I was in town today, browsing some shops, and I found the most beautiful thing. I didn’t buy it because I felt that despite it’s beauty, it could damage me in the long-run, but I was captivated by it for a fair amount of time, and it hasn’t been far from my thoughts today. It was a shelf of ornaments of people in various scenarios, made by the same brand I imagine. Each ‘person’ was faceless and wearing a long white dress. There were some of couples – heterosexual and homosexual which was good to see (bit by bit the world is waking up!) and there was one of a woman holding a baby, but this wasn’t the one that left me frozen. The one that left me frozen was a woman sitting down, with a small toddler in her lap, and a young child standing next to her. Her arms were slim but you could see the maternal power and strength by her hold around the children – somehow the deeply caring, loving, safe and powerful hold of a mother had been captured in this little statue. The child and baby were ‘looking’ up, but the woman was ‘looking’ down. At least that’s the way the direction of their heads indicated. There was something about the statue which made my blood run cold, caused me to choke up, and yet feel an incredible surge of love and comfort. It frightened me, upset me, yet made me smile and love and I adored it.
I picked it up, held it close to my chest and inhaled deeply. Everything in me had frozen. The memory of a baby in my arms came back, and I focused on every detail of my daughter…the memory I have of her just moments after giving birth, and in the precious period before I would lose her again. I remember the soft warmth in my arms as she nuzzled close, over the shock now of being in a ‘new world’ and just wanting to be as close as possible. I remember being half-aware that I ached and throbbed like hell, but that this was no longer important. I remember steadying myself with one arm, gently letting myself collapse back onto the lonely bed in the caravan, and holding her so tightly in my other. I remember struggling with regaining my breath after giving birth, and half-choking on silent tears of complete love – the sadness of what was coming not yet hitting me. I remember also laughing, a soft laugh, a kind of laugh I can never describe but which I’ve come to know you’ll see in every mother soon after she’s given birth. It is a unique kind of laughter, and so precious as it only seems to be present in those initial few moments. Those moments where I’m crying and laughing and shaking all over and yet mesmerized by the tiny bundle in my arms. I’ve seen it in so many women; this exceptionally beautiful and incredibly raw moment, where mother and baby lock eye contact…nothing else in the world matters, the woman looks more natural than she probably ever has and perhaps ever will, and all she can do is cry silently, laugh that gentle new mother laugh, and whisper to her new baby. As much as so much of my life has been brutal, and even having babies meant greater loss, and seeing women in the rings have babies was bittersweet because of their upcoming loss, I nevertheless am and always will be grateful and privileged to have witnessed such beautiful moments, and to have been the mother in some of these moments myself.
It’s the new mother’s smile….her smile as she stares down at her baby. A smile which takes all darkness away. A smile which, like the laughter, I can never describe. But it stops time. It stops time for the mother and baby, and for anyone close by. It’s startling, powerful, and just beautiful.
And I remember that moment, for me, with her in my arms. I remember knowing there was a smile on my face that was so full of love, and the tears just kept coming, and I laughed the new-mother laughed and murmured at her in a voice I didn’t recognise. I held her close and she lifted her tiny hands, still mostly all clenched together and wrinkly, and touched my chin. I remember staring into her eyes and feeling that all-consuming, powerful, exhausting and yet equally beautiful emotion that comes from holding your baby for the first time. Still the reality of what was coming hadn’t hit me. For now, time had stood still, and I was holding my baby, and she was making quiet newborn sounds, nuzzling closer, and staring intently up at me. There’s something incredibly moving and frightening and astounding about holding a little baby who stares at you with such a face of ‘please look after me. please love me. I need you.’
Of course I was going to lose her. But for those few minutes with her, life was perfect. I adored her. I still do; I adore her memory, and imagine her playing up by the stars….
There are too many memories for me as a mother who’s grieving. Too many beautiful moments that are so cutting-edge raw, that I try to cling to in my dreams. The grief is as consuming as the love I had when I held her. The grief is simply my love for her, and all of the others, but needing to be felt in a different way. That is why it’s so powerful. That is why it’s never-ending. I would never be asked to stop loving my child. I wish people would stop asking me to move on and let go of the grief. Until you’ve had a child you will never understand.
So I held the statue by my chest today and relived this memory of holding her, of feeling her in my arms, of the heart-stopping moment where time stood still for us as we stared at each other for the first time, as her tiny fingers curled around just one of mine and held on tight. The newborn baby smell which I smell every night as I start falling asleep.
There is nothing more beautiful and precious, and yet the memories couldn’t be more painful for me. This is why I didn’t buy the statue. I don’t need a statue to remind me of the children I’m still holding, for every moment of the day, in my heart. I still hold them. I dream of when I first held them. I will always hold them.