Child 3 is more than two weeks old now. He was born in the earliest hours of a Wednesday morning, arriving into the world, like his sister, with considerable speed and efficiency. Despite my fears over his size, amplified by helpful comments from medical professionals such as ‘he’s a big chap- he’ll be a rugby player’, he was born easily (although not without a huge amount of pain – I had managed to forget how awful it is, and I never, ever want to do it again) and without difficulty. He has begun his time in the world just as he arrived, quietly and without any great fuss, settling quickly into a life where his needs come alongside an older sister and brother, and where he spends a great deal of time being transferred from car seat to sling to pram on school runs and trips to gymnastics. When people have asked me how it’s going, I’ve said ‘fine; it’s completely fine.’ They often look doubtful, but it really is. So far. He’s a good baby, and although he wakes every three hours for a feed, he also settles immediately back to sleep after each one. The endless midnight hours of walking the bedroom floor that I remember so clearly with his sister are thankfully, conspicuously, absent.
I have, naturally, social media obsessed creature that I am, documented his first two weeks on Facebook. I have tried not to post endless pictures – although I am so besotted by him that I have no real judgement- but I’m certain there are many of my Facebook friends who happily scroll on by his little face, possibly thinking ‘give it a rest.’ Which is, of course, completely fine – I do the same with pictures of people’s dinners, and selfies taken through an Instagram filter. But a chance comment about Facebook today made me think about what we post, and what sort of impression our social media pages give.
Glancing back over the last two weeks, I know I’ve captured, largely, the love and obsession I have with this, my third and last baby, and his precious, fledgling relationship with his lovely siblings. I have captured moments in which I can’t believe I could love anything this much, moments in which my love of him overwhelms all else, moments in which I look into his little dark eyes and the perfection of him threatens to crush my heart. I have captured this, him, now, his perfection and sweetness and purity and vulnerability, and I have captured my wonder of him: this most glittering and profound of loves.
There are many moments that I have not captured. There are the moments when heart-stopping, horrifying worry threatens to overwhelm me- the minutes and hours when I’ve been convinced that something’s wrong with him that I can’t fix – that he’s too quiet, or too sleepy, or not hungry enough, or not awake enough. There’s been many moments of irrational, electrifying fear, where I’ve become obsessed with his temperature, or the amount of milk he’s taken. There was the moment that I came back into the room after going out to the kitchen for a minute and found his seven year old brother walking towards the door with him. ‘I’m just taking him upstairs for you Mummy,’ he said brightly, and – after taking him from him and talking to him about how he can’t lift him, how easily broken he would be, how vulnerable he is- I cried for half an hour about what could have happened. I haven’t captured the moments when he has refused to go to sleep in the evenings, over stimulated and over-tired by all the activity of our house in the afternoons and early evenings; when I have had to walk the floor with him and listen to him cry helplessly against my chest. I haven’t captured those moments when I’ve been so tired I snapped at the other children, or the ones when I thought I simply didn’t have the energy to read them a bedtime story and after they’d gone to bed I felt a failure as a mother. I haven’t captured the moment that child 1 cried on the third day and said he felt a bit left out, or the way child 2 has curled up on my lap, even though she’s really too big now, and cried over nothing, defeated by her exhaustion from a school day in which so much is demanded of her. I haven’t captured the moments where I couldn’t get him to latch on no matter how hard I tried, and where we both cried with frustration, or the many, many hours I’ve spent expressing to try to mitigate it.
And maybe I should have captured those moments. Maybe when I’ve been guilty of showing our new lives as a family of five through a glossy Facebook filter. Maybe when I look back on it I’ll wonder if it was a true reflection of these first weeks. But, you see, in the end, those moments above recede into complete insignificance when I think of the last two weeks. Because, while they were hard and emotional and upsetting, they were also unimportant beside the true and important moments of the first two weeks of child 3’s life. Those moments were ones in which I held him close against me, his tiny body warm against mine, his little face heart-swelling in its perfection, and thought I could never know greater love or greater joy than this. They were the ones that mattered. They are the ones I’ll never recapture. They are the ones that I hope I can always remember – that when life moves on and I go back to work and we become buried in those every day, busy, mundane hours and days and months – that will still glow, jewel-like. In a year’s time, or two or three, these are the moments I want to remember: a tiny head tucked into my neck, the softness of his brand-new skin, the sound of his breath in the darkness, the way his little hand clutches at my top, his dark eyes that stare searchingly into mine, and the way my heart swells each time, lifted by a love without end.
These are the moments that matter.