Birth Song

When I am old and have nothing more to do but sit at a window, daydreaming my way through the scenes of my life, this song and the moment it evokes will most likely be on constant repeat.

‘Remembering when, I saw your face, shining my way’ will always remind me of the first time I looked into my daughter’s eyes. It was the biggest shock of my life.

This baby had begun as an ethereal presence which fluttered inside me, a romantic idea; the little girl I had always wanted, come unexpectedly, like a gift. However, as the months passed she became increasingly more solid and heavy. As the flutters turned to hard kicks, I thought more and more about my circumstances. I had been basically single, homeless and unemployed at the time that she had first made her presence felt inside me (having split up with her father, left my job and set off to travel around South America). By the time of her birth I had managed to find and sparsely furnish a home – a cold, damp, rented flat – but that was it. My conviction that it would all be OK had begun to falter, and now, following a 36-hour labour, I was beginning to doubt my own strength. I wasn’t sure that I wanted this after all; wasn’t sure if I could cope, actually.

I wasn’t the first to hold her; her hair and the blanket around her were perfumed with an unwelcome smell of aftershave, one which caused a lump of bitterness to rise in my throat. The blanket was taken off and a little, naked body was placed upon mine. As the walls and the ceiling of the room spun around me, I slowly managed to focus – on a tiny bottom and a pair of skinny, chicken legs. They had placed her facing away from me. I thought about moving her around, but my shaking arms weren’t obeying my commands. The midwives were talking, laughing and joking at the end of their nightshift, relieved that another birth had taken place without incident.

‘Excuse me. Excuse me…Can somebody move her around please?’ I asked. One of them heard me, ‘Sorry,’ she turned my baby around to face me.

I was looking into a pair of enormous blue eyes, and the expression in those eyes was one of utter fury. Another reality suddenly confronted me. I had had a wobble, wondered if I wanted to become a mother, wondered if I could do it. The truth jumped out at me from her eyes:

‘I did not ask to be born,’ they said ‘I am not sure that you did the right thing, either. I am not sure about you, or this world.’

‘It’s killing me, I’m dying…

To put a little bit of sunshine in your life’

As I looked into her eyes, and the room spun around me, I realised that motherhood was not going to be at all as I had imagined it. I didn’t feel an overwhelming rush of love when I looked at her, as I thought I was supposed to. I didn’t see a reflection of me, a repository for my own dreams and fantasies. Unexpectedly, I saw her – ready to fight, from the day she was born. I saw that the odds were stacked against us, and I knew that we were going to struggle. But from that moment I knew that we would fight together.

I was on her side, and always would be.

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