I wrote this a while ago, but it’s perfect for my entry to The Aptaclub Blogger competition, so rather than reinventing the wheel…
I’m lying on the bed in the dimly lit, stiflingly hot, hospital room. I am sore. Stitches pulling and knees and hips aching from hours spent swaying backwards and forwards. If I stand, my organs dangle in my insides like bats on a cave ceiling and my feet are so swollen it’s like being on one of those moving fairground floors that’s designed to trip you over. I think I am in shock.
I’m on my own for the first time in many many hours, without midwives, doctors or relatives. Facing me is a seven pound stranger, slate grey eyes staring intently at my face. I’m not sure what I’m supposed to feel. I think I’m supposed to feel love, but I’m too bruised for that. Numb would be a good word. Scared another. I have no idea what I’m supposed to do next. Go to sleep? The thought of closing my eyes while she is still watching me is unsettling. Shouldn’t she sleep? Isn’t that what babies are supposed to do? She stares. I stare back, and tentatively place a hand on her tummy.
In the semi-tropical room, after the marathon day, sleep eventually overcomes me and I drift off. Seconds later, I am awake again as she makes a noise. It’s not proper crying, more the sound I imagine a baby dinosaur makes. I shift uncomfortably to try and feed her. I’ve no idea if we’re doing it right and it feels bizarre, like a string deep inside my breast is being tugged by someone standing behind me.
Everything about this is faintly terrifying. I can’t believe that I actually have the care of this tiny, defenceless being; I’m so overwhelmed I have to remind myself to breathe. I feel utterly unequipped for the task ahead. I might has well have been pushed off the top of a mountain and told to fly.
Eventually everything will be OK. She will grow and thrive. I will feel like I’m actually not doing too badly as a mother. I will have more children and life will become chaotic and messy; but I will love them all, with a love as strong as the terror I felt that day.
I wish I’d known that then.