Monday, 9 March 2009

the big one

Snooks is one.

It is a momentous occasion but I am not really sure how to rise to it. Either I am so overwhelmed with feelings that I cannot actually feel them or I am simply exhausted.

To others, the year has flown by and they can’t believe he is already a year old. For me it feels like every day has been worth about five of my old days making this about five years on.

I have learned more in the last year than I did in the whole three it took me to get a law degree - though that is not saying much as a large part of that was spent lying on the lounge floor ‘drifting’.

I am asked if I cried on the day, but just like every other day since he was born, there has not been room for crying.

Amid the balloons and the presents and the zoo and the cake and his wild excitement about it all, I just did what I always do – watched him with a mixture of delight and terror, so focussed on his happiness that I forgot about mine. I think this is pretty much what parents do, but it is very new to me.

There was a moment, the night before, when the Engineer presented me with a chart of Snooks’ weight, a line graph of the figures I had texted to him every other Wednesday from the local medical centre after wrestling Snooks out of his clothes and onto the scales, when the whole 52 weeks mapped into a wiggly line ascending just under the World Health Organisation’s breast-fed baby line, flashed past and I felt a sudden blast of grief that it was all over.

This extraordinary year, the mind-blowing experience of bringing new life into the world (I still can’t quite fathom that. Like death, it seems to be beyond human comprehension. No matter how much it goes on, we are still shocked and in awe of it. A male friend asked me, days afterwards, what the moment of birth was like and the only words I could find were, ‘It is like going to the very edge of existence’), the cotton candy first weeks of his life when I felt like I was living someone else’s – it felt too good to be mine – followed by endless days of up and dress and wash and feed and change and wash and feed and out for a walk and coffee and anything sweet and feed and walk and more cake and coffee and home and change and feed … not including, you notice, much sleep.

Then came teeth, smiles, holidays and a haircut (Snooks’ hair has been his best and worst feature since he was born. Blessed with a crop of sandy silk at birth, he went from Mohawk to 1950s comb-over and now sports a thick, blonde spiky do which is the envy of every gay male shop assistant we meet) and then the sudden short days of autumn when we had to race home across the common in the pitch dark having forgotten about the seasons, still constantly watching – is he happy, is he warm, is he cold, is he breathing?

Then Christmas was upon us and we mums huddled together in the rainy streets discussing how many presents to buy, whether falling needles were dangerous and how long we could go indoors with the extended family before needing to regroup.

The New Year brought more change as some returned to work, leaving their babies for the first time with nannies and nurseries and sent word back that it was grim out there, fighting to keep a job that employers were itching to take away because a distracted mother, whose heart is at home, is not welcome in the recession-hit workplace.

I did shed a few tears around then, as the Engineer’s job was secured on a handshake and then withdrawn, leaving us facing financial ruin six days before Christmas. An avalanche of responsibility hit hard just as I had my dream of a warm, safe, family Christmas within my grasp.

So as the year comes around, the crocuses and daffodils and the soft spring sunshine remind me of the view from the hospital window and the day that Snooks arrived.

How do I feel? I want every moment to last five years.

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