We have just moved into a new house. I wrote the above on the wall in the murky depths of the cupboard under the stairs just before we left. We lived in our last house for three years. It doesn’t sound long, but in that time I grew a baby, birthed a baby and raised a toddler, so it feels like we lived there for a lifetime. We outgrew the house pretty quickly, or at least felt like we had, and so it soon felt time to leave. We have a new home now, and moving day was pretty rushed, so it didn’t feel like we were really able to say goodbye to the house that was our home for those three wonderful years.
It was in that bathroom, that beautiful bathroom, where I first peed on the stick. Our spare room already transforming into a nursery in my mind. And that bathroom would become my home for the next nine months, the first few spent with my head in the toilet. Then later, as the aches and pains of pregnancy appeared, I would spend hours in the bath, listening to Ben Folds’ Gracie on repeat, and just feeling completely and utterly overwhelmed. I was in the bath when I listened to a Woman’s Hour special about birth, and sobbed along as I listened to parents, old and new, reflecting on their first nights with their new babies. One man spoke of toasting to the new baby with a glass of champagne, snugggled up with their new baby after a homebirth, and I so hoped that would be me.
I could think of no better place to give birth, that that little house we called home. And so, sometime around 4am on a cold morning one January, a midwife knocked upon our door. She came in, quietly, and busied herself lighting candles and turning off lights. A few hours later, we welcomed our baby girl, born in our living room at home. I have spent many hours sitting in that same spot, remembering the first time I held my newborn baby, terrified that I would drop her.
For the next few months, I spent hours cuddled up with her in the living room. Feeding, cuddling and watching TV, letting the hours fly by as we got to know each other. I must have climbed those narrow stairs thousands of times in search of clean nappies and a change of clothes.
As she grew older, our hardwood floors were covered in cover upon cover, so terrified was I that she would bang her precious head. The living room was a sea of blankets, against the shore of a cushioned fire hearth. I watched her roll, then sit, then crawl, all within the confines of the padded universe I had created for her.
The months passed quickly, and as she grew older still, the dining room because the lab where she would experiment with new foods. The floor was often multicoloured, painted in tomato sauces, blackberries and soya yoghurt.
The fireplace was secondhand, rehomed from a couple putting in a wood burning stove. The surround still held the nails on which they had hung their childrens’ Christmas stockings. As her first Christmas approached, I made her a Christmas stocking of her own to hang upon those same nails.
She took her first steps across that living room, confidently striding forwards after months of careful planning and practice from the safety of the sofa. The stairs I couldn’t climb up after giving birth, too exhausted from the exertion, soon became the stairs she wanted to climb herself. I would stand below her, always watching, as she stumbled shakily from step to step. She fell twice, of course, always into my waiting arms, treasuring her independence.
The spare bedroom we used for friends when we first moved it, soon became a nursery. Painted and furnished by the end of the pregnancy, with a beautiful white cot waiting for a baby to cradle. And yet, she slept with us every single night, usually between us, switching sides to cuddle each of us in turn as she slept. From the tiny newborn resting beside me, to the strong willed toddler pulling me out of bed to play jigsaws at 5am.
The garden, always my least favourite spot in the house, was beautiful with her in it. Two summers of paddling pools, with her pottering about with her swimming costume on, rescuing drowning flies from her pool. The cold, wet days spent sliding through the mud in a rainsuit, and digging in the earth with a plastic spade.
And that street. The one I walked down so many times with my newborn baby wrapped tightly in a sling, sleeping on my chest as we set off on another adventure. The street she toddled down when she first learned to walk, excitedly chasing the neighbourhood cats in a desperate (and usually unsuccessful) attempt to stroke them. And the street she walk down confidently, stopping by the road to wait for my hand, as we strolled to the shop for whatever it was she had demanded that day.
I love our new house, and I do not miss sitting in a small house filled with toys, but it was hard to say goodbye to the home where my daughter was born. And the home she found her footing in, the home where I became a mother.