At this time, four years ago, I was well on my way to becoming a mother. My labour, which had grumbled away all day, had seriously ramped up, and by this point I was in the birthing pool. During contractions I was off the wall, riding the incredible storm that is labour, feeling that isolation that is so hard to describe – nobody can reach me here… nobody can help me here. Defying all expectations (mainly my own) I was a good way into what would turn out to be a natural, drug-free birth, and the contractions and hours rolled into one another as the night of the 29th passed, and slipped into the morning of the 30th, when my big little 9lb 7.5oz baby boy was delivered into my arms.
Before labour, people tell you that you lose track of time and it's hard to imagine that that is possible while experiencing the worst pain of your life, but when you are in that place, something really freaky does happen to time, in my experience. I tried to describe what was going on to my husband, whilst in the midst of it all, but in my confusion the best explanation I could come out with was: 'That clock has changed an hour since an hour ago!' which didn't make much sense. During both labours, I became enveloped in a sort of fog, and time took on a strange pace of its own where a minute-long contraction seemed like an unendurable eternity, but where it also seemed like several hours filled with these minutes had whizzed by without me even noticing.
I don't feel like I've ever really come out of this. I've just turned around, and my tiny baby boy, warm and new, crying creakily in my arms and flailing his fat little fists, is about to turn four years old.
That infant who could not hold up his own head, or control the jerky motions of his own limbs can now run and swim and ride a bike. My wordless, wailing, snuffling baby talks and laughs non-stop from morning to night, can read simple words and can write his own name. From depending on my body for the most basic of sustenance, this tall boy can now raid the fridge, help himself to a couple of cups from the cupboard, stand on a step, work the taps and provide snacks and drinks for himself and his little sister. In just four years, he's gone from 9lb 7.5oz in my arms, to 35lbs, long arms wrapped around me when I go in to give him a goodnight kiss.
Like labour, some of the times during those four years seemed long. Especially the ones in the middle of the night when I was either begging for sleep from a sleepless baby or fighting sleep while I sat next the cot of a poorly toddler, watching him breathe.
Some of the times seemed long because they were so especially beautiful that I seized them and looked at them and relished them. Like the night he took his first steps, towards my mum on her 60th birthday – his face alight with the joy of this amazing feat he was performing. The first time he said 'Luff oo Mummy' and smiled up at me. Singing 'cwinkle cwinkle ittoo tar' with all of the actions for the first time. And so many other times - some that were nothing more than reading a story together or jumping in a muddy puddle in welly boots, that I remembered to stop and grasp and savour.
Four seems like quite a grown up age – the first age that's a boy age not a babyish age, and I've been feeling a little misty about that. Tonight when I was putting Arran to bed I said to him, "When you go to sleep tonight, you'll be three, but when you wake up in the morning, you'll be four!"
He replied, "Do you not want me to be four?" catching me completely off guard. Perhaps some of my reticence about my little boy growing up had unconsciously been transmitted to him.
"Of course I do!" I reassured, "Being four is fantastic and you're going to do so many things when you're four!"
And I do. I want him to be four and five and six and twenty and forty and a hundred. I want him to grow and learn and thrive and experience every joy. As much as I feel a pang about him growing up, I also feel beyond grateful for a healthy, growing boy. My very own healthy, growing boy. I just need to make sure that from the midst of this blur of time I find myself in, I take the time to notice and consciously enjoy as many of the minutes and hours and days as possible, as they pass.