In dreams, you’re mine

baby-photographyWE WERE at dinner with friends when I saw the bonny baby at the next table. A new-born covered in a light muslin wrap, protected from the too-cool air inside.

His mother was cuddling him in the warmth of her arms. She rocked him back and forth, swaying rhythmically in her seat.

Her beloved one had just woken without protest, but she was soothing him with the closeness of her body, the soft murmuring on her lips.

I was mesmerised. Trapped in a zone with them I could never truly share.

There were no tears from him, no raucous babble; he simply stared up at her with fixated wonder. His mother.

The yearning inside me was powerful, like I’d been sucker punched without warning. It hurt in a distant part of myself I’ve tried to bury. But it’s always there; it grows stronger with age.

It rears its ugly head sometimes when I pass a pram in the street and glimpse the soft skin of infant feet, bouncing with the movement created by the street. My stomach lurches; I look away.

Or like the day when I was walking behind a man carrying a sleeping child in his arms and I put my hand out as if to touch a silken baby cheek. They moved out of reach and I let my possessed hand fall back by my side.

Every so often I cross the road to save myself the heartache. I don’t always have a choice.

This night, I stopped the conversation at our table mid-stream: “Oh god, look at that beautiful baby. Just there. He’s so sweet! Look how tenderly she’s holding him.”

My companions politely indulged me for a moment. I wanted to go over and hold that baby to my chest with a ferocity of feeling that shocked me.

It took all of my strength to resist the urge, but I wrangled it, pushed that dreadful longing down into the dark where it belongs. There’s no cure for it anyway.

So, I don’t tell anyone that it’s there. It’s a private pain that ebbs and flows.

Instead when I’m asked by strangers for the millionth time why we “only” have one child, I say: “No, I can’t have any more children, but really we were happy to have ‘just’ one.”

Or: “IVF was so very hard that we didn’t have the strength to go through it all again.”

And: “Our daughter has challenges and needs so much extra help and support. It was meant to be this way.”

We are lucky. We live with grief. But we have no regrets.

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9 thoughts on “In dreams, you’re mine

  1. I too have a Hard of Hearing daughter on the spectrum. And I too have been asked about “only having one” and I reply “This one is equivalent to five kids!” It’s been extremely challenging–not only navigating her emotional and academic needs, but also our interface with society in general. When she is having a meltdown and strangers are doing the tsk tsk thing I walk straight up and look at them in the eyes and say, “My daughter is autistic and she has sensory issues (so shut up and mind your own business)”. Well, i don’t actually SAY the part in brackets I just think it! Glad to know I am not alone.

  2. Many of these people (often strangers..) who say “when are you going to give such and such a brother or sister?” don’t often understand that just because a couple has one child, it doesn’t mean that it was easy or without many rounds IVF and heartbreak to have their miracle.
    Your writing is so beautiful Melinda even when your thoughts and feelings may be difficult to share. I’m sure it brings some comfort to others who share the same kind of grief. Thank you xx

    • Hi Alice, yes I think you are right. Mostly people mean well but that doesn’t mean they’re not being insensitive. I enjoy confronting people with the truth of my situation which is usually more than they bargained for.

      Thank you for your kind words. It makes me feel like I can keep sharing with such lovely support. Thank YOU xx

  3. I have that pain too. I grieved for a long time after I had that surgery to remove every possible organ that allowed me to bear a child because of a tumour… I am told so often “be grateful you have 4 children, many others don’t.” I agree but it does hurt… even I have 4 beautiful amazing children I still yearn for another. Over time I have learnt to let it go but it is there always.
    Hard isn’t it? Sending you hugs xoxoxo

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