When you learn that you are to become a parent for the first time you know that in doing so you will meet a whole host of new people. For me, it was part of the experience I feared the most. From anti-natal groups to strangers in supermarkets who feel that it is ok to comment on your shape and size whilst sharing pearls of wisdom you never asked for, you are thrust in to a whole new world and social sphere.
And then you come face to face with your own child.
In 2012 I met my daughter for the first time and, (I have said it so many times now that it feels cliched) when I looked down in to her eyes it was as if I had known her my whole life. But it was true.
She was familiar to me. But I began to be faced by so many strangers.
That night in hospital, as the visitors were hastily ushered out, I met someone filled with fear. A pale face at that moment of realisation. The clock ticked and the night moved on as I grew to know them. And in that strange space I began to learn to conform them as I learned to conform my own child. Over the next few weeks I met them again all too frequently in many other places. But I met others too.
I met those I couldn’t imagine existed. Someone patient and calm who, dressed in her pyjamas, paced the floor for hours whilst the baby cried and cried, singing made up songs and whispering words of love. Someone proud and confident who lit up a room as she introduced her precious daughter to the people who had been wishing and waiting to meet her. Someone brave who put aside her own irrational fears to take her shoes off and sit down in the circle to sing out loud and fully immerse herself in the world of other mothers.
But I also met those I had always feared I would meet. Someone silently sobbing in the hallway at 2.30am because they were so tired and didn’t know what else to do. Someone snapping and shouting at the father of my child as he came home from a long day at work just in time to mess up the routine. It is hard for someone like me not to label these people too; weak, mean, angry, controlling, useless.
Over the last two years I have grown to know some of these people so well that it is hard to believe I ever met them for a first time, whilst others have simply become memorable strangers.
This week my daughter hit me. Filled with frustration at unfamiliar emotions her beautiful little face grew red and angry. Hot salty tears streamed down her checks as she screamed and grabbed for my hair as her legs kicked hard at my chest.
And in that moment so many new people joined us. Someone equally frustrated. Someone rational. Someone who felt like a failure. Someone calm. Someone disappointed. Someone sad. Someone still so filled with love.
Another phase and another challenge. Another test of the person those deep little eyes looked up at and knew better than I knew myself. Preparation for the next phase and preparation for the next challenge.
Meeting your child is meeting all the people you could be. And second chances. And opportunities to be better than you were before.