Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood

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Baby, my baby. My hands feel you. I feel you inside me, and in my hands. You're moving. Right now. And again. And again. And I wonder: can you feel my hands too?

Listen, my baby, listen. Someone's trying to tell me something. That someone, a doctor, is telling me: be prepared. He says I may lose you. We may lose you when we've barely had you, yet.
And I'm asking him: how can that be? It's warm where you are. It's soft where you are. It's me, where you are.

Today we were walking, your Papa and I. He held my hand, and I held his, and my other hand held you, just like I am now. And we were talking about you, your Papa and I. "I wonder what she'll like to play?" I said. "I wonder what she'll like to read," your Papa said. "I wonder what we'll see in her eyes?" we both said.

And as if to answer, in your own funny way, you did a somersault, and another and another. And we smiled and laughed, until that trickle down my leg, the warm trickle that wasn't from me, but from you, made us both start to cry.

Now they're strapping a machine on me. And they're putting needles in me. And they're putting tubes in me. And they're telling me about numbers, chances, hopes.

I don't listen. No. I listen to you. I listen to your heartbeat coming out of the machine. Ta-tum ta-tum. Your heart is fast, much faster than mine. I imagine your heart is talking to mine. Yours is saying: "I'm okay, I'm okay, you'll see, I'm okay." And mine, the much slower one, answers: "Of course, my baby, of course you are, your Mama, your Mama knows."

And they show me a red line. It's going up and down on the paper. Just a little, but still, up and down. And they say: "See that line? It's supposed to be straight." So that's how they know you're getting ready to come.

And I can't even feel it. I say, not yet. We're not ready yet. It's only just spring. Summer is when you'll be ready to come.

Today, on our walk, we weren't far from here at all. I can look out the window and almost see where it's green. Over there, look, your Papa took me in his arms. He tried to carry us, carry us to where we are now. But we were too heavy, my baby, you and I. So I lay down in the grass, instead, right there in the grass. I lay in the grass while your Papa got help. And the grass was wet and tickled my check. And I looked sideways at the sky, and the trees in the park. And I promised you, my baby. I promised, one day we'd play in this park. All of us, we'll be there together. I can see us. I promise. I can.

Now I can feel it. And it's not you coming. They were wrong. It's me, it's my body, squeezing and pressing and forcing you out. I hate my body. And that I can't stop it. And your heart in my ears, ta-ta-ta-ta, goes much faster. I can't understand anymore what you're saying, my baby.

And your Papa, he's scared. His eyes are scared. He's trying to hide it, but I can see how he's scared. There are people all around us, rushing and talking, and all I see are your Papa's eyes. And I say: "Don't be scared. Please don't be scared." And he looks at me, your Papa, and smiles. An aching smile, but it's there, it's for us.

And then you're coming. And I can't stop it, you're here. Your head doesn't hurt like it's supposed to, you're too small. And I'm crying, I'm crying so hard I can't see you. They're lifting you up, but I can't make my eyes see you. And your Papa whispers: "What's wrong, I can't hear her." Because we always thought that you'd come to us screaming.

Now they've taken you over to a table in the corner. Far, so far, too far away. My body still feels where you were, warm inside me. My arms want to hold you, but they can't reach you. I need to be over there, saving you. Oh my baby, I don't know how.

Then you're gone. They're taking you. Away, away to more help. And I say to your Papa: "Go with her, go, go with her," I scream at him, because you need him more than I do now. And he goes. He looks at me, all our lives in one moment, and he follows, he goes where you go.

And I am alone. Alone with the emptiness where you only just swam, kicking. It's just me and the quiet. And one nurse, wiping my forehead. "Poor dear," she is saying.

But I shake my head. And I smile. And I close my eyes, because now I can see you. You're walking. We're in the park, in the grass, and you're walking, for your first time. You're eyes are blue and your hair is curly and your legs, they're so round that I laugh. And your Papa's eyes, they're warm and sparkling, they're happy. He's holding your hands, your little hands in his big hands, and you're looking at me, your Mama. And then you step, and you step, and you step, and you're giggling, and laughing, you're so proud.

And we're crying, we're crying, we're crying, me and your Papa, we're crying and laughing with you.

Susannah Elisabeth Pabot grew up in Austria and on Cape Cod, and now lives in Paris with her French husband and three-year-old daughter, Aurélia Skye. She has worked as a children’s book journalist and learning mentor in London and is currently – when she isn’t playing, singing or reading with Aurélia – working on her first short story collection.

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