Being a mother leaves you with an open wound forever. I read that somewhere once (before I became a mother). And I remember thinking ‘how melodramatic’. I didn’t give it another thought. Then I had Mia.
The memory of that traumatic first week of her life is still so painfully vivid. Mia was twelve hours old when we brought her home;
I tear myself away from her to get in the bath. Then Mark comes running up the stairs holding Mia. She is choking. I leap out of the bath. And we rush to the hospital. I’m holding her and praying all the way there. She is turning blue. I ask for proof that there is a God. Save Mia and I’ll believe in you I say.
Then she throws up a thick gooey substance. And starts to breathe normally again. I realise that I am writing this without emotion. But only because I was numb at the time. It’s my natural default to shut down when I can’t handle the level of emotion threatening to flood through me.
They think she still has birthing fluid in her lungs but they are not sure. And “an infection in a baby this young could be fatal”.
Mia is placed in a cot with an alarm that will go off if she stops breathing. The consultant arrives and tells us (very matter- of-factly) that “there are two ways of telling if there is something wrong with a baby this young; when they stop feeding or when they stop breathing”.
I am still numb. They take Mia away for blood tests. I send Mark with her. I don’t want to see them hurting my baby. I hear her crying almost immediately. And I finally break down.
The emotional floodgates are ripped wide open. I am sobbing and shaking uncontrollably. My baby is hurting. And I can’t make it stop. The pain I feel is unbearable. Totally unlike any kind of pain I have ever known. I feel like my heart is being ripped out of my chest. And my insides are being twisted so tightly that I can hardly breathe. I love her so much.
And that love makes me feel so vulnerable. There was nothing that could have happened to me before that would have broken me. I had made myself so tough. But I cannot survive losing her.
I look around for a window. We’re on the tenth floor. If Mia dies, I’m going to throw myself out of it. I can’t live without my baby. I ask forgiveness for all the wrongs that I have done. Do anything to me but not this. Not my baby. Don’t make her suffer for my sins. Please.
I don’t sleep so I can constantly check that Mia is breathing. I don’t trust the alarm. What if it doesn’t work?
Then something unimaginably horrible happens. I hear this horrific wailing. It sounds like a wounded animal. A child has just died. And it is his mother that I can hear. I have never heard such raw pain in my entire life. My heart breaks. Children are not supposed to die.
I have a real fear of flying. So whenever I get on an airplane, the first thing I do is look around to confirm that there are children on the flight. Then I feel safe because I assume that nothing bad can happen with so many innocents on board. I can never make that assumption again.
One week later and we are back at home. All of the tests prove negative. It was the birthing fluid. Apparently they shouldn’t have discharged us for three days after the birth to monitor Mia.
I refuse to put Mia in her cot. And she sleeps on my chest so I can monitor her breathing. Everyone makes mistakes. Even doctors. I don’t trust them.
I learn how to resuscitate a baby. And obsessively practise on a doll; over and over again. Mark says he can’t wait until I can relax again. I don’t think I ever will. How can I when I have responsibility for another’s life?
I have gradually relaxed (a little) since then. But I still feel that sense of responsibility very keenly. And it’s been making me toss and turn all night. My mind is overflowing with irrational fears; what if Jade does something to hurt Mia? What if she pushes her down the stairs? Or abuses her emotionally? It’s frustrating because (in this instance) I can’t protect her until after she has been hurt in some way.
The alarm goes off. I haven’t slept at all.
I look outside, the snow has settled. Everything looks beautifully pure and sweet; as though it has been covered in icing sugar.
Mia’s school is closed. It is also closed the next day. And the day after that. Then it's the weekend.
We have been cooped up in the house for days. I can’t move without bumping into her. And my patience is starting to wear thin. I tell her to stop following me around. She scowls at me. Then walks off.
I check the school website on Monday morning. It’s open. I wake Mia up. And get her ready in record time. I think we both need a little time apart. But I can’t find my glasses or my keys. Mia wanders off. Then re-appears and holds them both out to me.
As I reach out to take them, she puts her hand on her hip and says "See mummy, this is exactly why you shouldn’t tell me off for following you around, because if I didn’t, I’d never know where you put things would I?”
She has a totally triumphant look on her face. And I can’t fault her logic. The fact is, she got me. I am always losing things. And she is always finding them. So I tell her that she is right, apologise, and promise that I will never tell her off for that again.
Naturally she starts following me around the moment she gets home from school. It’s driving me mad but I can’t break a promise. So I coax her outside instead.
We go to the park. And build yet another snowman. Then we play our favourite game. We choose something around us, a bench, a statue, anything, then make up a story about it.
She is a complete natural. And I love listening to her. All her stories have a happy ending. Her view of the world hasn’t been tainted yet. I want her to hold on to that innocence for as long as possible; the blind faith that good will always prevail over bad.
She tells me a story about the tree. A little boy sits under it every day and talks to it. He tells the tree about the horrible boys at school that bully him. The little boy doesn’t know it but the tree can hear him because it’s alive. Then one day he is sitting under the tree when the bad boys come along and start being horrible to him. He gets scared and runs to the bark of the tree and clings to it.
The bad boys run after him. But before they can get to him, the branches of the tree come down and grab them. The tree wraps its branches around the bad boys and picks them up high into the air. It throws them around until they are crying and begging the little boy to make it stop. He says "Only if you promise never to be bad again". They promise and the tree puts them down. The bad boys run off and never bully him again. And he lives happily ever after.
I tell her I love it. Then I ask her if she is being bullied at school. She sighs “No mummy, I was just using my imagination. I’d tell you if I was being bullied wouldn’t I? I tell you everything”.
I say “I just worry about you, that’s all”. Then she mutters (under her breath) “I know. You’ve been worrying about me since the day I was born”.
I feel terrible that she has such a keen awareness of my neurosis; she is barely six years old. But I can’t dwell on it for too long as she shouts “Race you to the swings” and sprints off.
We swing side by side, giggling together as we go higher and higher. I am purely happy. I turn to look at her beautiful little face as she says “Don’t worry so much mummy, ok?” I nod; overwhelmed by emotion.
But I know that I will never stop worrying because being a mother leaves you with an open wound forever.