Dear Little Caterpillar
I thought of you for a long time, way before you were a cell, or an egg or even a twinkle in Daddy’s eye. Way before I knew Daddy.
I dreamed of you when I was young. I imagined you when I was older. I longed for you when I met your dad. You were the goal, the prize, the reason for everything. You were why I studied hard and worked hard and tried to make a success of myself. You were why I gave up treats and saved money in jars, why we pooled all our pennies. You were the reason we bought this house. You were everything we were striving for.
I always knew you would be awesome. I imagined you’d be funny and cute. I hoped you’d look like daddy, and braced myself that you’d look like me. I thought of all the fun we’d have. I imagined giving up work and spending every day just the two of us. I pictured how perfect we would be together, how natural, what a great mum I could be.
When we found out we were having you, that everything was falling into place, you became just a tiny bit more real. I knew which year you’d be born now. I knew when my life would become perfect. We imagined what you’d look like, we scanned books for handsome names. We bought and painted and planned and imagined and dreamed and planned some more.
I’m sorry for that pressure, my sweet boy, I’m so, so sorry.
Finally, suddenly, you were here. You were real. And somehow I wasn’t anymore. I had no idea who I was.
You were gorgeous from that first moment – perfect skin, perfect eyes, a whisper of soft, fine hair. You are more beautiful than any child of mine had any right to be. You were a good baby too; sleeping through the night from 12 weeks, no colic, little sickness, ready smiles for everyone.
You were everything dreams were made of, what my dreams had been made of. And I was in a nightmare.
I was in a hell that wouldn’t stop, a place I couldn’t leave – chained inside the dungeon of my damaged mind, tied up by ropes of scary thoughts. My perfect boy was right beside me and yet I couldn’t get to you, I couldn’t breathe you in, I couldn’t connect us.
It was not perfect like I dreamed. There was nothing natural about my mothering. Life had not fallen into place, there were no sunsets or happy ever afters. This was not the role I thought I had been training for my whole life. I was hopeless and useless and worthless. My dreams were dashed and my heart was broken; shattered and forgotten on the dungeon floor while my mind chuckled, howled and ran the show.
Yet through it all you were there, smiling that beautiful smile that everyone said it was too early for but your eyes told us you meant. You were there, growing more wonderful every day, learning incredible things – just waiting for me, watching me and waiting for me to be what you needed.
You never stopped loving me and needing me, and that saved me, Little Caterpillar. You pulled me back to you with your charm and giggles and unending, patient love.
Slowly, I found you. Wonderful people helped me and I Iearnt how to help myself. As I fell in love with you, slowly and deeply, I began to love the new me too. I fought my way back to you and held you and thought “you’re mine.” And, more importantly perhaps, “I’m yours.”
In three days time you’ll be two years old. Daddy agrees it’s been the longest and shortest two years of our lives. I thought my job was teaching you, raising you, showing you the way but really it’s much more of a two-way street. We are learning together every day. You’re teaching me things I never thought I’d have to learn, things I never even knew existed. Some things are still hard for me, and I’m learning how to accept those shortcomings. I’ll never be a stay at home mum, that will never be enough to stimulate me and those two days a week at work freshen me up for you. I’ll never be the sort of mum for whom imaginative play comes naturally. I’ll never be a mum who never shouts but I’m trying and getting better. I’ll never be able to not care when you’re having a tantrum in the shopping centre. I’ll never not feel a little awkward when you want to play with cars or bricks and I sit there, panic and draw a blank. But we colour and we paint and we sing (my God, do we sing?!). I share my love of stories and we read books together all day. I cook you yummy dinners and could cuddle you for hours. I don’t need to be the mum I imagined…I simply need to be me.
I don’t have to be a perfect mummy I just have to be your mummy and give you the very best of what I have. That’s a simple lesson but it’s taken me two years and counting to learn it. With your help.
At two your personality is shining through at every moment. You are so damn funny, and cheeky and brilliant. Nanny and Grandad say you remind them of me and that makes me smile so widely. You make me laugh every day, and you also make me shout and sometimes cry and I’m learning to get used to that too. The bond I couldn’t find for those first few months has been unearthed and grows more and more unbreakable.
I’m still adjusting, I feel like I always will be. Motherhood is a fluid process, a learning curve – not a destination like I planned. I still wonder who I am. I still have to remind myself I’m a mum. I have to pinch myself that this darling little boy is mine.
Absolutely nothing about this experience has been how I imagined, or even hoped…except how truly awesome, amazing and lovable you are.
Happy birthday, Little Caterpillar. Here’s to another year of growing, for both of us.