We lay next to each other – your head on my chest and my arm around you. Your heart beating faster than mine, and your body settled into the curve of mine.
We both listened to your daddy reading, a special treat to have me snuggled beside you. You are learning to fall asleep independently, and we have now all got used to our routine of me bathing you and daddy reading, and you eventually falling asleep while he keeps a steady watch at your bedside.
But tonight, tonight is a special night. Before going to bed, you held me tighter than usual, whispered gently but urgently into my ear, ‘Mummy I NEED you at nye-nye.’ And how could I resist?
So, here I am snuggled up to you, soaking you and the darkened space in.
Your body is soft and your head heavy. You lie still, lifting your eyes every now and then to look at the pictures of Alfie in the garden. Each time, you lay your head back down on my chest and snuggle in closer. Sometimes, you whisper the last line of the page, quietly, reverently, respecting that it’s now time to settle and sleep.
I am only half listening to the words of the book – I know it so well. I listen to the quiet house, the rythmic rain and the traffic outside.
And all of a sudden I can hear it: the creaking of bones growing and cells dividing. The sensation of skin stretching and then re-forming, the buzzing of life inside you. It is beautiful and it is alarming. As I listen to the sound, I feel the sensation of time passing. You BECOME time passing in my arms. You grow bigger and bigger and my arms struggle to contain you, to hold you. You are two, then three, then five, then 10, and I stop counting the years because it is all moving too quickly. Finally you are too big, bigger than me and there is a cracking, the sound of you breeching my hold. The sound of me breaking at the loss of you. My baby.
And so, in this quiet, in the dark as I listen to the buzzing foretelling my future, I whisper a silent prayer. The first prayer, as an atheist, I have ever uttered. ‘Grow strong, grow well and be safe, so that I may feel the pain and the privilege of you growing too big for me to contain you’