Seven and six years ago, we were in the grip of a heatwave. Seven years ago, I was seven days overdue; I was huge, hot, sleepless, and couldn’t imagine wanting anything more than for that baby to be born. Six years ago I was approaching my due date and thinking that if she wanted to stay in a bit longer that would be really fine by me. I wanted to meet her and everything, but I was also aware that once she arrived she’d introduce untold chaos. (Which she did; she’s never been the sort of child just to fit in and get on with it)
Seven years ago, I didn’t yet understand the magnitude of the love I feel now. I didn’t know how I would feel, then- I didn’t know that they would be born and would, immediately, hold me fast in their tiny grips. That the way they would stare up at me, their newborn eyes clouded navy and dark with bewilderment over this brand new world, would reach out and ensnare me, never to let me go. That their tiny fingers, wrapped around mine, would wrap also around my heart. They reached out, one seven years ago and one six, and took hold of that defenceless heart.
They’ve made me vulnerable, these two. I’ve never known fear like it: the fear something will happen to them, the fear they won’t be happy, the fear life won’t be good to them. They’ve made me cry for other parents who have suffered the worst that can happen to anyone: that little boy at Disney World, those three children on MH370, that mother who blogs about gun safety after her child died at a friend’s house. They make me shiver with horror, these stories, and my heart aches for those parents. They mean I can’t watch Comic Relief without floods of tears, and I look at every child differently. They mean I don’t judge those who have made mistakes and been punished in the worst way possible, because we all make mistakes, and they will never be allowed to forget theirs. Each of these stories makes me clutch them a little more tightly before they go to sleep at night. They mean I look at every child in my classroom and realise that they, too, are everything to someone.
I didn’t know, seven and six years ago, that they would have the power to simultaneously lift my heart in the purest joy with their happiness and tear it to shreds with their despair. I didn’t know that some moments I would look at their little faces and think I wouldn’t be able to bear the strength of my love. I didn’t know, then, that these little creatures, so recently formed, so new, so fragile, would take everything I knew about love and throw it high upon the air, to settle back gently, and make everything slightly, unimaginably, irretrievably, changed. I didn’t know that over the seven and six years they have lived so far, they would grow and change and infuriate and delight and charm and enrage and ensnare. I didn’t know that those years would speed by, flying ever faster in the face of my wishes to stop it, savour it, take those moments of joy and love and keep them for ever.
There were many things that I didn’t know, then, and that I am so very grateful to know now. The landscape of my life is irretrievably changed by these two. It’s more raw, my fears for them often an open wound, but it’s also brighter, lighter, and full of joy.
And so as you approach your seventh and sixth birthdays, my lovely two, I wish you everything. You have been, and will always be, the greatest of all gifts. You hold my heart.