I remember when your world was measured by the span of my elbows. Sitting to feed you, your (unexpectedly enormous) downy head resting against one arm of the nursing chair while your (unexpectedly enormous) feet grew, day by day, steadily further round my side on the other.
I remember holding you, rigid, against my shoulder; feeling the air trapped in your (unexpectedly enormous) belly as a physical pain in my own; groaning with sheer relief as it escaped after hours of rocking and swaying and marching up and down the stairs with a dip of the knees just so.
I remember the grateful presence of a new bump to shelf your solid weight against when your early solo encounters with the world proved too much. The wedge of you against me as one arm wrapped you still while the other manoeuvred doors and straps and partings.
You come for cuddles still, your head tucked still beneath my chin, but with your feet, now, planted firmly on the floor. Gone are the days when I can lift you, though not yet those when I can wrap you close and hide your face against me when you need to be out of the world for a while.
I don’t know how to prepare for the days when your arms will outreach mine. For the days, in a few short years, when it will be me pressed to your chest, not the other way round. I don’t know how to believe that your feet will stay firmly on the floor when I can’t be there to check.
It is the strangest thing, to know that I am to be dwarfed by you, while you will stay forever small enough to fill my heart. To hear the snippets that you bring back, as you grow and start to make sense of your life, of a world beyond what we can easily explain and contain for you: “Mummy, the boys in my class think “vagina” is a swear word”; “Mummy, what is a rapist?” and not give in to this urge to enfold you in an embrace that excludes all possible chance of harm; all the inevitable ways in which you have to start to sift and understand and compromise.
I understand now why parents hanker after the early days, that constant presence of a child in the arms, something I thought, while I lived it, couldn’t be completed soon enough. It’s a new kind of love I’m learning; a new way to hold you close without you realising I’m doing it. I can keep you safe still, but I need to teach you how to do it for me when you’re somewhere out of reach. To hold you, always, even when it will be the last thing you want; to keep you wrapped in my arms even when I’m nowhere to be seen.