It’s 7.03am on 31st December 2016. Though really it’s so dark it could be the middle of the night. I’ve just spend an hour cuddling my seven-week-old son, as he’s been restless since his last feed at 5. I check his breathing religiously, every time I wake, which is often, even when he slumbers peacefully. I’m overwhelmed by responsibility to this tiny, beautiful person who relies on me for everything, rewarding me with the occasional wonky, drunken, joyful smile. For 35 years I have been responsible for no-one but myself, unless you count pets and my husband. I had a freedom I never knew or acknowledged; the freedom of walking through life able to go wherever I wanted, do whatever I liked, spend money like water and drink cocktails at 5pm, or even 5am. It was a beautiful life, a glorious life, with adventures and family and friendship. It was never “less than” just because I didn’t have a child. Still, the thought that I nearly missed out on this part, on the milk, the stories, the night feeds, the magic of Christmas with my own child, makes me catch my breath. I nearly didn’t have it, so nearly.
At seven weeks after his birth, life is beginning to get something of a rhythm for us. The early days of feeding constantly, of a newborn with no concept of night and day, of constant visits from relatives and friends are coming to a close. The three of us have developed our own world where the tiniest things are important and hold the universe together. We enjoy our days, with trips to see friends, walks in the cold when we’re all wrapped up, endless box sets on Netflix and Amazon with warm cuddles and eating one-handed.
When I was a kid, my Dad would get home around six, just before tea was ready. I’d be in the kitchen with Mum, chatting to her about the day and whatever drama had befallen me and my friends at school. I can still smell the cooking and see the steam on the kitchen windows, feel the warm hug of it. When my Dad’s key turned in the lock our heads would turn to him, and he’d come in bringing the cold, the smell of chewing gum and some treasure or other he’d picked up. He’d tell us a tale from his day whilst rummaging in the bread bin and thickly buttering a crust, talking between bites and handing the bread to me to share while Mum got cross we were spoiling our tea, shouting for my brothers to come down to eat. It was a feeling of complete wholeness, of family, of being surrounded by love. It’s security, belonging. It’s the feeling I get now when I hear my husband’s key in the lock and know we’re giving that to someone else. It’s a feeling we pass on to our children, if we’re lucky enough to have them.