At home after the birth. Two months old. Mark’s mum is with us and we decide to get fish and chips for tea, since none of us have the wherewithal to cook. After a difficult birth I’m just about well enough to get on my bike, so I think – maybe, just maybe I could go and get them. Could I? It’s my first time out the house without him. I feed him right before I leave, so he should be ok for half an hour until I get back. I still worry. I text Mark from the chippie to make sure he’s alright. Just after I leave the house, it starts absolutely chucking it down. I don’t have waterproofs on and get completely soaked. I don’t care. I’m so happy to be out again. To be on my bike again. To be getting rained on again. I feel properly alive.
On holiday in Anglesey. Nearly four months old. Mark has taken Rory down to the nearest village in the sling to buy some stuff for dinner. I go down to the beach, by myself, for forty minutes. I’m the only person there. It’s late afternoon, quiet and breezy and delicious. I take my shoes off and dip my toes in the freezing sea. I walk along the wet, shiny shoreline and look at the horizon. I write ‘I EXIST’ in huge letters in the sand with my foot. I close my eyes and listen to the birds and the waves. Bliss.
Mark’s parents are visiting. Five and a half months old. Finally, I make it out to the hairdressers for the first time since he was born. Two hours. It’s the longest I’ve ever left him awake. I sit in the chair with a conditioning mask on my hair and sip my berry tea and feel like the fucking queen. The woman asks if I want a magazine and I say no thanks. Just doing absolutely nothing feels like the best thing ever. When I cycle home it’s raining again. The novelty of getting rained on has kinda worn off now. My new hair gets a bit wrecked. Oh well.
At my dad’s house. Six and a half months old. My sister looks after him for an hour and I say I’m going to have a stroll down to the meadow. It’s a beautiful summer evening. On a whim, I decide to head over to the hill behind my dad’s house and see if the path I used to love is passable again. For years it wasn’t, after a rainy spell followed by a hot, dry summer, deep holes baked into the earth where the cows had churned up the mud. I figured I’d never be able to walk that way again. But now there’s no trace of it. The path has grown over, or been restored, who knows. It’s easy walking. There are four-foot-high thistles now, though, and huge patches of nettles to pick your way through, that I don’t remember being there before. I begin to feel like I’m walking through a giant metaphor. I carry on up to the top of the hill and look out over the hazy Derbyshire landscape. I see a sheep feeding her lamb and salute her. Here’s to you, sheep mum. I walk back along the road. It’s quiet and I can hear the sound of my own footsteps. It’s strangely comforting.
At home again. Seven months old. We’re going to a wedding on Saturday and I go into town with Mark’s mum to buy Rory an outfit. I spend about half an hour choosing which adorable tiny shirt to buy him, plus a back-up shirt for when he inevitably voms all over it. I pick out a pair of tiny trousers plus a pair of tiny shorts so he’s prepared whatever the weather. Practical things, stuff he’ll wear again. I deliberate over which size to get. I then realise I have given literally no thought to what I’m going to wear to the wedding myself. We go to the next floor of the store and I try on a dress. It’s beautiful. It’s not super expensive. Can I justify buying it? What am I talking about, I just spent nearly this much on baby clothes. I’m buying it.
The next day is today. Mark and his mum have taken Rory out to a storytime session. The house is quiet. I try my dress on again. It needs pinning at the neckline. I dig out a pin badge with a tortoise on that says “self care champion” and use it to pin the dress together. It’s the first time I’ve bought myself something nice and non-mum-related for nearly a year. I stand in front of the mirror twirling like a little girl for about ten minutes. I’m absolutely bloody delighted. Then I open up my laptop and write this. Probably I should be working. But I don’t want to forget these moments, the moments I felt myself waking up a little, remembered that I’m a person, began to inhabit my own existence again. I sift through my memories for them and it’s like panning for gold. I hold the memories up to the light and they sparkle and shimmer. They feel precious. I exist. It’s going to be ok.