A year ago today I ate toast with butter and jam for breakfast, and drank my first cup of caffeinated coffee in almost ten months. The toast was cold and a bit soggy, and the coffee was only instant and also pretty tepid, but I was so hungry and grateful for them that I didn’t care.
I was lying in bed in a cramped, curtained cubicle, hooked up to a bleeping machine that I’m still not sure quite what was meant to be monitoring.
It was around 6am and I had been awake for well over 24 hours.
Blinking under the throbbing strip-lights I had just begun to realise I had a headache among all the other different parts of me that were hurting.
In a little Perspex box on wheels next to me lay a sleeping baby. My baby.
I knew I should try to get some rest but all I could do was stare.
After about an hour they unhooked me from the machine and a nurse told me I could have a shower while they kept my baby at the nurses’ station.
That hot water felt so good, but the shower didn’t feel quite the same as usual. When I closed my eyes and tipped my head back and let the water gush over me, I still wasn’t able to completely let go of reality.
Part of me was still attached. Not to the physical world, but to another life, lying in that box out in the corridor.
Since that day I have never been able to find a feeling of total detachment again.
A year ago today I created a new life in another person.
When she is tired I can’t feel rested. When she is upset I feel her pain. When she laughs I can’t help smiling. And when we are apart I feel like a part of me has been left behind.
Over these twelve months I have occasionally felt lonely, but I haven’t ever felt alone.
My thoughts are never fully mine, for a part of my mind is always with her.
I see dangers and mistakes all around her and I want to make her world a perfect place.
I see hopes and dreams dangling just out of reach and I want to lift her up so she can grasp them all.
For a while I wondered if I had lost a part of my old self, but I have come to realise I have gained a new side that has changed me forever.
A year ago today I learned how it feels to love your child – a love so powerful you would do anything to protect them, anything to make them happy, anything to put their life before your own.
A year ago today I stopped being the centre of my own universe.
A year ago today I became a mother. And I know I won’t ever be able to completely let go.
Happy Birthday M.