Bubba woke fairly frequently overnight. That alone is not unusual, Joan will often rouse for a cuddle and feed, but what was different were her cries. Each time my little possum would wake, she’d cry out in discomfort. She’d wriggle and reach for me to make it better, then cry some more because it wasn’t. I did as best I could, rocking and feeding and singing, stroking her hair, her back, her tummy, her feet… and she’d settle after a short while, but it was disruptive and hard on all of us. Nights like that are uncommon, so when it happens we all feel it.
Ben’s alarm went off at 5:20am but I was already awake and had been for some time. When he left at 6am I was still awake, listening to his morning routine – putting on shoes, grabbing keys, flicking the light and closing the door. Joan cried again at that point and I wondered if he’d come back in to check on us, but he was already gone. The sound of his car starting confirmed that I wouldn’t see him until this evening and it was up to me to make our babe feel better. Joan had finally resettled on her tummy and was sighing contentedly. I repositioned myself to make sure that if I did fall asleep and she woke before me, she’d would reach a pillow mountain and not the edge of the bed, and then I hugged her close and tight. I didn’t nod off completely, rather I found myself in a daze; thinking about Joan and wondering what was bothering my sweetheart; thinking about my client scheduled for that afternoon and how much I’m enjoying connecting with these women and playing a part in their journey towards feeling good and healthy and strong; thinking about my friend who very recently lost her father, and then inevitably thinking about my own father. My heart has been thumping loud all week from this loss and the knowledge of what my friend, who I have known since I was Joan’s age, is going through.
And so I lay there, rubbing Joan’s back with one hand and thinking that stream of thoughts. I text mum “Has Dad been exercising?” and text Ben, “She’s sleeping and snug”. My eyes and head felt heavy from a night of light, broken sleep and I dazed and dozed some more. And then, out of nowhere a melody came to me. A piece of music that I hadn’t listened to for ten months, since Joan was born. It gushed about it my head so clear and bright that I quite literally gasped out loud and looked to see if I had woken Joan. Bach’s Cello Suite No.1, the prelude. Towards the end of my pregnancy I would listen to this stunning melody on repeat as I lay upside down, massaging my belly and visualising Joan moving head down to the ideal position for birth. Bubba was breech for as long as we could tell, and I spent a lot of time inverted with my head down and belly up, laying in the bath with peas on her head, doing handstands in a pool, walking walking walking, and listening to this beautiful music. Clearly it didn’t work, Joan came out in spectacular fashion, bottom first, but I fell in love with this melody and I think she did too. Later that morning while she napped, I sat down with a cup of coffee and wrote my heart out. Bach’s Cello Suite was on repeat and when she woke I brought her into the living room where it was playing and she stopped and stared at me. Joan looked deep into my eyes and listened with this intense look on her face, and it made me feel like she knew, like she recognised it and knew. It was a hauntingly beautiful moment.
I don’t know why that music came to me then. I had not listened to it nor thought about it since she arrived and everything changed, yet into my head it came so clearly, throwing me back into my before world. Into a world that we cannot quite remember, that feels fuzzy in my mind because we are so completely enveloped in our present. But as I lay there, the melody loud and magnificent in my head, I remembered what it was like to not have her here. To have her in my belly and my heart but not be able to hold her. I gasped again. For my sleepy, emotional self, it was a bit much. But she is here, and I can hold her. I can show her the world and watch her explore. I can rock and comfort her and make it better. I can play her melodies and watch her listen, and she can look into my eyes and watch me cry and hear me say that I will always be there to comfort her, to encourage her and love her. And when there comes a time that I am not here, she will remember and she will know.