In the light of a new day, holding the newest baby in the world, you feel like you can do anything. Normally, you’re also absolutely terrified. If you’re lucky, you had a good 7 months to get used to things but even with all those weeks, the enormity of becoming a parent is overwhelming.
And I wouldn’t change a second of it.
I remember those first 24 hours with each of them. Learning the intricacies of their faces, scouring their features for familiar traits and marvelling at the miniature details. All of ours have only a had a fine layer of hair; gingerlings hiding blue cheeks, a fierce brunette with adorable dimples, dark ringlets curling over the furrowed, bruised brow of a long and lanky wriggler, the wispy strands of sandy brown on my not so little boy. When number 6 arrived it was with a quiet ease. I saw another ginger but this time there was less of the smurf about her. She had smooth pink skin and a gentle grace about her. The two smalls, both dusty brown haired and mighty gripped, looked like carbon copies born 17 months apart. The only difference in those first few hours was their eyes. One with large almond eyes, deep and dark, the type that you can sink into, the other with wide, round glass jewels and tiny lashes that fluttered with the slightest breeze.
Each birth, although surrounded with great joy, are also spattered with hot spots of searing pain. I’m lucky, so very lucky. I have eight beautiful, healthy children. They received the best possible care the NHS can provide and they are strong, wonderful souls. I don’t believe that the same was said for me. I was treated like a nuisance by some, as a science experiment by others, and as a chicken on a conveyor belt by most. Don’t get me wrong, there are some utterly superb midwives and consultants out there, it has been my honour to know them. There’s also overworked, worn out, less sympathetic members of the team and they bring down the excitement and often leave women like me feeling vulnerable and fearful for what might be.
There was always a chance that I could get depression, recurrence of my teens, a family history, a difficult birth. I should have huge flags all over my maternity notes. Nothing so simple exists. Instead I could nod and smile and fake my way through appointments. I’m not sure what I expect. If just one person had actually looked at me, they might have seen the warning signs. Too late now, too much pain, and too much water under the bridge.
Today, 3 and a half years after our last entanglement, we’re moving forward. I’m here, awake at 4:25am, a toddler stretched across the bed, a nearly 10 year old on the floor (!!) because going back to bed wasn’t on his to do list, I sent the almost 5 year old off to find her father who I’m pretty certain fell asleep on the sofa and the others are still curled up away in dreamland and even my big boy is snoring soundly instead of laughing maniacally to his fantastic friends across the pond. The house is, for once, almost quiet enough to hear the cats’ purrs.
It’s Mothering Sunday and I am blessed. I wish you all, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, a beautiful spring day spent with those we love and care for most.