When my daughter was five days old, my mother arrived to help us. I naively had thought we wouldn’t need help in the first days home. I was wrong. I called my mother in tears the second night we were home with our daughter. On the day my mother turned up at my house, I cried on her shoulder and said “I love you so much and one day you won’t be here.” I had been a mother myself for less than a week and I could not bear the idea that one day I would be just a mother but not a daughter; that I would be the end of the chain.
The process of becoming a mother is a rebirth. You are broken, and then you rebuild yourself; like someone trying to glue a broken vase back together. I have new cracks that are vulnerable to breaking. I am not as stronger as I use to be, but also I am infinitely stronger than before. Motherhood broke my heart open. Now I see my daughter in all children. When I hear of children suffering, I see my daughter’s face and I imagine the pain of the mother.
When my daughter was two weeks old, I moved her with me into the lounge for a few days, so that my husband could get some sleep. My mother moved into the lounge with us. For several nights, I slept on the couch, my daughter slept in her little moses basket and my mother slept on the carpet near us. Two mothers, laying next to their daughter as she slept and worrying about her in the moments before rest. I had a reoccurring nightmare for those early weeks that I was accidentally smothering my daughter. I would wake with a start and so would my mother; her rest only as shallow as mine, as mine was only as shallow was my daughter’s. A mother is always half awake.
When my daughter was three weeks old, we tried to go for a walk to the shops, my mother and daughter and I. The traffic was too heavy to safely cross the road. I didn’t have the mettle to brave the roaring trucks that hurtled off the motorway and raged up the road into the city. I wanted to get to the shops so badly. My mother and I both cried. We were both overwhelmed with how unfair it was that we just wanted to cross the road with our respective daughter and know that she was safe.
When my daughter was four weeks old, I nervously went to my first mother and baby group. It was held in a local preschool. Mum and I walked there together on a late autumn day, with my tiny daughter strapped to me in the front pack. My mother walked me to the gate of the preschool, and said she would be back to meet us there after the group had finished. I felt like a child stepping out on her first day of school, nervously going out in the world alone again. I wasn’t sure I was ready to be away from the comfort of my mother, to be so utterly responsible for my daughter and her only protector against the world around us. My daughter slept the whole first session of the baby group, her tiny ear resting on my breast and listening to the beating of my heart; the sound she knew before she knew life.
Those first weeks with my daughter were the hardest and most precious of my life. I needed my mother for survival in a way I hadn’t since I was a child. I needed my mother to help me rebuild myself into a mother. When I thanked her for her help, she said “Of course. You’re my baby. I wanted to help my baby.”