Unexpected Consequences by Rebecca Megson-Smith

Here’s a piece I wrote for ‘Dispatches from New Motherhood’ an anthology of writing from new mothers, edited by Emylia Hall, author and founder of Mothership Writers, published in May 2020.

I was deeply honoured for my piece to not only be selected as the opening story for the anthology but also to be one of five pieces selected for publication in LionHeart Magazine, Issue 12, published October 2020, which had ‘Thrive’ as a theme.

This is the story of how I became a mum and what unexpected gifts my daughter bestowed upon me…

You arrive in a hurry, defying the old wives’ tales of first-time lateness. One arm above your head, you fly into the world, Supergirl style. The midwives chatter excitedly about the unexpected ease of your birth.

At home we maroon ourselves on our island sofa. We become mermaid and merbabe. Slung across my belly, a warm sea slug lying as close to your original watery home as possible, you’re lifted by the rise and swell of my tidal breath. I hardly dare move, for fear of disturbing you.

Time shifts. Until you, my time had belonged to everyone else. I had belonged to everyone else. But now I belong, by absolute and unalterable priority, to you.

Saying ‘no’ is suddenly easy. ‘No’ to the groups I don’t really want to join; ‘no’ to the coffee-and-cake catch-ups with women I hardly know; ‘no’ to going out on cold evenings for too much wine and too little return. First I say ‘no’ to others for you; but increasingly the benefit is mutual.

I’ve never been one for the shallows, the small talk at social gatherings. I tend to freeze at the simplest questions, gaping inelegantly, a fish out of water.

Emerging from our cocoon, however, ‘I’ has become ‘we’, and, well, that changes everything.

We swim synchronously, my seal-pup and I. There’s a simplicity and a flow to it that opens a new channel of thought in my mind when I think about future engagements. You charge your way through milestones – sitting, crawling, standing, chatting, walking. Life holds no fears for you. And I follow in the wake of your courage, all the way into our first formal social as a family.

It is a beautiful, faceless, wedding.

We sit on the grass in the unexpectedly hot April sunshine, amusing ourselves and each other. Tottering on increasingly confident feet you laugh at the enormous stick you’ve found, dragging it behind you down the little path by the breezy daffodils.

We leave the reception when we’re ready. Just after the puddings but before the speeches. Before the day collapses into its drunken cups of grown-up fun, after saying our goodbyes to Daddy. No apology needed.

In the car, the lowering sun chases us all the way down the country lanes. We twist this way and that, singing ‘the wheels on the bus’ like naughty school children let out of class early. Back at the digs, your bedtime routine – often fraught with niggle and complaint – flows like a merry brook, as we babble, two conspiratorial fishes. Before long you’re blinking and yawning, soft warm baby-breath sighs.

Back in the sitting room I have a hot cup of tea. I open my novel. Contentment seeps out of me. I laugh out of luxury, the unexpected pleasures of being here, doing exactly what I like and never let myself do. The rain thrums on the window above me whilst you, my innocent co-conspirator, lie dreaming on the other side of the wall.

 

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