I’m brimming, full-up and swollen with love and exhaustion and a dose of confusion that we’re all here, safe and sound.
It’s wonderful. And it hurts like hell.
This past week has been a strange retracing of another week, one last April full of numb shock and tears, ruled by the raw soreness of a post-partum body emptied of purpose. My breasts grew huge that week, hot and swollen, tender to the slightest touch. I sought relief in hot showers, sobbing to see the pointless milk seeping out and running down the drain. After 9 months of pregnancy, after labour and birth, I had no stretch marks, no tears, no stitches and an overabundance of milk – such hollow victories when I had failed at the most essential part; getting my child out alive.
This week my body is sore and sagging, pock and stretched-marked, with breasts once again huge, hot and swollen, leaking with milk. This week there’s someone here who makes this all make sense, someone to sing to through the throbbing pain, someone to hold and smell and marvel at. Someone else.
Cards have been coming. Very, very different from the cards of last year. These carry words and phrases that sweeten and sting – congratulations, little girl, in your heart, forever.
Forever. Yes. There are two little girls with us now. One made of shadows, silence and hot, salty tears; one made of warm, soft skin and the smell of her mother’s milk. One we remember and long for more than ever now that her name and memory daunts even the most well-meaning of friends and relatives. One that’s here with us, finally, fitting in like she’s always belonged, her weight and skin somehow no stranger to the arms and lips of parents like us – we who are strangers to warm, wriggling offspring.
I don’t like that we put her to bed with blankets identical to the ones that shrouded her sister’s body. I don’t like that we dress her in clothing never before worn, intended for someone who never needed them. I don’t like that gifts that relatives are sending likely may have been bought for M, held all this time in sad suspense to be handed over to another, a replacement.
I’m full up, breasts, body and soul aching and throbbing with pain and quiet, cautious contentment. I love this new person, profoundly. With a sting and a thrill too scary to give full voice to. Heart and soul, however, have spoken up anyway.
Can we keep her? Can we?