There was a moment when I knew, beyond any doubt, what it meant to be your mother.
But it wasn’t the day you were born.
It wasn’t the first time I knew about you, even – a long-awaited pink line forming in front of my eyes as I sat, perched on the edge of the cold bath, waiting.
It wasn’t the first time I felt you kick – a flutter I barely registered, but instantly recognised. Nor was it the first time I saw you move inside me, your tiny limbs tracing shapes on my stomach.
It wasn’t the first time I listened to your heartbeat – a great underwater whoosh that filled the room as though it were flooding.
It wasn’t the day you were born: a screaming, wailing bundle of noise that left us all in silent awe. Or when you first dozed on my chest, your tiny head nuzzled into my neck – your nose pressed to my skin.
It wasn’t any of the nights I spent pacing your room, wearing a circular path into the carpet, willing you to settle. Or the days I drove you round the streets in loops until your eyes were finally heavy with sleep.
It wasn’t the first time you rolled, or sat up, or crawled – a willing performer to an enthusiastic audience clapping and cheering you with every new skill acquired.
It wasn’t any of those.
It was the day I saw her.
Another mum. Another child. Another life unfolding in front of me.
She was holding her own son’s hand as he tottered along the pavement – slow, wobbly baby steps that mirrored yours. The rain started – a shower that quickly became a downpour. They weren’t dressed for it, and she began to sweep him up into her arms, to run the rest of the way before the two of them got soaked. But he cried and wriggled his way back down to the floor, defiant, in the way only a toddler can be.
And she sighed.
And she smiled.
And she opened an umbrella and held it over his head. And they walked the rest of the way together, her soaked to the skin, and him oblivious to the deluge he was being sheltered from, happy in his ignorance.
And that’s when I knew. I knew I’d spend the rest of my life trying my best to be your shelter, whatever the weather.
And that – whenever you need me – I’ll be there, umbrella in hand.