My inner core is made of 5am feeds and pudgy little hands

Sometimes, sometimes, in the early morning quiet of my office, I sit down and begin writing, the clicks of the keyboard dropping like pebbles into the inky stillness. I’m not really thinking about anything in particular, thoughts pass me by in subconscious flashes and glimpses – how do you spell judicious, should I stop for breakfast, my fingers look eager poised above the keyboard like that.

And in those moments, where my mind is quiet but my hands inexplicably seem to be working without any mental input, that’s where interesting things come out.

Things like…for some reason that I don’t understand, since having children I can sense more of an inner core inside myself, something that isn’t physically there, but to be honest if I looked inside myself and saw a strong core, like a tree trunk, holding me up straight, I wouldn’t be surprised. Before, when I was only myself, my core, if it was there at all, was weak and able to be swayed by new ideas and stronger personalities than mine. But now that I am simply one of three, there it is.

It has grown in me, as I have grown as a mother whilst my children grew from babies into actual people. I think it must be made of a thousand early morning feeds, of holding tiny hands, warm and soft, at 2am, of whispering words into the tops of their heads as they flip through primary-coloured books about talking penguins and dancing giraffes. I suppose it must be made of me, I guess it must have always been there, waiting for children to come along and breathe life into it, the way they breathe life into me.

Things like…I have a sense of my own self, rising to the top of me, like bubbles rocketing to the top of a glass of champagne, hovering on the surface until they burst. As if the real me was in hiding during the teenage years that still, in my mind, smell of Marlboro and Doc Martens; of being a student, forever asked to prove my cleverness (or ability to memorise) in exams; or in my twenties as I tentatively tried to work out how I would spend my thirties.

And now that my thirties are here, and my babies are not quite babies any more, and I have space again in my brain for my own thoughts, what my thoughts really want, it seems, is to be written down. Maybe to be read by other people, but then again, perhaps not. Maybe I’ll find these pages again when I’m fifty or sixty and smile wryly at them, or be pained at my lack of understanding that difficult times are yet to come. Like looking at antique maps, which my house is full of, boundaries will be different, perspectives will have shifted, and what looms so large in my life now might be small then. For starters, changing nappies, once a huge intractable landmass that I had to cross every day, will have shrunk to a tiny archipelago named ‘Future Grandchildren’,

And so my mind is filled with stuff like this; early in the morning my thoughts unfurl, without noise of colleagues, kettles or phonecalls to distract me. Sometimes looping in lazy circles like cigarette smoke above my head, as I try to find a way to set down on paper what is inside, sometimes darting above like shooting stars, barely able to keep pace with my fingers as, for once, it seems, there is, in fact, a director inside of me calling the shots.