A letter to my first born

Dear Barney,

I had you on a Friday. At 5.13am. They placed you onto me, balls first, purple and not screaming and then they rushed you off. I don’t know how long you were gone for. I strained my head to see where you were but could only see a glimpse of the room. The lights were bright above the operating table but all I could see was darkness until I heard the crackle followed by a cry and I knew you were ok. 

You were a boy. I’d wanted a girl. In that nonsensical way that women want daughters and fathers want sons. I’m glad I didn’t get a girl. She wouldn’t have had your soul or determination or your cheeky side smile. She wouldn’t have been you. 

I still check on you every night, just to feel you breathing. When we first brought you home, I would sleep with my hand next to you in your moses basket. It wasn’t comfortable but I couldn’t let go of the idea that you might not really be there. 

It sounds romantic doesn’t it? Me, a new mum, resting her hand beside her new baby boy. But I didn’t love you as I should. It hurts to say that. I loved you primally, painfully even, but I didn’t love what had happened to me and I found it hard to separate you from that. I’m sorry. 

You were very planned. Happened sooner than expected truth be told but we wanted you before you were here. I did the birthing classes and I bought the books and I told myself what would be, would be. And then you were ‘late’; a stupid notion because how could anyone decide when you were meant to meet us. I grew restless and impatient and when induction was offered I didn’t think about what that might ultimately mean. 

I tried. I tried so hard. But the force and the relentlessness of those artificial contractions was too much to bear. I hadn’t wanted an epidural, I wanted to be active and to bring you into the world feeling euphoric and accomplished. I didn’t realise that my greatest accomplishment was already you. Neither of them worked anyway and so it was under bright lights and with metal tongs that you came into this world. I only remember exhaustion and relief where there should have been elation. I’m sorry. 

When we eventually got you home I would look at those tiny forcep marks on your forehead and feel guilt that they were my fault. I sat in the bath and cried and whilst now I know that that was normal, a part of the process, at the time I couldn’t stop myself thinking it was because of what I had done to you and to my life. I didn’t know it was normal to wonder what we had done and why we had done it. I only knew I hadn’t fallen in love with you and what an awful person that must make me. I’m sorry. 

You know all the words to your favourite songs now. You like to brush your hair a certain way and you always sneak downstairs for one last cuddle when you should be in bed. You talk a lot. A lot! And your mind is always onto the next thing, always wondering and questioning and never settling for less. You always want to wear your football kit and, more often than I’d like, you ignore what you’ve been asked to do. You have freckles all across your nose and cheeks and your eyes glisten with laughter at naughty jokes and too many sweets. You like sport and more sport, and watching loads of rubbish on YouTube.  

And I know now that I love every last bit of you, even the bits that are more like me than I care to admit. After I had had you, I breast fed you in a haze and then fell asleep, exhausted from all those hours of feeling like I failed you. Those precious few hours as you woke up to the world were spent with Daddy. I can never ever get those hours back. My biggest regrets aren’t the times I have lost my temper or shouted too loud, because I see now that those things are normal. My biggest regrets are those first few hours of your life when I should have been all yours. Perhaps if I had had those hours you would have become mine much sooner. Perhaps if I had had those hours I wouldn’t have felt guilt and shame for not being the mum I thought I should be, the mum that was deserving of you.

In the end I got you here safely. You are healthy and happy and those hours I spent trying to bring you out in the most perfect way mean nothing to you. They mean nothing to me now. I didn’t fail you because I couldn’t have the perfect birth, I didn’t fail you because my body couldn’t do it any longer and I didn’t fail you because I fell asleep while you nestled into your Daddy. I failed you because I couldn’t see those things clearly at the time. I will never forget that Friday morning, the way I felt and the fear and I will never forget the emptiness in the weeks and months that followed after. But mostly I will never forget the roundness of your cheeks and the bow of your lips and the weight of you in my hands. I didn’t love you the way that I should right from the start. But I loved you enough to keep holding on and to keep hoping. Now I love you in every shape and in every colour and in all the ways it’s possible to love someone. Now I love you for you and for all the stars inside you. It doesn’t matter how you got here. It just matters that you did. 

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