This Diary of Motherhood is a series of weekly letters to my first baby, my little son who I call Baby Bird. I know not everyone wants to read about the highs and lows of motherhood so you can read non-baby related posts about travel, writing, freelancing or Amsterdam instead. Alternatively read one of my short stories or check out some book reviews and recommendations.
Dear Baby Bird,
You ended your twenty-fifth week on the Earth in the UK. You and I were there on a last minute weekend trip to celebrate your grandmother's birthday and you were surrounded by your family for much of the time we spent there. This proved to be an unending rollercoaster of thrills for you as your wide eyes eagerly watched people moving towards you, picking you up, kissing your cheeks or trying to make you laugh by nuzzling their noses into your stomach. You'd grab hold of my mother's arm as she changed you and when your grandfather took you for a long walk in an attempt to put you to sleep you stubbornly kept your eyes open as you watched your three year old cousin race ahead on his bike.
I can already tell that you are going to spend a lot of time looking up to your cousin. He was the one who first added a new generation to our family and so needless to say he has been showered with love and attention from day one, so much so that I did have some apprehension about how he would react to another little person - you - coming onto the scene. To his absolute credit he has been generous, attentive and not at all territorial. All weekend he would go to you, cup your head with his little hand, stroke your arm or gently rub his nose in your hair. On many occasions he tried to make you laugh, the most successful attempt being when he would simply jump around holding the string to a "Happy Birthday" helium balloon which would bounce up and down above your heads. You giggled at this and leaned towards your big cousin, urging him to keep going, which he did.
It's so hard to imagine what it will look like in a few years when you and he are racing around playing with one another properly, seeing as you're not even able to sit up on your own at the moment. And yet I can see it. I can hear the conspiratorial giggles. I can almost see you holding hands. And I can definitely feel the love and pride and a symphony of other gooey feelings all bursting inside me as you do.
All these thoughts, these imaginings, these hopes for the future must make you wonder why we don't live closer to your cousin and the rest of my family who love you so. Sometimes I find the answer to that question hard to explain too, especially when I have so struggled at times during these last few months. But we didn't just land in Amsterdam accidentally. We didn't just decide on a whim to bring you into the world here. Furthermore, we certainly don't not re-consider regularly whether this is the right place to be a family and to raise you.
Family, on both your mother's and father's sides, is the biggest thing we miss by living in Amsterdam, but we - you! - gain so much. You live in one of the safest places to cycle. You live in one of the most beautiful cities in the world. You live in one of the most culturally rich places on the globe. You live in a country that is frequently quoted as having the happiest children in the world. But perhaps most importantly, you live in a city that makes your mum and dad happy.
As I got teary-eyed walking away from my parents at the airport, an hour before our plane for Amsterdam departed, I wondered for the upteenth time why I was making myself and my parents and many others so sad by living in a different country to them. The answer didn't hit me until we were at the other end, walking through Arrivals at Schiphol and seeing your father standing waiting for us. I approached him and after a quick embrace, I turned so you could see him from your position in the baby carrier strapped to my chest. He looked at you, beaming. You instantly recognised him and as you stared straight into his eyes, neither of you stopped smiling for a minute, maybe more. Then your dad told me to unclip you for his cuddle. As I watched him hold you and kiss your forehead I realised how the three of us - your immediate family - is possibly the most important unit in your life, and for now, we are exactly where we should be; in the city that makes your mother and father happiest, because I'm starting to think that happy parents are arguably the best kind of parent.
It was then that it also hit me how lucky I am to feel sad when we say goodbye. That is proof that you are so greatly loved. Of course, one could argue that one doesn't need to live apart from those you love in order to recognise this, but it is a very healthy and poignant way to be reminded. I now treasure the time I spend with my family (and your father's) so much more because I'm not around them every day. I cherish that rush of love I feel when I see my mother again after a few months, because time apart reminds me how incredibly important she is to me. I value everything my father does for me and my two brothers that little bit more because I have a little distance from which to look at it all. I am so much more aware of how my brothers and their partners rush to you because their time with you is limited.
I'm not really sure what I'm trying to teach you or document from this week, other than, you are loved. So loved. In the UK, in Australia and a handful of places in between, you are loved. And there are memories to be made with all of them as we travel this planet together, and later, I hope, when you're old enough to go on your own journeys.
Your missing-her-own-mother, feeling-incredibly-loved-herself, but-seriously-what-is-up-with-the-persistent-nap-dodging?!?!, crazy-in-love mother x