The first time I held your hand was the day after you were born – the first full day of your life. I think. If I’m honest, I was drugged up to the eyeballs, attached to a catheter and half-crazed with exhaustion on your first day, and I struggle to remember all of the details. I do remember a nurse sticking a massive needle right into my thigh muscle without warning, and rolling her eyes when I cried out in pain –that, I remember.
But back to you. Truthfully, I was a little bit scared of you. You weighed less than eight pounds, smelled like strawberries, and had the tiniest pout I’d ever seen, but at the same time you were the human equivalent of a nuclear bomb that had just gone off in the centre of my life (and other places, but let’s not think about that right now.)
So, Day Two. Your Dad had gone home, laden with bags of washing, to get the house ready for us. You were in your little plastic box, blinking and stretching. I contemplated you from my bed. What was I supposed to do with you? You didn’t seem to want anything in particular. But in that moment I recognised the need to take control of what was beginning to seem like an overwhelming new life, so I lifted you up, sat back and rested you on my chest.
I said your name, over and over, until it really felt like yours. It’s a strange thing, naming a human, and I needed to embed it, both in your heart and mine. And so we just lay there together, quietly sowing the little seeds of your life, and of my life as a mother. I rested my finger in the curled up palm of your hand, pink and delicate as seashells, and you grabbed it.
Looking right into your eyes, I actually gasped – I remember it still – and I felt the connection that I had been evading since the moment you arrived. We held hands, that first time, and it meant everything to me.
We’ve held hands a million times now. Taking your first steps. Walking on the beach. Holding you up as you skate around the garden, always landing on your bum with a shout. Walking the hospital corridor with you after you’d been to visit your new baby brother. Every day. Going to the shops. It’s nothing special, but it’s forever special.
And so tomorrow, I’ll take your hand again, and walk you to school. School! When you were a baby I’d stand outside those gates, watching the mothers of giant children in bedraggled uniform, and look forward to your turn.
Now it’s here, I’m so full of pride that my throat feels like it might burst. I’m so full of sadness that you’re not that tiny baby any more, looking to me for everything you could ever need. I’m so full of excitement for everything you’re about to learn. I’ll hold your hand if you’ll hold mine, and that’s how it’s always been.