A love story 

During the day, with the chaos of a toddler dominating, I sometimes forget she’s there. Momentarily, rather than, you know, leaving her on the bus. But at night, when my son is asleep, I feed her in complete peace. I relax, no longer having to wonder how long we have before my son comes to distract her. She feeds and, for a while, I think only of her.

I feel her soft, feathery hair on my arm and I find myself wondering what her hair will look like as she grows, if it will be the same colour as mine, if she’ll wear it long or short, if she’ll be one of those self-assured teenagers I see on the bus with amazing YouTube-inspired blowdries or if she’ll endure what I had assumed was an eternal rite of passage of terrible haircuts until at least one’s twenties.

I feel the weight of her head and hope her little ear isn’t squashed beneath her.

I think about her size, I wonder if she is growing enough, and what we might try feeding her next (she likes broccoli and coconut yoghurt the best at the moment; together if you like, she doesn’t mind).

She distracts me from my thoughts by grabbing my face and neck sometimes; today she managed to get her fingers in my mouth and actually pull my bottom lip down to my chin. I laughed and woke her a little.

I think about her personality: she is developing every day. She is so cheerful, she smiles almost all the time. She doesn’t save her smiles for me, she is generous (sometimes I feel a bit jealous). She laughs and laughs, especially with her brother. But she also has a fury that I don’t remember my son ever exhibiting. If she has her eye on one of his toys but can’t get to it, or, even worse, if something needs to be taken from her, my god, she becomes incandescent. The worst offence you can commit is probably to try to wipe her nose. Or maybe to take her out of the bath, even if she has started to wrinkle and the water is getting cold. I always wonder if she loves it so much because she was born in the water (and maybe a bit extra because I let her float there for a couple of seconds when she was born, as I was completely paralysed by the enormity of what had just happened and couldn’t quite make my arms move to catch her, despite the exhortations of my midwives).

She falls asleep having milk and then sort of violently detaches, lying prone on the supporting pillow, completely drunk. I suspect I’ll have to come up with a better way of ending these evening feeds once she grows more teeth.

I always think she is completely wonderful, but at this moment she is somehow even more perfect. She is so small still and so beautiful. She doesn’t seem real. At this time in the evening, when the room is dusky and grey, I can see her, but only in a gentle fog, and I can’t fathom where she came from or how we could be so lucky that she has joined us.

My heart swells and I feel almost queasy that I adore her so much. How can I live with this love, when I feel it for her brother too? It is such a privilege and also such a burden, because it hurts and scares me more than anything I have ever known before.

What to do with these immense feelings? I let them wash over me for a while. And then I pick up my phone and indulge in a more tolerable way of contemplating my love for her by posting photos on Instagram instead.

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