The first time I saw my new born daughter – I expected this explosion of love – I expected to marvel at her – to feel some deep welling of maternal something or another – to be somehow changed into a mother – I looked down at this scrap of humanity – scrawny, jaundiced & felt only mild surprise.
“Was this it?”
For a terrible moment I was transported back to my first amateurish teenage sexual fumbling & the exact same feeling
“was this it?”
All around people cooed, her father – my husband, the nurses, who surely had seen enough babies to recognise that this was no beauty queen contender, even my own mother- all seemed to see something I couldn’t – it was as if we were all reading a book, but somehow they were all on a different page.
So, I did the obvious thing, I faked it – 10 yrs in teaching had given me excellent fakery skills.
I held her close, told everyone how beautiful she was, remembered to coo & pet her – it was an excellent performance – I almost began to fool myself – began to convince myself that everything would be alright – that I would be a good mother, that we would be a happy family, that everything would work out just fine.
And I managed to ignore the tiny twitch, the pulse in my right eye, like that early warning of a migraine attack, a tiny voice
“still here – do you really think you can shut me up so easily?”
As a child I supposed for years that everyone had another voice in their head, it never crossed my mind that there might be anything unusual about that constant little sound, softly murmuring throughout my day, guiding & cajoling me, translating the everyday encounters, helping me make sense of the world, my tiny internal compass when I generally felt so lost in a sea of adult madness.
It’s difficult to explain our relationship – me & HER – you might as well try & explain the bond between you & your heart or your lungs – you don’t have a relationship with your internal organs, you don’t question their right to be there or wonder if life would be different with another pair of kidneys, a different pancreas. So, that was my relationship with HER, unquestioning, I just accepted her – after all she has always been here – my first real memories are of lying in bed late at night whilst her voice soothed & comforted me – explained the many mysteries of my life, smoothed my ruffled feathers and most of all told me how loved I was, how I fitted with her, how together we made a whole.
SHE always seemed so wise, so able to make sense of the day, sometimes we whispered together – a compact continuous sleepover, sometimes she told me stories, of the days before the separation, when everything was as it should be, when the circle was complete – stories that lulled me to sleep – a smile of satisfaction on my face, Other times she was more strident – issuing instructions, commands to make me somehow more than I was – on those days I struggled to make myself heard, to keep my head above the stream of angry