Today I was sitting on a bench at Southbank watching Adiva splash around in the pool. She was playing with one of her imaginary friends named Torque, a sparkly unicorn that is friends with the mermaids at the bottom of the pool. Next to me sits an old woman who is humming. I don’t know the songs she hums but it makes me want to hum too. She reminds me of my time travelling across Greece where old Greek Mama’s stir big pots of eggplant rigatoni in their kitchens in the afternoons, the rich fragrance wafting onto the street – a time before I had kids.
Jedda is asleep, snuggled in the sling. She’s all soft and creamy.
The old woman stops humming. ‘Free spirit isn’t she’, she says through a toothless smile and points towards Adiva.
‘Yes’, I reply, ‘She’s really fun to be around and, to be honest, completely overwhelming at other times. Particularly since this one came along’, I say, gesturing downwards towards Jedda.
‘Yes, motherhood as a way of doing that doesn’t it’, she chuckles.
I nodded in agreement.
She starts humming again and then stops. ‘You see this?’ she said holding out her left hand. Her ring finger was missing, or part of it anyway – down to the second knuckle. ‘It was cut it off nearly 20 years ago now. How it happened doesn’t matter, that’s not important. You lose something and people think it’s tragic, the end of the world, something to turn into a drama. But it’s not. Every time you lose something you find something in return. Might not be what you’re expecting to find, that’s all’.
What did you find? I ask the old woman a few minutes later.
‘Courage’, the woman said with a grunt, ‘that’s not a bad exchange, eh?’
I nod in agreement. ‘Not bad at all’.
What have I lost and found in return?
I immediately think of motherhood. I have often felt a deep heaviness and dare I say it, loss, since becoming a mother. What have I lost? Independence. Freedom. Writing time. Meditation time. Sleep. Control. It often feels like I have a divided heart and an oscillating life. Excited to have a break from the girls, but then I can’t wait to get home to touch and hold them again. Thrilled to have a few moments to write, but spend my time writing about them. Resentment at being woken 2… 3….4 times during the night, but then wanting to etch their drenched luminescent faces in my mind forever as they slide back into sleep. Torn between doing things for them and getting out of their way so they can experience it for themselves.
Adiva calls me from the pool and Jedda wriggles and stirs. I am again summoned to feed, clothe, play, clean, care, love, and nurture them…again and again and again. And in the smalls spaces I have for myself while they are still little and need me lots, I have found ways to meditate in small spaces, write quickly and pragmatically, live without control (alot of the time, and find joy and wonder in a day without much sleep.
Not a bad exchange either, I reckon. And I’m still learning….