It is 7.30pm and I’ve just put you to bed. It was a bedtime like any other. We had a bath, we read a story, and had a lovely cuddle while you drank your milk. I put you down when you got drowsy, but not before breathing in your scent from the top of your fluffy head. I smiled as you buried your tired little face into Monkey and crept out of the room as you slowly drifted off. It’s a routine we’ve followed a hundred times before, but tonight it’s different, because it’s the last time I’ll do it with my baby. Tomorrow you turn one, and while you’ll always be my little boy, and our bedtime routine will continue, as the day dawns so too does a new chapter of our lives – you will become a toddler, and it’s both exciting and utterly heartbreaking. To say I’m not coping well with the thought is a bit of an understatement. It’s something I’ve been dwelling on for quite some time – even just a few weeks into maternity leave I was already picturing this day and counting how many precious months we had left – but somehow it still feels like a shock to the system that you have really been in our lives for 12 whole months already. I’ve watched you grow and flourish from a tiny baby into a sweet, funny, clever little boy and it feels like you’ve been here with me forever, yet still not long enough. The time for me to go back to work is fast approaching, signalling the end of the most magical year of my life and I just don’t feel quite ready. I know you will be just fine – you’ll be thoroughly spoiled by your lovely Grandparents who all dote on you so much, and I doubt you’ll have time to miss me at all. But I will miss you. I’ll miss you with all of my being. It’s a feeling I already know only too well, because the truth is, Bailey, I’ve been missing you since before you were even born.
I always knew I wanted to be a mum. While my visions of what life may look like changed all the time as I aged and experienced life, one thing always remained constant, and that was the sense that motherhood was something I was destined for. For the longest time I just assumed it would happen, but as time passed and relationships ended without it becoming a fact I started to consider the possibility that perhaps that wasn’t the case. It was soul crushing. It could have happened – more than once there were times when I thought maybe it was just on the horizon – but I wanted it so badly that I was determined I would do it right and knew I couldn’t afford to compromise on the life I wanted to give you. So I waited, and it was agonizing, especially when people asked me why it hadn’t happened yet, because I couldn’t honestly answer except to say the timing wasn’t right. Even in my happiest moments the lack of you hung over me like a shadow. There was simply something missing and even back then I knew it was you, though you didn’t yet have a name or a face in my mind. I had dreams about lifting faceless babies high into the air above me with glee, and woke every time feeling bereft and desperately wanting to feel that weight in my arms for real. Then finally your Daddy came into my life and I got what I always wanted. When I first found out I was expecting you I almost wouldn’t let myself believe it was real for fear you would get taken away from me, but you didn’t. Pregnancy agreed with me and we had the most special 9 months together, just you and me. If feels strange now to think that I didn’t know who you were back then, because these days when I think back I can only ever see your face.
I remember when they first handed you to me, feeling a little bemused. I was expecting something dramatic, a rush of love, a surge of emotion I couldn’t control, but instead it was more subtle. More of a slow, creeping realisation that you and I were meant to be together. Staring at this tiny, gorgeous, serene little creature that had just emerged into the world, I felt an unbelievable contentment. Like my world had finally fallen into place. And yet when my hand fell to my tummy, where you had been just moments earlier, I was shocked by the soft, squashy pouch I found there. Suddenly the reality that you were no longer inside me hit me like a tonne of bricks. I had so loved the months we had spent so closely bonded, just me and you in a lovely little bubble, and it hurt immensely to know I would never again get to experience it, not with you, anyhow. I had been so excited to meet you for real that it took me by surprise to realise how much I was going to miss carrying you. For months afterwards I longed for just one more chance to feel you move inside me, to feel the shape of a tiny hand or foot bulge out of my stomach or the sensation of you rolling around in there. Every now and then when I wasn’t really thinking I’d believe I felt a flutter, just for a second, and then cry because I knew it couldn’t be true. Sometimes I fear I can’t quite remember how it felt anymore and that makes me incredibly sad, even though we have so many special memories. I’m glad I filmed my tummy often and look forward to watching those videos with you one day.
I filled the emptiness of not being pregnant anymore by keeping you as close to me as possible as much as I could. Those first few weeks we spent hours and hours just cuddling, often not getting dressed until well after lunchtime, if at all, and while at the time I was going through a whole range of crazy emotions (we’ll talk all about that one day when you’re older!) I look back now and think of them as some of the happiest days of my life so far. Feeling the warmth of you and the weight of you on my chest just felt completely right and and whenever you weren’t there I wanted you back. Your Nana used to joke, ‘Have you put him down at all yet??’ and we’d laugh, but the truth is, I rarely did. We barely even used the pushchair to begin with because I much preferred to carry you around in the sling, all safely snuggled into my body. It was the closest thing I could get to being pregnant again and I loved it. Plenty of times I would bemoan the fact that you wouldn’t nap in the day times, but almost as soon as you did I’d want to wake you up again so we could have a snuggle! I was so used to having you in my arms that it felt strange not to, so much so that I’d often wake with a start in the middle of the night wondering where you were, breathing a sigh of relief when I realised you were right there sleeping soundly in the basket next to me. To this day I still sleep with my arms wrapped around my maternity pillow because it reminds me of having you there.
While incredibly hard on your Dad and I, those newborn days were so wonderful, Bailey, I’m not sure if I’ll ever be able to describe to you the joy you’ve brought into our lives. So many times I’d catch myself wishing I could freeze time so I could soak in that little bit more of you at a certain age. Of course, that isn’t possible, and every day you grew and developed that little bit more. We watched in awe as you learned to smile, to laugh, to sit up, to eat and drink. All too soon it was time for you to leave our room and start sleeping in your own cot, and I’m not ashamed to say that I wept. We debated when the right time was for quite a while (you had not been sleeping at night at this stage and it was heavily taking it’s toll on us!) but in the end it was you who decided – one evening we put you down to sleep, fully expecting that you’d wake in a couple of hours and come in to sleep with us as usual, but you didn’t. You stayed there for the rest of the night and have done every night since. I was so proud of you, but also inside I was devastated and it was a couple of weeks before I had the heart to pack away the moses basket and accept that those days were gone for good. At first I didn’t really know what to do with myself in the evenings now I no longer needed to juggle feeding myself with keeping you entertained. I would pour myself a gin and then just sit and watch you on the monitor, waiting for you to need me. We grew to love having our nights back of course, but we still missed you hanging out with us, still do. These days we cook intricate meals while drinking wine, watch films uninterrupted (except maybe by one of us falling asleep…) and spend time in the hot tub. We’ve even got around to watching Game of Thrones! But we still sneak into your room on our way to bed to have a sneaky peek at you sleeping and fight the urge to scoop you up for a hug. I think maybe we always will.
All of that feels like yesterday, but a whole six months has passed since that first night without you, each of them with new and fun experiences and equal measures of pain. It’s a part of motherhood that I never expected – that every milestone would be tinged with sadness because it meant that a stage was ending forever. People tell you that time flies, but nothing can quite prepare you for just how true and how brutal that is. I would do every second of it again – labour, birth, breastfeeding, the pain and the anxiety – I’d do every single bit of it all over again just to enjoy one more moment with 2 week old Bailey asleep on my shoulder, to hear 3 month old Bailey giggling for the first time, watch 5 month old Bailey having his first swimming lesson or see 9 month old Bailey show me he can clap. To be with any version of you, in fact, because just when I think I couldn’t possibly love you more, a new Bailey emerges and steals our hearts all over again. And that is what gets me through. It is incredibly sad and heart wrenching, the fact that the baby days are so fleeting, there is no escaping that, and I only have harder days to come as you age and strike out on your own. But each new day, each new skill you learn, brings with it so many wonderful moments. There are so many firsts we are yet to experience together. Your first words. Your first steps. You don’t yet know the joy of dancing till your feet hurt, of singing so loud you lose your voice, of running faster than the wind. I still have so much time to ponder what you will become and who you will grow up to be. There will be many more tears as a life stage passes us by but so many joys to discover and so many things to learn together. For now though sleep tight, little one. Tomorrow is a big day and the start of a whole new era, and I can’t wait to see what it has in store. We have so much to look forward to, you and I.
All my love,