I told you it was a cliché.
I so clearly remember those first weeks and months when I was literally counting the days, and wondering how I would get through them. Wondering how old LittleBear would be before I started to enjoy being a mother. Calculating the percentage of time I was towards LittleBear starting school. Desperately finding ways to fill the days with other people or activities so I didn't sit at home, staring at my baby and wondering what the hell I was supposed to do with him, and whether he would ever forgive me for being such a failure as a mother.
I wished the time away, I watched the clock and waited for BigBear to get home from work and relieve me. On one occasion I phoned him at work, begging him to come home* as I couldn't bear it, I was convinced my baby hated me and would never love me. I wanted anything but to carry on being mother to a baby. I didn't want to be needed so constantly. I didn't want to be responsible for the physical, emotional and psychological well-being of this helpless being. There was so much I could get so terribly wrong.
And then I was diagnosed with post natal depression, and I started taking anti-depressants, and I found my way back to the light, and I found myself again, and I discovered that I could be me and LittleBear's mother at the same time. And I began to enjoy days spent with him, and we bonded and played and fell in love.
And today Facebook popped up with a photograph of my little boy from 5 years ago, when he was 6 months old, and I was reminded just how adorable he was**:
And at that point he was still very much mine. He was my little baby, barely starting to play with solid food, grown in my body, fed from my body, every ounce of him a product of what my body could do***.
And now, come 7 o'clock in the morning, a child who weighs more than a third of my bodyweight, and is considerably more than half my height trundles into our bedroom and scrambles on top of me for a cuddle. And I can still manage to wrap him up into a ball of cuddle, both my arms enfolding him, tucking him under my chin to snuggle the silky soft hair, but he's so big now.
And he's so obviously not mine in the same way that that little baby was. He is not mine to own, to manage, to rule. He is a person, and one who I have the privilege to guide, to nurture and to protect. But he does not owe me anything. I have no power, and desire no power, to dictate the path his life will take. I am here to instill values of decency and humanity in him. To teach him how to love and be loved. To lift him when he falls, to hold him when he cries, to feed his body and mind and to help him do and be all that he can. But I do not possess him.
He is already an independent person. He is all that I begged and hoped that he would be. He does not need me, body and soul, every moment of the day. He does not derive all his strength and growth from my body. He does not learn all his knowledge from my lips. He is not mine. He is his own. And that is both wonderful and terrifying.
Please don't grow up too fast LittleBear.
* Needless to say, BigBear came straight home. He gave me strength when I had none.
** Yes, obviously I'm biased.
*** Ever conscious of the implied and inferred criticisms that swirl around such things, this does not mean I am passing judgement on anyone who didn't breastfeed their child. I just remember it suddenly dawning on me that ALL his growth came from me in one way or another, and it was quite an extraordinary thought.