All of a sudden

written Jan ’18

Lying in bed, the image that starts to come to mind is that of tenpin bowling. In my own personal version of not incredibly proficient bowling, the ball drops and rolls slowly towards the end of the aisle: there’s some suspense as we watch it roll. When it finally hits the pins there is a loud clatter, as a number of them fall into each other and hit the floor, and this feels sudden, even though it was expected, even somewhat planned for. The contrast of the predictable rolling and the crash of pins in different directions is immediate, and stark.

I didn’t go in search of this image, but it came to me in relation to how I have felt about having our first baby. Life had been rolling on in its rather ordinary way for some time, with much of our energies going into the demands of our respective jobs and the renovation of our new house – both being projects that never quite come to an end. Once I became pregnant, we knew we were moving towards a big change, but much of this felt unknowable and difficult to imagine until it happened.

I was struck during this time by an awareness that however I felt, and whatever lay ahead, there was no turning back. In an era that celebrates and encourages self-determination, one can change one’s mind about most things. There can be opportunities to retrain, to have a second career, to move to another part of the world or even to find another partner and try again at establishing a mutually satisfying relationship. But my body told me I was now committed: as if I was entering into a new kind of commitment, with a new person who would exist beyond me and my wavering thoughts, even whilst she was inside of me.

This was only confirmed when our little girl was born. What I had expected was a rush of ecstatic joy, the kind that you read about, the kind of feeling that denotes a mother. But what I found myself thinking in those first few weeks was that perhaps I was learning a new definition of love. For me, before I could have that emotional connection, I needed to focus on doing those things that help a person to know they are loved. To begin with, it was all about doing. Getting out of bed, lifting, feeding, cleaning, washing, holding, soothing and singing to her. And it was only by staying close to her while we did all these things that gradually I began to feel something, and could at the same time allow our little girl to get to know who I was. Now, as she lets her little hand rest on my chest as she is feeding, I feel that we have started to get somewhere, that she has begun to trust.

Another Valentine’s Day is approaching, and I wonder what all of this means for my understanding of ‘love’. What am I looking for, now, in this new stage?

There is a thrill in looking forward to days like these which help to mark our shared experiences and relationships. It is a treat to be surprised. But what I am going through at the moment is teaching me, rather than longing for some sign or gesture, to recognise how much I have already been shown love: before I could reciprocate or know what was being done for me. I want to be able to honour these exchanges, which are taking place all around us more frequently than we know.

Birth is a shock, and it takes a while to recover, for everyone involved. But as soon as it happens a new path appears, one that I could never have found on my own. It is impossible to tell where it will lead. But this is where I am reminded of a Sheenagh Pugh poem:

What if this road, that has held no surprises
these many years, decided not to go
home after all;
… What if its tarry skin
were like a long, supple bolt of cloth,
that is shaken and rolled out, and takes
a new shape from the contours beneath?
…. across hills you must climb without knowing
what’s on the other side; who would not hanker
to be going, at all risks? Who wants to know
a story’s end, or where a road will go?



  1. Nikki · February 1, 2019

    As a mum of two girls (8 and 2), these feelings are very familiar. As a word of advice, I’d also say brace yourself for strong feelings at each and every stage. We are on this rollercoaster of parenthood, the highs and the lows… and as you said.. we can’t change our mind and get off!

    Parenhood.. the most challenging of ventures… but also the most rewarding!


    • Grace · February 1, 2019

      I have so much admiration for anyone who has become a parent. 8 and 2, wow! Thank you for sharing this Nikki, much respect x


  2. Angela · February 1, 2019

    You describe my feeling all those years ago. What is the right thing? Am I committed to this relationship? What if it’s all a big mistake? Then to fall pregnant! The time for worrying is past! Time to get ready, and with every confidence!


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