I really like looking at photos and exploring the sometimes hidden story they tell. I’m full of curiosity about other people’s pictures and love how someone’s face can light up as they re-experience the sights and sounds of a single moment or point out some small detail barely noticeable in the background. ”Goodness look at my hair, what was I thinking”. ”He kissed me for the first time under that tree”. When I look at baby photos of my beloved boys it taps all my senses including reminders of milk coma smiles and that beautiful indescribable scent of a newborn baby’s head!
The photo above of a peacefully sleeping 5 day old baby Luca brings up all sorts of memories for me about the first week of his life, not least because I wasn’t actually there when it was taken. It’s titled ”Luca with Katherine while I was in hospital” on my laptop and was sent to me by a very special friend.
I didn’t realise the enormity of it all at the time. I’d had a terrible night with my post-natal body cycling through fevers and chills and was almost relieved when my midwife said she needed to send me back to hospital to be checked out for a probable infection. I felt wretched but found it a surprisingly easy decision to make. The phrase ”put your own oxygen mask on first’‘ sprang to mind and I understood for the first time what that really meant. The best way to Mother my boys was to let someone else do it temporarily so I could focus on getting the medical attention I needed. It was a decision made easier to bear knowing I had someone I totally trusted with the care of my newborn baby. Luca would not go hungry as I was cup feeding him expressed milk due to his tongue tie. Most importantly he would be held and loved and sung to by K while G took care of his brother. Every Mum needs such a friend for the days when two hands and one heart just don’t seem enough!
So this is post is dedicated to all those beautiful people who step in just when we need them most. The friends who are always pleased to hear from you even when it’s been a while and who never make you feel bad for asking for help so soon after your first ‘‘hello, how are you?”. Katherine wrote a beautiful article about life on the other side of such friendships and as it was published a year ago today on BritMums.com it seemed a fitting time to share it here. Katherine wrote:
“To you, with the children, who let me in.
Do you believe in seasons of life? I do.
So many articles these days are written by (and for) people in specific seasons of their lives. Some from Mums to other Mums, lamenting the sleepless nights and vomit in their hair. Others from single women to single women lamenting the loss of friends or irritation of endless baby photos on social media. Some also from women trying, but not able, to become a Mummy. Heartbreakingly honest letters of the raw grief and the painful jealousy that envelopes them when they see another scan photo of social media.
This, however, is a letter from me. Katherine. 32, single, no children. It’s not how I’d hoped I’d spend my 32nd year and certainly not what I’d planned, but I’m learning that it is what it is, my season of waiting.
My season of waiting
When your friends begin to have children it’s an exciting, amazing time. You wonder how you became old enough for this to be a reality, secretly glad that you aren’t the one staying up all night feeding yet still desperate for the first cuddle. When the next friend, the friend after that and the friend after her have a baby you begin to realise that this is your reality now. Your friends are settling down and starting their own families. This is a strange, limbo era for me. One which I trust will, as all seasons do, come to an end. But trusting in that hope, which for me comes from my faith, does not mean that it hurts less.
To the many I’ve drifted away from, it’s ok. I know that you exist in a strange new world now. One that terrifies and delights you in equal measure. Once someone carelessly uttered the phrase, ” you wouldn’t understand, you’re not a Mum.”
Do you know what? You’re right, I have no idea, but I pray every day that one day I will. They didn’t mean it with any malice intended but boy did it hurt. I’m fully aware that something untouchable now separates me from those who’ve started this wonderful and exhausting new journey and for some of those relationships the foundations weren’t there to sustain the difference. Thankfully, you are different.
Who is this ‘you’ I’m referring to? You are the women who let me in. You are the many women of my life who became Mothers before me and didn’t shut me out. You are the ones who shared your scan pictures with me, knowing that I would genuinely get joy from seeing your fuzzy little shadow of a tiny but perfect human. You are the ones who allowed me to rest my hand on your tummy knowing how excited I would be by a single kick. You are the ones who allowed me to visit the hospital in those first few precious days and spend time holding your pride and joy, breathing in the unbeatable smell of milky baby. In the early days I try not to interfere, afraid to intrude on this intense and wonderful time but you invite me in. You breastfeed on a rocking chair while I lie on the floor beside you chatting aimlessly. I listen, genuinely interested, to your stories of nappies and weaning and in turn you then listen patiently to the stories of my day. You don’t need to do that, you could make an excuse or yawn a lot and I would leave, but you don’t.
We walk around parks and you manage to multitask, juggling a toddler, an ice cream, a stuffed rabbit and still holding a conversation with me. I know that your priorities have shifted but I don’t feel like a nuisance. As your children get older I delight in the school uniform pictures and the trips with you for school shoes. You don’t think twice about having me with you. You welcome me into your home wholeheartedly at the end of a long day. You are back at work, exhausted but you, your husband and your children behave as though I am meant to be there, part of the family. Birthdays, New Years Eves, holidays are no different, you share your family, your precious ones. You give me the honour of entrusting your child in my care, knowing that I will love every second of imagining, just for that evening, that I could do the immense job of motherhood.
“The problem with women having children much older…” My patient begins during a recent visit, I brace myself…..’‘Is that you can’t enjoy them as Grandparents, as much, when you’re older.”
I reflect for a moment, sad for my parents that they are still awaiting this joy and sad for myself that I’m the one responsible for withholding it. They will be wonderful Grandparents, I know they will.
Being on my own is the one part of my life that does not fulfil me. My friends, family, career, faith and home do and I’m proud of all that I’ve achieved but my ultimate goal is that of Motherhood, it’s yet to be reached and feels further and further away.
You have held me while I’ve cried for this missing part of myself and encouraged me in dating endeavours even when I’ve been less than enthusiastic. You have put up with me becoming periodically upset and lamenting the same point over and over without becoming short tempered with me. You have given up time that could have been spent with your husband or your children and spent it with me. For all of these reasons I love you, my Mummy friends.
Thank you for sharing the most precious people in your life with me.”