As your tiny body weighs against mine, your breathing fast and uneven, muscles tense and the heat of your fever quickly permeating through to my skin, my heart sinks.
As a parent I think it hurts you more when your children are ill than it does them. I’d do anything within my power to take the pain for you, but all I can do is comfort, love and dose you up with appropriate medicine.
But that heart sinking is also, selfishly, on my own behalf. Another night of broken sleep, snatching catnaps between cuddle duties, is on the cards. And I’m already so very tired from the last four nights of similar scenarios.
I will have to wake up tomorrow and be the best Mum I can be to you and your sister, but my eyes are burning with the need to be closed. My muscles aching from holding you tight and from the lack of sleep. I would hold you for the next year if you needed me, but there’s no denying that it takes it’s toll.
But it’s in the next moment that I also realise how lucky I am. I’m still in that snapshot of time with both of you girls where your little bodies fit on my lap. Where you want to cuddle, and get upset if I can’t immediately pick you up. Where you need me to look after you, comfort you and console you. Where I am the person you come to first and where you love and trust me unconditionally.
Gradually your breathing slows, your limbs relax and you weigh heavier against me. And the conflict in me about this moment sums up the paradox of this stage of motherhood succinctly.
I could probably now put you back to bed. You will likely stay asleep until the next wave of pain or fever wakes you. And I want to get in my own bed and sleep so much it hurts.
But I also don’t want to put you down. I know this won’t last forever. You won’t always want my hugs. You won’t always turn to me to relieve your pain. I’m sure there will come a time when I don’t even know that you are in pain sometimes.
So I want to drink in this moment. To imprint it on my memory. The feeling, the sounds, the smells. Your dad’s just gone to bed and turned off all the lights so there are no sights more than dark shapes of furniture and toys. I want to always remember this bond. I want to hold onto it as long as I possibly can without smothering you.
And there it is. That paradox of parenting. Being a parent in the early years (and doubtless as you grow older but I’ve no experience of that yet) is tough. It’s tiring, worrying, all consuming, frustrating.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s also lovely, amazing, wonderful, and all of those happy emotions too, but it’s always full on – good or bad. And sometimes all you want is a break. Some time to relax, be calm and be you.
Yet on the odd occasion that you may get that sacred break, you immediately miss them like crazy. What if they do something new, say a new word, master a new skill, and you miss it? What if they need you, and you’re not there? What if they don’t need you at all?
I don’t want to miss a moment of either of you. Even the really awful tantrums, because I want to be there to hold you tight when you calm down and need comfort.
I don’t ever want these cuddles to end. These times that I can soothe you and make you feel loved, secure and a little bit better.
But my goodness, am I tired.