Nineteen years ago today I was in hospital. Diagnosed with pre-eclampsia at 35 weeks pregnant, I had spent a lot of time there over the previous 2 and a half weeks. And now my body is failing, my kidneys and liver are in distress and they have to induce me. Immediately. They may even need to do a section, depending on how the induction goes, depending on how I go. My blood pressure is high and climbing. I am in a room with the birthing pool I imagined using, but instead I am strapped to the bed by all kinds of monitors. It doesn’t matter. As long as my baby is fine.
It hurts more than I thought it would, but they say induction does. They have broken my waters sending me hurtling fast into contractions that you would usually build up to slowly, giving you time to acclimatise and endorphinise and all that.
It turns out my way of coping is to internalise. Some people scream. Some people swear. I just wanted to block out the world and focus on what I needed to do. The burble of my partner and the midwife discussing aboriginal music is annoying me, but I can’t seem to get to the surface enough to tell them to shut up. Didgeridoos my arse I think. I am in pain here, who cares!
But luckily my body seems to work efficiently, and after only 4 hours my baby is born. A girl. Betsy. Betsy May.
I get to spend a little time with her – she is small and purplish, arms flailing. She is beautiful and perfect and fit as a fiddle. Unlike her mother. My organs are still failing. They take her away and admit me to intensive care where I spend a surreal night wondering if I am really a Mum, and where she is and if she is ok. I am supposed to rest, but attached to a blood pressure monitor that goes off every 20 minutes, squeezing my arm so tight it feels like it will surely pop, it is hard to sleep.
By morning I am recovered enough to go up to the post natal ward. They deposit me, but don’t tell me where my baby is. I wait for someone to bring her to me, but they don’t. Eventually I manage to flag someone down and ask where she is, and they take me to her. And I claim her as mine and take her back to be by my bedside.
It is 5 days before I am well enough to go home. Then the real work begins. She is a colicky baby, a joy by day, a screaming banshee for hours every evening. We try all the unctions and potions that are supposed to help – but the only thing that stops her crying is Fairytale of New York by the Pogues. It is September by now, yet we spend evenings in a loop of premature festivity and we sing ‘The bells are ringing out for Betsy May.’
She grows out of tummy pain, and gets bigger by the day. Walking. Talking. School. College. Beautiful, stubborn, the centre of the world (albeit a position she has had to share these past 12 years!). And now, as of today, she is nineteen.
And she is leaving. In less than 6 weeks she is off to Manchester to university. I am so proud of my clever, daft, happy, sad, beautiful, goofball of a girl.
I can’t think too closely about her leaving yet. I prod at the thought from time to time, like poking the tender spot of a bruise, when it hurts too much I stop. I circle it from different angles. It’s brilliant, of course it is brilliant. It’s a tragedy, I cannot picture daily life without her. It’s not a tragedy, I am over dramatic. It is as things should be, you have your children, and if you do it well they have the wings to fly.
And fly she will, although perhaps tentatively at first. And I will be there to catch her, until her wings are sure. Then I will stand on the ground and watch her take to the skies, squinting until she is quite out of sight. Safe in the knowledge that she will always return to me sometimes. I will miss her, but I shall be a safe
harbour airport , somewhere she can land when she needs to, and take off from when she is ready again.
Happy Birthday Baby Girl. It’s going to be quite the year – you are going to rock it. Just watch out for the angle grinders and learn to cook something other than pasta and you will be just fine!
Love you xxxxx