The day we met
It was a haze of hospital beds, nurses and bleeping machines when suddenly you were here, with that first exhilarating cry. I reached out and you wrapped your tiny hand round my finger and held on tight. Exhausted and euphoric, I gazed down in awe at the beauty of your hand and the five perfect fingers with minute fingernails that I had created. Little warm fingers curled round mine as if to say I’m here and I know you’re here too. You were the one who made me a mama. My beautiful baby girl.
Weary and spent from our busy first days at home, the quietest and most magical moments were those when it was just you and I, holding hands in the small hours of the night. The rest of the world was sleeping and together we were wrapped in our cocoon. The only sounds were the night time noises of the house and the sweet sound of your breath as your tiny chest rose and fell softly. Your warm body sank deeper into my embrace. When I lowered you into your basket I had to gently uncurl those small fingers that were still wrapped round mine, even as you dreamed. To let go was almost too hard.
As you grew
As a toddler we went on so many adventures together, finding tiny caterpillars on hedges, watching leaves fall from the trees, jumping in puddles. Throughout them all your pudgy hands held tightly onto mine. Small warm hands. Sticky hands. Cold hands on chilly days seeking warmth. Nervous hands that I would squeeze as you bravely made your way into playgroup. Even on cross days and wrong days we would always hold hands at the end of each of them and let all the grumpiness and tiredness of the day go.
Together we’ve taken on so many adventures. Two explorers discovering the world through your eyes. Sometimes you’d run ahead, pulling me along as your excitement soared when you saw the swings in the park or the first summer view of the sea. Sometimes our hands were held tightly together, tethering us close as you shied away from a dog that went by and made you nervous or as you slunk shyly by my side.
When you were three I sat by your bedside as we waited in hospital for your first operation. One hand clutched your soft toy Rabbit, the other grasped my hand just a little too tightly. We spoke with little squeezes and by strokes both reassuring each other that things would be OK. As the doctors put you to sleep I held on tighter still, not wanting to let go. Of course I had to. But feeling your fingers leave mine hurt my heart. As the nurse kindly guided me from the room every fibre of my being screamed out at me to run back and grab your hand so, even unconscious you would feel that I was there, by your side, where I am always supposed to be, holding your hand in mine and protecting you from hurt and pain.
You grew and your pudgy sticky warm paws changed into agile dexterous hands that learned how to hold a crayon, to pull on your shoes, to do up your buttons. And soon, too soon, came the time to wave you off to start a whole new adventure at school. You strode excitedly and boldly into the playground. But as we stood in the line waiting for you to go into the classroom your hand quietly found mine. So many things were said without words as we pressed our hands close and prepared for the bravery this next step asked of both of us.
You strode away from me, finding your feet and making your own way more and more into the world. Those hands found mine less and less. My place was no longer by your side but at the sidelines listening to chatter and giggles from behind closed doors. Weeks, months and years went by when I didn’t hold your hand. Sometimes I tried, but you shrugged me off wanting to stride out on your own and stake your independence.
I stole hugs when I could. Even when you grew taller than me and didn’t fold easily into my embrace. You let go too soon, needing to create space between you and your embarrassing mama.
But on that momentous day when I drove you to your university to begin another new chapter of your life, as we said goodbye, your hand reached out once again to hold mine. We squeezed each other’s hands and tried not to let our tears flow. As your hand grasped mine all the ingrained memories of our hands holding each other flooded back and played out before me like a film. From that first finger grasp to the sticky toddler hands to this one cherished handhold with my beautiful grown up daughter saying goodbye.
But it’s not goodbye. Because I’ll always be by your side as you make your way through life. I’ll always be there to hold your hand, whenever you need it most.
Quite simply – you’re my favourite hand to hold.