Sore Tummies and Tiny Chests

Some weeks it’s worse than others. Gosh, it’s been nearly eight years since I left my (ex)husband, but to this day it hasn’t changed – even now, when I should be so used to not having my little Monkey man with me for a whole week, I sometimes hit real lows and it tears me apart having to say goodbye. This Friday is a bad one, one of those when my heart is breaking and I just want to curl up in a ball and sob my heart out. It takes all that I have to focus on how this set-up is what’s best for Monkey, that he needs both of his two devoted parents and that he shouldn’t have to suffer or have to break up with one of us because the other left. Shit, it really does take just that – ALL I have.

As it happens, Monkey is at home today. I could tell straight away that something was off this morning. Normally, he is up way before us and on his Xbox or iPad by 6am (even though there were at some point rules stipulating that he has to stay in bed until 6.30 – what can I say, I’m a pushover parent), but this morning he emerged just after 7am and was all clingy and needy, as opposed to the usual bouncy Monkey. He complained of a sore tummy. I do think that he sometimes tries to pull the I’m-ill card, and perhaps he did today. I don’t care. I wanted him home. I didn’t want to say goodbye for a WHOLE week at the school gates.

Instead, now, I’m typing these morning pages on the sofa, Monkey at the other end, our legs stretching out – his wedged in to the back end, his little feet resting against my hip. He’s on his iPad. Jeez, if only someone had told me how much love I had the capacity of feeling – almost ten years ago, this Chimp came along and blew me away, and it’s only grown stronger. When he’s not with me, I feel lost and unsettled. It’s wrong not to have him around, it’s awful and painful and terrible. He makes me so happy and so proud. I try to hold back on my praise and declarations of love, because I don’t want him to end up feeling pressure or too much expectation, but not a day goes by when I don’t tell Monkey how much I love him. Maybe it’s too much, but I don’t care – perhaps I’m overbearing, but if the one thing he ends up disliking about me is how I loved him too much then that’s bloody OK by me.

I keep glancing over at those little feet. Just like every other part of Monkey, I know them so well. Every little bit. I could account for every toe, every finger, the exact shape of his nose, his top lip that pouts like mine and has the shape of his dad’s, the tiny birth mark on his neck and I could draw his ear or anything else in precise detail. And I can recall how those feet were even littlerer – his toes bent the same way (he has my ex’s feet!) but with more pudge around them. They’re boy’s feet now, not baby feet. Every little part and detail of this little person my world revolves around, I can conjure up in sharp technicolour for every single stage of his life.

Never will I forget that first dawn. Monkey was born at 2am, and at around 5 that same morning when I was first alone with him after his dad had gone home and it was just me and Monkey on the postnatal ward, I had a proper look after all the drama and confusion of giving birth. They’d put him in a cot next to my bed. He was in one of the newborn jumpsuits we’d bought, but even the smallest size was too big. He was a long baby, but didn’t have much fat on him, clocking in at just over three kilos. I remember so clearly standing there and looking at him, and how I unbuttoned that tiny jumpsuit. His tiny little chest exposed, I put my hand on it – I probably have average sized hands, and to this day I can recall exactly how it felt, how my palm was almost the width of that little chest.

I let it rest on that little chest for a while, taking in my son’s features, feeling that little ribcage rise and relax with each little breath. Every last part of that moment is forever etched into my memory. God, he was a perfect, beautiful baby. When I’d gingerly, carefully, clumsily changed that first nappy, I couldn’t put him back into the cot. Instead I kept Monkey with me, couldn’t bear to be away from him physically even though it only meant he was two feet away from. So there I was, and I didn’t go to sleep as I was afraid of squashing him, just laying there with my newborn son in my arms until morning broke.

I look at those feet next to me now, and at the boy who is here now. And I know that there is no love mightier than that of a mother’s.


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