Another visit to the barren white room that houses nothing but a doctor’s chair, a TV screen and a cold table lined with tissue paper. I once found this room full of excitement and promise, but that feeling dwindled a little more each time I found myself back in there the following month. The TV screen flashes bright green for a moment and I see you. All eight cells of you. So small, so fleeting, so far removed from the baby I long for. Just a blob on a screen. The moment ends too quickly and before I know it the screen has gone blank and you are inside of me. ‘Please stay’ I whisper to you as I hold my hand over my tummy on the way home.
The brief glimpse we got of you before the screen went blank.
I feel you on Wednesday night. While doing something as ordinary as watching TV my life changes forever. Five days earlier they put you inside me. It seemed so inconsequential at the time. Tonight I feel you make my body your home. For such a tiny thing you manage to inflict a significant amount of discomfort on my body. I feel a digging and pinching inside my stomach. The pain radiates to my back and down the bones in my legs. I lie awake that night legs aching and twitching. Eventually I fall to sleep.
We meet on a Thursday afternoon in early October. You aren’t even a line yet, just a blotch where the line should be. I have looked at so many tests with bigger, better, stronger lines than yours. Though the clinic warned me not to test early due to the hormones they give causing false positives I ignored them. I hoped that if I saw the false positive fade as the hormones left my system I would see one of my own appear. I spent many months looking at hundreds of tests with lines on them that did not belong to me, but the pregnant women who had come before me. They had donated their urine to turn into medication to help others one day see a second line of their own. I hoarded the positive tests like an infertile Bowler Bird, comparing the lines each day to try and find some sort of answer sooner. Anything to help get me through the days of waiting that dragged on and on. It was an expensive hobby.
After looking at hundreds of lines on urine soaked hope sticks I know a positive when I see one. A blotch doesn’t count, but a force of habit leads me to taking another test that evening. On it is the faintest line. I tentatively gaze at it as my heart races. Not like all the other lines. Not strong, not certain, so fragile, but at least this one is my own. Six days since I saw you so briefly on that TV screen, and now I see you in my hands. The only tangible evidence I have that you exist, a piss soaked test strip with my very own pink line. My line, nobody else’s this time. Please stay this month I think. Please don’t leave again.
These pictures were taken the next morning after my first positive. Even with the extra time you can see how faint they are. A part of me still didn’t believe it.
As you grow inside me I find new things to remind me your existence is real and not just a day dream of a faint line I thought I saw. The flicker of your heartbeat on your first ultrasound fills me with joy, relief and awe. How the hell does something the size of a coffee bean even have a heart to beat? You’re not even here yet and already you’re impressive.
The kicks begin and I know you are truly more than a line on a test now. A real person emerging from that blob on a screen that caused that beautiful pink line. The nondescript movements turn into kicks, elbowing, squirms and hiccups. The baby clothes and stuff begins to accumulate. So much stuff for someone so small. The shit we hoarded in our junk room gets moved out in preparation for your arrival. This junk room I have been carting around throughout the last nine years suddenly evaporates into a wide empty space. All because of that pink little blotch.
The night before your arrival I lie in bed trying to drink in every last moment of your kicks and feeling your squashed little body wriggle around inside of me. Please don’t leave I think to myself. I’m not ready. Please just stay here a while longer.
This photo was taken shortly before your birth and I refer to it as ‘The Elegant Whale’. No doubt about the colour of your line by this point.
The morning of your birth they prep me for your arrival and the nurses come to tell me that it is time to go to theater. They wheel me down the corridor and every cell in my body is screaming now. Please stay. Oh christ, please do not take me to that scary place. Please stay in this nice safe room where nobody cuts me open and unentwines your body from mine, only to bring you into a a cold world that I don’t know how to protect you from. How could one simple pink line fill me with so much terror?
You have stayed long enough now, the desperate prayers I repeated in my head a thousand times over for you to stay have been answered. It is greedy to ask for much more. You are born in an instant. Not just a pink line anymore, but a screaming angry pink little human. I look at your tiny contorted face as your body is being pulled apart from mine and I am filled with fear. My beautiful child who I have spent 9 months falling in love with and years hoping for comes out looking ghastly. I fill with confusion (I know everyone says babies are scary looking when they come out, but I arrogantly thought MY BABY would be the exception to this rule. She wasn’t. Thankfully she scrubbed up nicely after she deflated and chilled out), before deciding that my first selfless act of love as a mother is to love you in spite of your unfortunate looks. I remember thinking to myself as I saw you and felt so afraid of your anger and the gore that covered you that this is where the mothering begins. Doing what you need to do even when you’re scared. I had two minutes to compose myself before they put you on my chest and I had to channel every part of love I had into you. Even though you scared me, I knew it was my job to love you so I better do that right.
This was you once they rubbed all the gore off you and you stopped with the super pissed off face. This was the best picture we could get of you. See why I was scared? You’re much better looking now, don’t worry.
We bring you home and on the first night out of hospital I sob for hours and cling to your other mother like I am a child being dropped off on their first day at school. Each time she tries to move away I hold her even tighter against me and tremble. Please don’t leave me alone with her I say, I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m so terrified and overwhelmed and tired. My body is overflowing with love and fear, pain and doubt in my abilities. I knew how to look after that little pink line you once were. It wasn’t easy and my body was so tired in the end but I gave you what you needed. I don’t know what you need now, and I keep spending money downloading apps at 2am that are meant to help with figuring tiny people out but just confuse me more.
The hormones level out and somewhere along the line the crippling fear recedes and the joy engulfs me. I spend hours looking at your tiny body in awe of your perfection. I made those long eyelashes and full lips, your exquisite hands and feet, that little rib cage that rises and falls with each breath. All of that grew from eight cells they put inside me that grew into a pink line that grew into you.
You grow and change so quickly that I often find myself echoing the sentiments I had the day they placed you inside my body. Please stay here. Just stay in this moment for a few more days or weeks. Just don’t change and let me drink in every part of this time for as long as I can. It never feels long enough, I always want more time to enjoy the moment.
Everyday you change and learn something new and the voice inside my head pipes up with ‘Not yet, I’m not ready’. Then I think to myself how little my readiness matters in the progression of your development. It never really did. If I had my way you would have remained inside me indefinitely. Motherhood so far has been one giant challenge of loosening my grip on you right from the start. A thousand little times you learn something new or change in some way and I choose to step aside and let you explore this world a little more, without such a great need for my presence. I want to hoover over you and intervene when I see you struggle. Sometimes I admit I want to squash these new talents right out of you when they appear. Just to keep you the same for a little bit longer. I resist this urge. Instead I step back while you explore, remaining just close enough to scoop you up right before you fall and smash your head on something hard (mostly).
I can’t recall the exact moment the stepping back part of motherhood started like the way I can recall the moment you made my body your home, or when I saw that first fragile pink line. It was somewhere early in the game is all I know. What I do know is that the voice inside of me that whispered ‘please stay’ so desperately in that moment when your life began has echoed in my mind ever since. I do my best to listen, to not let it get drowned out by the monotony and stress of daily life. Of course it does sometimes get buried beneath the responsibilities of adult life. Eventually I let it emerge again and give myself permission to stop what I’m doing and just take you all in like I did when you grew inside of me and when you were born.
I take in all the details I possibly can, and do my best to house them in a part of my brain that will hold onto the memories forever. You changed from a pink line made of my pee into a person so very quickly. If you can do that then you can do anything, so I better keep paying attention.
Quite impressive for someone who started out so small.