It is amazing what crosses one's mind in the tiny hours. Bearing in mind that I've not slept for more than 4 hours in a row for the last 7 weeks and that I spend a lot of time awake in a darkened room at 4am with nothing to do but make sure Charlie has a good mouthful of boob it's frankly a wonder that I can think at all. Needless to say there's only one subject of any note drifting through my diminished brain-pan and it’s hardly rocket science. There must be thousands of us out there, all sitting alone in the dark, falling asleep in our chairs, lurching awake, waiting for the baby to eat and sleep, starship Mum, sailing through the night. My marketing brain screams 'untapped market' very sadly - one does start to think all sorts of strange things when there's one's own personal baby in the vicinity.
All your cliches come true at once, particularly that old chestnut about how 'nobody will ever love you as much as your mother'. This is not, in fact, a sentence designed to make you feel guilt about leaving home and it’s not romantic love we’re talking about here - motherly love, it turns out, is something different altogether, something that hits on a more instinctive level. She's watched you breathe your first breath, she grew your bones, she's given you life and then spent it's length worrying about it. It's a tremendously protective thing. It creeps up on a mother quite unsuspectingly. One day there’s a wriggly baby who’s rather cute but perhaps nothing to do with you after all and then the next day you’d rent the fabric of time to prevent any harm drifting its little, damp, squirmy way.
Time, however, isn’t really on the side of us Mums. At the start all they want to do is to be sweet and content and curled up on a parent and it turns out that in fact parents feel exactly the same - tremendously content when he's curled up on a shoulder. This is short lived however and despite having spent the best part of a year as one unit, soon he will be able and willing to crawl away, and then walk, then run and eventually, take the car keys and drive. And if it wasn’t bad enough that the child itself will depart, economics force the ultimate betrayal by sending him off into the arms of a carer in order for Mum to waltz back to work before he can even talk.
Meanwhile, back at 4am I hold onto him while he snores into my ear and hope that one day his shoulders will be big enough for my head - and then I hope again that he won't be too averse to giving his old mother a hug. It's hard to hold onto something who you know is potentially going to cause you more pain, more trouble and more worry than anyone else and still love it but that, I suppose, is another function of this motherly love thing.
It's at these times, in the gloaming, when one starts thinking about all the possibilities, all the futures, all the lights and all the darks.
Having a baby is a bit like sending a rocket off into time. For a while you can hold it, light the fuse and watch it while it goes but in the end, if you're lucky, it goes on into the un-imaginable future and leaves you behind. Time, however, has no final destination. Everything on its rocket gets off at some point, gets left behind, gets further away. Eventually, we get off ourselves. Sometimes when Charlie is fretting I can lull him to sleep while stroking his little bald head and I hope that at the other end of time for him there is someone else stroking his head, loving him and lulling him to rest. I have hope of him or her for when I'm not there - I send messages to them across the years.