Ever since I had a baby – subjecting all my organs and muscles to the torture of being squeezed out of position and forced south by the creature that took up residence inside me, though this eventually turned out to be a rather lovely human called Amelie Abigail Hope! – I have foregone the luxury of an unbroken night’s sleep. This was for some time because of the aforementioned human baby and her need for milk, snuggles, nappy changes, burping, rescued cuddly animals, temperature adjustments to her room, bedding or clothing… or just plain and simple motherly presence due to illness, a bad dream, a worrying thought, an early wake, or something she just HAD to tell me. But this is rarely the reason any longer. She has always been a good sleeper, in fact, and now, at 6 ½, hardly ever wakes up until a decent hour, and is sensible and kind enough not to wake us up if the hour happens to still be ungodly. No, now that I COULD get an unbroken night of sleep, it’s my sorry excuse for a bladder that wakes me up in the early hours of the morning demanding to be emptied NOW! So although it is not technically my motherly duties and joys that get me out of bed, this is, for me at least, one of those strange and lingering symptoms of motherhood. Like stretch marks and checking whether anyone needs a pee before we leave the house. Because I always do. And I always do during the night as well, whether I’ve drunk gallons of water or limited myself to a thimbleful all day.
So yesterday morning, right on the bell at about 4am, I was awoken by both bladder discomfort and inexplicable hip pain. As I stumbled to the bathroom I reached for my hurting hip and found, stuck to it, a round, bright pink, fake jewel of the sort that is indispensable for little girl craft projects. Even once removed, it left an interesting imprint on my skin that looked as if I might have received some kind of alien implant during my sleep (maybe THAT’S how those creatures take up residence in the first place!). I crept back to bed, still in the habit of making every effort not to wake the sleeping child, and decided in my half-delirious state that I should take this jewel as some sort of gift or sign. I mean, my bladder and sleep cycles and stomach muscles may be shot. But motherhood, with all its challenges and utterly unbearable moments, is still the gift of a lifetime, and brings me more life and joy than I ever expected. I can live with those first few wiry, grey hairs, because they come with a warm little hand to stroke them, and a budding fashion expert (who should be asleep already) to call down, as Jeremy and I prepare to go out on a date, that my outfit would look better with a ponytail. And I can also learn to live with all those extra lines and bumps on my hips because, well, I get to wear jewels on them too!