11 February 2009

Hartley: One Month

I can’t believe that it’s been a whole month since the three of us began this terrifying, wonderful journey.

If you’d told me back in December that, within a few short days of meeting the little human whose gestation caused me months of sickness and pain, I would discover a new and intense kind of love that would have me jump out the emergency exit of a plane at 60,000 feet without a parachute if I thought that it would save him from harm, I might have been a bit dubious.

But here we are, high above the earth without the customary safety features, and I finally understand that nobody is born with a maternal instinct, or perhaps all women are, but it is not something you can teach a person or prepare for yourself because it will not kick in until it has something (someone) to kick in for. And I’m holding on for dear life, except this time it’s not my own – it’s his, and I would fashion him a parachute from my own skin if we suddenly went plummeting towards the earth and there was no other way to save him.

Quite often as he’s falling asleep, he will throw his arms out stiffly and bring them trembling back to his body with a whimper, as though he is falling from a great height. I try not to visualise a thousand perils, an infinity of ways the earth could take him from us. I try to harden my heart, because it is much too soft now, almost liquid, and while it takes the impression of every hiccup, every sigh, every discontented chuckle and near-smile, it also traps the debris of imagined catastrophe, of extradimensional grief.

Fear and joy are two sides of the same heart, though, and he has brought us so much joy. He is the inventor of ‘rooty tooty’ and the Anaconda song (sung to ‘I Want Candy’); his soiled nappies and pouty-lipped wailing the cause for celebration and laughter; his wonderment fodder for our own renewed perception of the world, which has never seemed so incandescent, so furiously moving, so mutable and transient.

Our arms have found new ways of holding, of handling and doing - our bodies the very means of transport, of shelter and sustenance. From ourselves this incredible thing has emerged, and into him we continue to pour our entire selves, because he is here and we love him and can do nothing else.

Parenthood does not get worse before it gets better – it’s worse the moment you take off, and then over time, somehow, it does, mercifully, get better.

It has been one month since I first held your warm, solid, shivering body against mine and saw your strange, beautiful face through a fog of fear and exhaustion, Hartley (my darling, my insatiable anaconda), and you’ve grown more beautiful each and every day since. I love you very much.


Anonymous said...

It might be because all I've had to eat today is a packet of flame grilled steak crisps, but reading this made me well up with happiness.

Anonymous said...

Hartley is a lucky boy - he clearly has parents who cherish him. And, at the risk of repeating myself yet again, that is one good-looking kid you've got there!

Ariel said...

Such a beautiful love letter to your beautiful son. Happy one month anniversary!

pk said...

I can't tell you how delicious and tearifyngly lovely it is to read that after everything I have been unable not to read about lately.
He is going to be a happy happy boy...