Posted on February 1, 2012
Iona is 161 days old.
Each night we spend at least an hour lying together in my bed. She has a feed, then we read a book, or sing a song, all snuggled up. Then I watch her as she drifts off to sleep. It’s my favourite part of the day and while I know it will probably be a hard habit to break, right now I don’t care – it’s a rare bit of QT in an all too busy life.
Most nights we hold hands. When she was really tiny, this was the grasp reflex at work. But now she’s teething and is having a lot of fun trying to steer my fingers into her mouth so she can have a really good chomp on them.
Nothing makes me feel more protective of Iona than seeing these tiny little fingers of hers. The fragility of them stirs something primal inside of me, and I know at once that I would do anything to protect her from harm should, god forbid, it ever come her way.
This overwhelming sense of protection started when Iona was still in the womb. I remember the day. There I was, walking in broad daylight in the park I took the dog to every single day, when suddenly I had this crazy notion that someone might attack me. Unconsciously my hands went to my stomach, mentally cradling my unborn child, and I began to pick up pace, looking all around for anything or anyone that looked remotely suspicious. I wasn’t scared. This wasn’t fear I was feeling. I felt vulnerable, yes, but I also felt an immense courage, like a lioness ready to protect her cubs from any predator. This went on throughout my pregnancy – I always felt a little on guard, and noticed small behavioural changes creeping in. I started to lock the doors when I was at home alone, and stop at amber traffic lights instead of trying to beat them – that kind of thing.
And then one bright August morning, three weeks later than expected, my baby came. The first day was a blur, as we both recovered from the trauma of the C-section and the drugs slowly made their way out of our systems. On the second day I took Iona in my arms and carried her towards the window on the ward. We were a few floors up, directly above the hospitals A&E Department and suddenly I could hear screaming and shouting from below in a language I didn’t understand. There were a lot of raised angry voices and although I couldn’t understand what was going on, I could tell it was trouble. I began to cry, despairing of this horrible world I’d brought her into. I felt anxious to the pit of my stomach, despite being in the security of a hospital. Immediately my thoughts turned to women in war zones who bring babies into the world, whilst bombs go off in the distance. As you might expect, this was enough to send me over the emotional edge and reaching for the Kleenex.
Of course I know these feelings of protection aren’t unusual. I know also I’m not the first woman who’s felt anxious about bringing her baby home, going it alone without the assistance of the midwifes. It’s our hormones at work – and for very good reason. If we didn’t feel this urge to protect our babies – however extreme – we wouldn’t be human. We wouldn’t be mothers.
161 days in and these feelings are fading, or becoming easier to deal with. I no longer look at innocent strangers in the park with suspicion. I no longer scour the surroundings trying to work out what I’ll use as a weapon should anyone try to attack us – the stick or the boulder, what’s it to be? I still lock the doors when I’m at home alone, and I’m now the passenger from hell (“slow down! you’re doing 31…you’re trying to kill us”) but slowly, slowly I’m realising the world hasn’t really changed much at all. Only I have.