There are moments in time which are so exquisite that it may border the space between utter joy and actual pain. Joy for the opportunity to bathe in it, and despair that it may be a one off. These moments are hard to predict but when they happen, you come away with part of your heart on the sticky side of the Band-Aid.
I look back at specific times in my life that had, unusually, time stamps on them. On the 6th of February 2007 a lab tech coldly observing and rating our tiny embryos might have shrugged, sipped her cup of tea and bit into her Jaffa cake, and ticked a box stating that we had just two. Just two embryos and they weren’t great quality. Maybe she checked it twice. Maybe it was just another batch of embryos amongst the hundreds she’d seen, ones that may or may not change the world for someone.
Whatever she did or did not do, those two tiny embryos turned into two little people that I love so much that I won’t try rationalizing it here. It just is. This great, big thing in my heart that has become them.
Nick is a happy, cheerful, cheeky fellow. I look at him sometimes and am struck by how extraordinarily beautiful he is, and although I am biased I believe in the wide world, somehow, it’s true. Since birth, when he was whisked away from a barely-conscious me and put into SCBU he has needed just that little bit more than his sister has needed. Where she sees the world as a mountain that she’s got to conquer he sees it as a very wide world indeed, and a little hand-holding to get to it, while he thinks about the world and all that it encompasses, would be a very good thing indeed.
To be honest, he is a bit of a Mummy’s boy.
And I’m ok with that.
I love having a happy-go-lucky, daring, open and independent daughter. I love it. Just as I love having a little man that, frankly, needs a bit more sometimes.
Where his sister flings caution to the wind he sits and thinks about things so long it becomes a stresser for him. Where she lets go and just gets on with things, he likes to understand the angles. Where she accepts that a car just runs he wants to know how it runs and what makes it run. And where she needs the noise of people, he needs the quiet.
He sat there on my lap last night and we quietly talked about Maggie and about death.
“Maggie isn’t coming back, is she?”
“No, she’s not, baby.”
“Is she buried in the back?”
“No, sweetheart, she’s buried elsewhere.” I don’t mention that Maggie was cremated. I don’t mention that I held Maggie while she died. I don’t mention that Maggie needed two doses of the fatal liquid to stop her heart, as even in death she was stubborn. I don’t mention that the determination that defined her in life defined her in death, and it made me cry twice as hard. I don’t mention that the vet tech came in to shave her for cremation as I left, and I paid £130 for a kindly vet to put my cat down.
“I miss Maggie,” he says softly.
“I miss Maggie, too,” I reply just as quietly.
We sit quietly for a moment. Then:
“You’re my best friend, Mummy. And I love you.”
“You’re my best friend too, Nick. I love you too.”
“I’m sorry Maggie died, Mummy.”
“Yes baby. I’m sorry, too.”
He is struggling with the approaching start of school. He is incredibly bright but doesn’t do change well. We sit and talk about it a lot, see what we can do to help. His sister is delighted to start school but he’s more reserved.
Last night I went in to tuck him in and check on him, a ritual I have. Sometimes – as it was last night – he was awake and waiting for me. She needs more sleep than he does and always has.
He giggles and grabs me by the neck when I go to adjust his blanket. I fall for it and snuggle next to him on his bed, he in a coccoon of blankets, me on top of them beside him. He grins, little while teeth shining in the dark. Beside us Nora slumbers away, deep in dream land. I wonder which embryo was which on the screens, the ones I saw like blots of mercury bubbles.
“Would you like to lay down and talk to me a while?” whispers Nick’s invitation.
“I would,” I whisper back. I settle in and cuddle him. “Are you excited about school?”
“Yes. Mummy? Will you take us there and home?”
“I will indeed, baby.”
Satisfied with confirmation, we are silent for a bit. Then: “I love you Mummy. Not with your glasses on, but I love you with glasses too, but I love my Mummy.”
I squeeze him to me and feel something between lightning joy and gentle peace.
“I love you, too, baby.”
“Will you come back and check on us when we’re asleep?”
“I always do.” And I do. Multiple times. Just to be sure they are well, happy, safe, and warm.
I leave the room with this feeling that’s hard to describe – I would do anything for them both, I would go anywhere for them, I would support them as long as my arms could hold out. I think of Nick and I wish so much for his life to be the most amazing journey one could have. I wish for him to be so much more, so much better than I ever have been.
That moment between love and pain – it pains me I cannot be more for them. I am filled with joy and hope for their future.
Accuse me of over-sentimentalism, it’s fine. But while I sit here writing I can tell you there’s nothing in the world for me like those two.
Maybe that’s how it’s supposed to be.
PS – I’m lecturing about rewards.