Sixteen years ago around about now my waters broke and I was aware that my daughter, my first child, was on her way. She turned up around 13 hours later, head contorted to the shape of the contraption used to pull her out of me and whooshing into a room full of medical professionals concerned about her flagging vital signs.
All evening she has been celebrating this significant anniversary with a group of boisterous, noisy friends – partly sans adultes in a local restaurant and partly listening to loud music and playing games here in our home.
I have celebrated this significant anniversary by hiding in the dining room and trying to write despite the commotion. Here is the fruit of my labours, with apologies for it still being more than a little rough:
“It’s a boy,” your father said, his face pushed
through the blue-gowned army
round the bed who pulled
you into life. “Can’t you see?”
your masked-deliverer said and raised
you like a prize, the error revealed,
your female form displayed,
and weak with tiredness and pride,
we cried tears of joy, your father and I,
allegiance transferred as quick
as the blanket-swaddled heartbeat
firm beneath his hand.
He held you first: till then you had been mine,
though never really mine nor his
just borrowed for a time,
your love the thing that binds us to you, pains us,
brings a joy we cannot put a value
on. And you? You look ahead and strain
to walk a pace our steady, guiding hands
no longer keep. One day you’ll go and
then, no doubt, we’ll weep but know that it is right
and good you should. No backward glance –
you owe us nothing; that much
we have always understood.
But sometimes, sometimes still, a flicker
in your rare un-made-up face recalls a time
when once I was the moulder of your day,
the watcher of your dreams,
the keeper of the key to your world
as you, child, have been of mine.