find you, a junior doctor ashen with exhaustion and trying to find a vein while you cried, and I cried too, defeated by a world in which I couldn’t protect you from everything. I wasn’t prepared for the new love I felt for your father, watching him cradle a tiny, fragile you in his arms. And a year later, almost to the day, I wasn’t prepared for it all over again with your sister, who I had not believed I could love the same way as I loved you, because no one is capable of that much love, and yet I did.
I didn’t know you would both make my heart swell with love, each time you turn towards me and smile. I didn’t know that you would be a source of eternal fascination, your small, intricate minds, your myriad complex thoughts, the way you frown and the way you move and the way you laugh. I didn’t know that even at your most maddening, when you won’t listen or keep still or do as you’re told, I would love each and every bone of you.
On that first night with each of you, watching the stars in a dark sky, hearing your tiny, snuffling, brand-new breaths, feeling your tiny fingers clutch mine, I didn’t know that my love for you, which overwhelmed me even then with its enormity, would grow each and every year.
And so even on the worst, most tiring, most frustrating days, my sweet pair, I hope you know this: you are love in its greatest and purest form, and you have brought me everything.