I never had that rush of love in the hospital when Oscar was born. The feeling everyone tells you about. That sudden lightening bolt of realisation that this is what life is all about and has been all along. No, I never got that.
Although it’s not something I’ve discussed before, the truth is, I spent so much of my pregnancy convinced the embryo, then the foetus, then the baby wouldn’t make it into this world, that when he did, all I felt was relief. I spent so long preparing for him not to arrive that when he did it was hard to reconcile that fact.
His earliest days in the hospital were harder than I ever imagined and being immobilised and traumatised by an emergency c-section, meant every ounce of energy I had was spent on just getting through the next minute. I don’t remember ever feeling love in those early days.
The first time I remember feeling anything close to the ‘rush of love’ people talk about was about three weeks later. It was the middle of the night. I guess he’d just been fed. Ben was asleep and I had just laid Oscar down in my crossed legs where he promptly fell fast asleep, something he wasn’t overly keen to do in the Moses Basket that night. It made me chuckle and I looked down to take a photo of the cheeky sleep thief lying there in my legs and boom! I realised I loved him.
Fast forward (because it really has been fast) to today, four and a half years later. Today I am preparing for tomorrow; his first day at primary school. I have his uniform all ready. Everything is labelled, I just need to wash his coat and pack his bag. Ben has a couple of trouser hems to take up and then we’re ready. Only of course we’re not.
I thought I was. Summer has been hard and to be honest I’ve been ready to let someone else help with the effort of raising an autistic child for a while now. But turns out today I can’t stop crying. Big gulping sobs. All I can think about is my baby. The difficult, confusing, terrifying, baffling baby and wondering where did he go? The pain is visceral and I have wondered today whether this is why people have more than one child? To delay having to feeling this sadness? To know that’s it for them? That parenting a baby, a toddler is over? Maybe not. But right now it seems like as good a reason as any.
I’m writing this on his bed. Looking round his room that still has vestiges of the nursery it once was. The pirate decal, the baby swimming certificates, the shelf where we kept nappies and wipes and nappy sacks. This room could do with a refresh I know that. Some things have already gone. The cotbed, the rocking chair, the changing mat. But I just can’t bring myself to change everything just yet.
Anyway, tomorrow. Despite being registered for transport, we’ll be taking him ourselves on his first day. I want to be there, to be able to reassure him. Hell, I want to stand by his side all day and make sure everyone understands who he is and what he wants. But I can’t. They will have to learn. Just as I did.
This is not a letter to my son on the eve of his education journey. It’s not an essay to discuss the benefits or downfalls of children starting school at this age. Its not about how I’m not ready to let him start moving away from me, or how frightened I am for him, an autistic child, making his way in a world that wont always understand him. I mean it’s a bit of all of things, but really it’s just a mummy,whose relationship with her son has never been easy, confessing how much she loves him.
And from three weeks old, always has.