Posted on September 11, 2016
What is it like to have a child?
I was asked – what is it like to have a child? To have children? The person asking was trying to decide whether or not to have children and if they did – when? Is there a perfect time? When do you know you’re ready? Do you just know?
And I said – I have no idea, because really I don’t. I don’t think you can prepare – not really. You can buy the cot and buy some nappies and read the books but everything falls away when you hold your baby for the first time. And then again and again and again it changes.
The car seat capsule is no longer just a car seat capsule that you bought because the price was right or it looked safe or the bored teenager at the shop said “this is our most popular model” or it was gifted or given or shared or hired.
You put it in the boot “just in case”. Maybe joked about how weird it will be when one day you will turn around and in the back seat will be your baby. Your baby.
You’re going to be a parent I mean how? You’ve got the capsule. That’s the main thing you need right if you’re giving birth at the hospital. You’ve got to get this baby home and then you parent right? That’s how it works surely…
When we left the hospital the first time with our first baby – I crawled into the back seat on reflex. We had been together 37 weeks and I wanted to stay as close to him as I could. I sat right next to him. Still sore. Head spinning from lack of sleep. Nursing an aching heart.
He looked so tiny in the capsule. He wrapped his tiny fingers around mine. I touched his tiny ears. Marvelled at his perfect little nose. Gently stroked his cheek.
His beautiful big eyes gazed up at me and I thought – this is all I want forever.
And that is what it’s like to have children. Every day very normal things are filled with wonder because your child is here and you get to parent them. You were lucky enough to have this child and they’re exquisite because they’re yours and you love them so much it feels like you’re carrying your heart around everywhere.
The second time around the capsule was again magical as I climbed a little more confidently into the back seat and sat again, his little fingers around mine. I marvelled at his tiny ears so like his brother, his perfect nose. I gently stroked his cheek.
And he gazed up at me, just hours after his birth, and I told him about his brother. Tears streaming down my face. Still overwhelmed by the beauty and enormity of the moment.
My love tumbled out in an incoherent mess of words – You will love your brother. He already loves you. We love you. We are so glad you’re here. Welcome. Look at you! You’re the best, most beautiful baby, we belong to each other. We will look after you, keep you safe, love you so much. I promise, we promise. It’s going to be so good my little one.
And I thought again, please, let me just have this forever.
And it’s often said we don’t get moments forever. Of course, they grow like weeds and get so tall out of nowhere and they get a haircut (and you’re like – you are not a baby when did this happen). Of course. And no futures are promised to us, how fragile we all are. Some moments aren’t forever.
But that’s not the end of the story.
We are told we will never have that moment again and I don’t know that that’s very fair in many ways. The specific moments are, of course, different – frozen in time – but that same hum of breathtaking, heartbreaking love revisits you over and over and over. The feeling, it stays.
When my boys are playing – shrieking and whooping with delight, chasing joy – suddenly the sun hits golden hair just so and I catch a smile, and in a rush that hits me so hard tears prick my eyes I see their little ears, perfect noses, flushed cheeks and those beautiful blue eyes.
And I think, no – you can’t prepare for this specific type of magic.
The warmth, the comfort of truly being so content in a moment because my gosh we get this, my gosh we are so lucky we get this. Maybe not forever but for now. And around the corner is four-years-old (how?) and nights slept all the way through (I hope, I hope) and new battles and challenges and moments of gold and moments of grey and heartache and broken bones and first days of school and sleepovers and everything all wrapped up into lives lived.
But for now, let me have this moment forever. I have this moment forever.
This is what, I think, it is like to have a child.