A decade with my daughter

6 Mar

My girlHow do I write about love? The start of my greatest love coincided precisely with the first time I knew exactly what fear is. And it didn’t start with anything I could previously classify as ‘love’. So to write about this love, I think I have to go back and look at its beginning.

We weren’t well, my girl and I, when she first arrived. I strode in to deliver her confident that I would be viewing dawn the next day as a mother; and crept out ten days later ultimately triumphant but nonetheless for a while diminished somehow, shrunken by circumstances and an experience that left a mark so deep-rooted it took nearly five years to vocalise and a further five – give or take – to be able to write it down. I walked into hospital away from one side of my life and walked out through the same door into the other, where I have been ever since.

Love didn’t start in the way I expected either. When she first arrived, it wasn’t love, it was instinct. She was mine to protect and I would have ripped out the eyes of anyone who tried to come between us (I still would), but I didn’t look at her and feel my heart swell. More, I looked at her and my heart and whole being contracted in, clenched and shrinking around the hard solid immovable nut of my responsibility for her and the drive that she was mine to protect. I remember in hospital fading fast with sheer exhaustion maybe a week after she was born and thinking they have to take her from me for the night because I have to sleep, nothing else is open to me. And they saw that in me, and they did take her, and I did sleep, and I woke four hours later in the quiet dim-light hospital dusk and she was still taken and the wrongness of it propelled me out of bed to the nurses’ station ‘Where is my daughter?’ and she was there, of course, they were enjoying her and giving me a break, but that feeling, that urgent need to have her close, it still wasn’t love, as I previously knew it.

That kind of love, that crept up on me stealthily, six or so weeks later, after days and nights of confusion and uncertainty and not being able to work it out, constant fog of fear punched through with vibrant bright sparks of joy. We were quiet and calm, in the garden outside. It was the end of April and the sun was shining, the Choicia filled the air with a scent of heady positivity and all the leaves were green. It was a good time, and a right time, to be a growing baby and the time I started to feel my own rejuvenation. We looked at each other, my girl and I, as she kicked her legs on the grass, and I knew then that regardless of all the rest, it really would be alright. And I think first of all that emotion wasn’t love, it was relief; but right then, they felt very similar. I could see the path, the forwards direction, and there we were, finally on it.

My girl, my life, my best decade; the benchmark – along with her brother – against which all the decisions I make are measured; my ultimate impact statement, my central question – ‘if I do this, what will happen for her?’. Before she was born, life was a wonderful adventure, because I didn’t have life with her to measure it against. Before her wasn’t lacking, but with her a piece I had no idea was missing suddenly fell into place. This is my love letter, it’s warts and all. When all’s said and done, she’s not joined to me anymore, my little miracle, that ended a whole decade ago. It is the fact of her independent being, in body, thought, word and deed; that is the most miraculous thing of all. Happy 10th birthday, my daughter.


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