The one with the abrupt realisation.
About six weeks into my daughter’s life it hit me like a WWE champion bodyslam. Barring the unspeakable, she was going to be with me for the rest of my life.
It may surprise you that it took me that long to have this realisation - given nine months of pregnancy and the six weeks we’d already spent together were ample time to come to terms with the idea. Perhaps some of you would like to think you’d have worked that crucial detail out prior to conceiving - somewhere between the joy of ceasing birth control and peeing on a stick. Clearly, I’m not as smart as my mum tells people I am.
I probably need to give a little context at this point to avoid the inevitable outrage and pitchfork waving. I was labouring under the misguided idea that it was going to take me months to conceive. That we’d have a fun time fooling around, tracking ovulation and banging our brains out before the little guy took. I’ve had a fraught relationship with my uterus since Aunty Flo arrived the year I turned thirteen. I get the kind of period pain that floors a girl - cramps are too cute a word for the excruciating ripping, tearing and convulsing that welcomes my old uterine lining into the world each month. It took sixteen years, monthly fainting and vomiting (a theme in this story) and having to knock myself out with migraine-strength painkillers for three days a month for a doctor to diagnose me with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, adorably shortened to PCOS. So my doubts about my ability to get the proverbial bun safely in the oven were reasonably well founded.
But to our collective surprise I fell pregnant first go. I peed on the stick and - bang - two tiny pink lines changed my life forever. To celebrate, I drank a large glass of expensive red wine - my last for nine months - and sat quietly imagining what the next few months would bring. To my dismay it would bring a terrible condition aptly named Hyperemesis Gravidarum - severe and prolonged morning sickness - but that, my friends, is a story for another day.
Fast forward nine months, and I have the world’s shortest labour - my girl, quite literally, burst into the world in three short hours of screaming and a needle in my spine. I barely had time to register she was on her way before she was on my chest, blue eyes laser focussed on my own. She was gorgeous and terrifying, in equal measure.
In terms of support, I’ve been luckier than any new mother I can imagine. My husband and I live with my parents and one of my brothers - there’s a gaggle of eager hands always waiting to scoop her up if I need to pee or shower. We formula feed her so the night shift is shared between two parents running on enough sleep to remain sane and the child could not be more of a dream to spend time with.
But pregnancy, and even labour, were, for me, intangible, out of body experiences. For fleeting moments I would forget what was happening and what was coming at me like a Japanese bullet train. But there’s nothing quite as tangible as a baby - and nothing will bring you back into your corporeal form quicker than finding yourself home alone with someone whose very life depends on you.
And so it was that at six weeks old that my daughter’s existence finally became real to me. Her permanence came into stark relief and I found myself bawling at the very realness of my situation. She would be here, with me, next to me for the rest of my life. She was a part of me and would rely on me, to varying degrees, for decades to come.
In the long term, this was the most perfect and wholesome thought I’d ever had. I consider both my parents amongst my closest friends and being able to recreate that sort of bond with this tiny human will be the greatest single joy of my life. But in the short term? Holy shit. In the short term she needs me for everything. Literally, everything. I am tasked with not only keeping her alive, but teaching her everything she needs to know to eventually keep herself alive. And then about the world - about physics, feminism, boiling an egg, how you to use lip liner - and how to safely and happily move through it.
I have no doubt there will be moments of extreme elation - she has already brought me a kind of happiness I could never have conceived of otherwise. But even the good times seem terrifying. And the bad times, I just can’t bring myself to imagine. Life is relentless in its continuity - there is no break from myself and now there will be no break from her. And it’s taken me until now to realise that. I don’t wish it away, and I definitely don’t wish her away. But there has to be a monumental recalibration - I have to put aside my crippling fear, my doubts and perceived limitations. Because I’m someone’s mum now - and fuck, what a trip.