Not Only Mine
I made her, from so little. From my body. I made her one icy night and held her inside for nine rushing-past months. Three trimesters of fear. Sixteen hours of longing and primal pain. And then, and then. How many seconds, while I strained to hear her cry? Twenty, perhaps. It felt like longer. It felt like a whole life, spreading and stretching. Her whole life, or mine.
I didn’t love her father. I didn’t know him, even. He made me laugh a little, when I thought that nothing could. He fixed his green eyes on me at a party, and when he came over, I noticed that he had long eyelashes and his top front teeth overlapped slightly. We walked outside. It was December, almost Christmas, and when we talked our breath came out in wispy puffs.
I’d been back from university for a while, since my mother’s cancer had taken her over. I’d been helping my father to look after her. And then we’d lost her, and I’d been trying to find my way through. I was still in the dark, in the cold dread phase. The pain of it was physical and raw. Like a knife-wound, badly bandaged. I hadn’t been leaving the house much, and never at night. But I’d bumped into an old school friend at the supermarket and she’d invited me to the party, and I hadn’t been able to think of a good reason not to go.
In the garden, it was coal black and quiet, the music of the party locked up inside. We talked with our faces inches apart, so we could see each other. And then he leaned in, closer still, to tell me a joke, and I found myself laughing. And I was stunned, because I had thought that laughter was a thing I’d lost, when I lost her.
That unexpected laughter was enough, to make her. I let him take my hand and lead me upstairs to a dark room, and I let him touch me in a way that no-one had, for a long time. Afterwards, while I was still lying there on someone else’s bed, a little stunned, he hovered over me, planted a fluttery kiss on my forehead, just above my right eyebrow. And he left.
I couldn’t find him, later, when I knew. I asked the others, anyone who’d seen us together that night, and nobody knew his second name, or where he lived. I couldn’t tell him, and I was heavy with the belief that he should know. It’s impossible to think of him, existing somewhere, not knowing. Not knowing that he passed on those serious green eyes and long eyelashes. That I see them, every morning, when I hold my breath and reach out to touch her, to wake her.
I search for him in crowds. I look in dark corners, hidden sorts of places. I ache to tell him. Because she’s a miracle, and not only mine.
Five weeks after the party, the new year still young, I locked myself in the bathroom and waited for a blue line to appear. I thought of my mother, of the times I’d spent in that room with her. As a child, her tipping jugs of water over my head in the bath while I squealed with laughter. As a teenager, sitting with my back to the radiator and talking to her while she bathed. Was it so terrifying, to think of myself in the role that she had played? While I was growing up, while I was looking the other way, she had quietly taught me everything I needed to know about being a mother.
When my body stopped keeping her a secret, my father looked at me sadly, and shook his head. I was six months and a few credits away from an honours degree. My father knew, when he saw my stomach round like an orange, that I wasn’t going back. That this was my life, now. He was disappointed. He might even have been ashamed.
But he was wrong. I knew that the moment they handed her to me, her dark hair sticky and her eyes closed. I held her against my skin, tried to breathe her in, and I fell in love. Hard to believe that we were two separate people now, after months of her being tucked inside. I lifted her to my face and whispered in her ear, told her that I would be everything to her – mother, father, friend.
I took her home and I watched my father try to be angry. Watched him try not to love her, not to love me. And on the second day, I fell asleep on the sofa while she was napping, my body weary, and when I woke, he was cradling her in his arms, letting the tears run down his face and fall onto hers. I watched them for a full minute, before I stood and reached for her. We shared a look, as he passed her tiny body to me, and I knew that everything and nothing had changed.
She is five years old, my first love, my only love. My Sophia. We still live with my father, and there have been no other lovers, for him or for me. We don’t need anyone else. We play and read and tell one another stories, and sometimes Sophia leans in close to me to tell me a joke she’s heard in the playground, and I’m reminded of her father. There is something of him in her gestures, in her expressions. And something else. Something unnameable, but pure and true.
If I saw him now, I would thank him. For making me laugh a little, when I thought that nothing could. For that fluttery kiss. For Sophia. I would thank him for helping me to make her, from so little. From my body. And I would show her to him, and let him marvel at her. Because she’s a miracle, and not only mine.
Laura Pearson blogs at https://breastcancerandbaby.com/ about her experience of being diagnosed with breast cancer while pregnant with her second child. She has also blogged for Macmillan, Emma’s Diary and The Motherload. She is working on a novel and is currently receiving mentoring from the Sunday Times bestselling novelist Gillian McAllister through the Womentoring Project.