How funny that 'Cerebral Palsy Awareness Day' this year should fall on the same weekend as Mother's Day, since really the two are interchangeable for me. I would like to say that Cerebral palsy has not defined my experiences of motherhood but of course that would be a lie. It has infiltrated every part of my life as a mum from the very moment Elin didn't take that first breath.
I have sometimes felt that Cerebral palsy has stolen from me all that being a mum should be: that sometimes, I feel more like a nurse; that in the darker times of the past eight years I have wondered if Elin even truly knows who I am. Would she mind if I wasn't around? Are we bonded properly like other mummys and their daughters? My biggest fear is that would anybody offering a cuddle and being a diligent carer for her elicit the same responses from her that she greets me with?
Deep down though, when I'm not feeling so irrational, I know the truth is that the bond I've been so fearful about kicked in as soon as the second line popped up on my pregnancy test. That the first time I saw her, despite the tubes and the wires and the grim predictions hanging over us in the silent intensive care unit, I felt it like a wrecking ball smashing through my heart and the feeling has never left, regardless of what I thought we were missing out on together. To torture myself with thoughts of what motherhood should have been is to betray what I do share with Elin. To grieve for what never was and what can never be is not only doing nobody any good, but it demeans my relationship with her and suggests the absence of a strong bond which is very definitely there. It's true I don't enjoy the same relationship with Elin that most of my friends do with their children. I don't know the joy of first words, or first steps or anything that comes with the more 'ordinary' experience. The young children of my friends and family will, when they see me, run up and throw their arms around me. It's a lovely feeling to know someone is pleased to see you and to feel this little chubby fingers dig into your neck. But the irony is not lost on me that I have never shared such a greeting with my own daughter. Such realisations still sting, but with time I have learned to accept my own experience of being a mum for what it is.
But not less.
Not ordinary, but extra-ordinary. Because when you strip motherhood right down, what else does it mean other than love, instinct - and to quote a Diana Ross lyric- 'two hearts that beat as one?' I feel a bit lost when Elin isn't with me, like an actual physical ache. The only thing that makes the nagging anxiety in my stomach disappear during these times is Elin's smile. As soon as I see her face, it's like a weight is lifted and I can relax again. In turn Elin will swivel her head for my voice and break out into a huge grin as soon as she hears me. It feels a little like we are two halves of a whole. Like one of those necklaces from Tammy Girl everyone in school used to have- the heart broken in two with 'Best' on one side and 'Friend' on the other. Not whole until they are placed together. Yin and Yang. Elin is the best to my friend and always will be. 'My Endless Love'. I need to stop torturing myself because I know she thinks the same. Not because she can say it, or show it, or make me a card or run at me and throw her arms around my neck after school.
Because I feel it.
Have a Happy Mother's Day, folks.