(Hush, for a moment, and see this – the world as it is right now. Howard on his tablet, Ava on his chest, asleep, my blue and white pyjamas, the neighbours somewhere in their home making small noises, the glare of the laptop in my eyes, a bruise on my left fore-arm, the clock ticking in the dining room, my stomach full from dinner that Howard has cooked – steak, potatoes, asparagus, chocolate pudding – cushions and toys still on the floor, Ava’s breaths heavy and regular, her hair in strange matted swirls on the side of her sleeping head. My world, for a moment)
Every year, before my birthday, I like to try and create a moment – a memory moment, a moment of being, that I can remember easily. I saturate myself in it, I breathe in as much as my lungs will allow and I anchor myself to it. It beads up like a pearl. It’s safe. I have saved it. It hangs on my string of moments, to be revisited whenever I want.
In less than 3 hours (or 12, to be exact) I will be 28, and as is customary on my birthday-eve, I’d like to take a moment to look back on the last year and take note of some of the things that have happened – things I am grateful for and things that are worth remembering. In no particular order.
Ava Anais Mosley-Chalk was born. At 7.40 in the evening, on October 8th. 12 days overdue, she came out pink and plump and ready for the world, without a cry, purple until she took her first breath, 9lbs and 4ozs of beautiful baby girl.
I learned what it means to be heavily pregnant and tired, bone-tired, carrying around a large baby with a bump that looks as if it deserves its own house, getting stared at by strangers or waiters, and being told, constantly, ‘oh, there’s no way your baby is only …months, you look like you’ll be having her sooner than that’.
Finding ways to sleep with a body that is so strangely out of proportion you’re not sure how to do quite anything at all…sitting, standing, walking. But sleeping, when you are so tired, when you know that you will look back upon this time with envy once you have the baby, sleeping restlessly and uncomfortably under the sweltering summer heat, mostly on your left side (because baby likes this best, thank you).
Learning when you’re baby will kick inside you, stretch, unfurl her arms. Learning to answer back the best way you can, by tracing your fingers over your skin and tapping gently whenever she knocks.
Lying in a bath, in labour, and watching my skin wrinkle beyond wrinkle, wondering how many centimetres I am now, wondering how I will get through this without drugs, wondering if all that hypnobirthing is working, wondering if the baby is okay, wondering if I’m going to be sick again, wondering when I can finally go to hospital, wondering how I’m going to get through this but telling myself that I will, I will find a way, wondering if it’d really be so bad to plug myself with epidurals, injections of anything they have on offer, wondering how I’m dozing off between contractions, loving and hating Howard for sitting on the bathroom floor drinking red bull and reading, slipping deeper inside myself every second.
Telling the midwife, who thankfully knew better than to listen at that point, that she wasn’t allowed my birth plan because it was all about how natural and drug-free I wanted the birth to be, when actually I had changed my mind and can she just give me anything and everything she has, thank you.
Every day, when pregnant, doing my hypnobirthing exercises – visualisatios, breathing exercises, and meditations. Listening to Steven Halpern’s compositions and wondering if Ava likes it.
The first six weeks. Caught inside red. Feeling isolated, overjoyed, crazy (deeply, stir-crazy) worried, tired (which should be t i r e d), dream-free, elated, warm, milk-full, breast-heavy, always holding Ava, the snow holding for days and then weeks, Howard’s long walks to work and back, hurting a little every time I pee, still huge, still inflated (but hollowed out too), getting to know Ava, getting to really love Ava, learning how to sleep next to a baby, learning how to feed a baby whilst sleeping, reading, everything, everywhere, reading about co-sleeping, breastfeeding, home-schooling/unschooling, reading child psychologists, reading The Continuum Concept.
Feeding this baby all the time. I mean, all the time.
Going out on Christmas Eve to buy presents for Ava, whilst Howard looked after her with a bad cold. Rushing back because she woke up hungry.
Wondering if there’d ever be a time again when I could eat dinner that was hot and at the table.
New things, all the time.
Taking Ava home from the hospital. Howard asking, ‘What now?’ Cards and flowers everywhere.
Writing again, sometimes. Loving this.
Being asked to be a bridesmaid for my dear friend and thinking, ‘I’ll be a Mama by then!’
Hearing that an old friend was moving back to York. Missing her. Hating that I missed her. Thinking about all the things that had slipped.
Crying all the time.
Meeting my mummy friends with their beautiful babies and cherishing every time I see them and feel a little more sane.
Watching An Idiot Abroad over Christmas and New Year.
My best friend surprising me with a visit, when I was still in that blur of newness, holding a not-so-little three week old baby. Wearing an old, worn out caridgan and pyjama bottoms with unwashed hair and (of course) no make-up. Not really caring, so grateful to see her. Ava’s Godmother.
Watching Buffy and reading the Twilight books before Ava was born. Some sort of teen revisitation.
Watching terrible shows – the ones they put on throughout the night because they’re so bad – whilst Ava fed, and fed and fed. Being thankful for the company.
The beautiful, unexpected gifts people sent to us and to Ava when she was born – things I will treasure always.
Gosh, I could go on, and on, but it is the beginning of my birthday weekend and I’d like to watch some Dexter and drink something warm and relax. I have so much to be grateful for, so many deep-oil coloured memories to hold onto, and even the painful ones, even the terrifying ones, they have their place too, they have their beauty, seeing them now, on the other side.