My baby girl.
I remember taking you home from the hospital. How tiny you were in your car seat, it dwarfed you. You looked like a little doll with beautiful skin and pouty lips and a too-big hat. I remember holding your tiny hand in mine. We listened to Phil Wickham on the way home. I winced at every bump in the road, stitches still sore. I ached, I remember, a deep ache that comes after having a person live in you and then suddenly not live in you anymore, a strange empty void inside.
I felt like the new kid at school. Or like I’d arrived on the first day of a new job.
I felt like I’d been reborn.
It wasn’t a smooth transition, either. Over the next few weeks I battled with my new role as Mother. I second-guessed every decision I made. I doubted my ability to keep you safe. I worried over the small things. I didn’t take you out much, because I was nervous, fumbling with the buggy or losing your blanket. I felt like people would look at me and immediately see through me: I felt stripped, transparent. When you cried in public I broke out into a full-body sweat. Sometimes when you slept, I sat in my still, silent house, and I felt so overwhelmed by the strength of my feelings for you and the fierce protectiveness I felt towards you that it almost hurt. It made me feel vulnerable, and strangely lonely.
And then you ‘woke up’.
You followed me with your eyes as I pottered around the house. You smiled, a big wide gummy grin. Your eyes started to sparkle. You laughed, and we filmed it. It was the most amazing thing I’d ever heard in my life. You started to become more and more ‘you’. You gurgled, you giggled, you ate, you spoke, you grew. You sat in my arms and gazed out at the world in wonder as though everything was the best thing you’d ever seen, and I looked at you in the same way.
I loved you with an intensity that I never felt before, and I still do. As you grew and changed, so did I.
My baby girl. The one who made me a mother.
You start school very soon. And I’m nervous and excited for you, and I can’t wait to see you go out into the world, taking everything I hopefully gave you – all the support and care, but mostly love – and venturing forth without me.
You’ve grown so much, with the help of your Dad, and your grandparents, and your aunties, and uncle, and cousins, and pre-school teachers, and friends. You’re a gem. The pre-school years are over for you, and you are, quite frankly, an excellent kid.
And as for me? I think I did quite well. I think I’m doing quite well.
I wish I could go back to my new-mother self, and tell her it’s fine. That she doesn’t have to be a perfect mother immediately. In fact, she doesn’t have to be perfect at all. That it’s normal to feel overwhelmed and scared. That she will make mistakes, and those mistakes won’t matter in the long run. That loneliness is a common thing, and leaning on other people is not a weakness. Confidence as a mother is something that will eventually come, and it will take its own sweet time. In the meantime, her love is enough. One day, she’ll be slinging a muslin over her shoulder and tying her hair up and kicking ass at being a Mum and those insecurities and fears will feel like a lifetime ago.
One day, she will remember those precious, quiet, life-changing early days with clarity and fondness.
I can’t go back in time and tell her that. I can tell you, maybe, if one day you become a Mother too, in a distant future I can’t imagine yet.
In the meantime, let’s do this new thing, my not-so-much-of-a-baby girl.