By Cathy Oliver
To my strong legs
Dry bruised skin, unshaved, no time to treat you to creams now. You bend and straighten 500 times a day as I pick up toys, dirty clothes, mushed up food, a heavy child. You run up and down stairs, kneeling to change nappies and clean hard floors.
But my baby laughs when I dance in front of her. She feels safe when I rise and lift her from the floor. She sees the world when I walk with her. She rests on my lap and squeals with joy into my face.
To my dependable arms
Days spent lifting and carrying a two stone child, securing her on one hip, and then the other; managing the added weight of bags, blankets, a pushchair. Nights spent bent into awkward positions as we sleep.
But my baby stops crying as I pick her up. She feels warmth, comfort and love as I cuddle her tightly. She sees new people and places as I take her to them. Her breathing calms as she reaches for me in her sleep.
To my capable hands
Scratched and aching from months of endless carrying, washing, scrubbing, peeling, folding, gripping, lifting and playing. Your skin is rough, in constant contact with cleaning fluids, water and wipes. Your nails are chipped, split, neglected.
But my baby smiles when I wiggle my fingers above her to show her the stars. She laughs as I tickle beneath her chin. She plays excitedly with the food I have prepared. Her skin is clean, smooth, cared for.
To my yielding boobs
Once firm skin now soft, stretched and marked by small seeking, pinching, scratching fingers. You have been squashed, manipulated, infected, engorged, on call through day and night.
But my baby’s eyes roll back in contentment as she suckles. Her cheeks grow pink and chubby as life flows from me to her. She feels close and loved as she listens to my heartbeat; fear, pain, confusion and distress are all settled here.
To my soft belly
Your once taut surface now wobbles like jelly as it stretched to accommodate growing life. Your belly button is widened where muscles tore apart to make room. Now used as a bed, you squash day and night beneath a heavy weight.
But my baby was protected and nourished as she grew; my life blood pumping into her. She naps snuggled against a warm, soft, human pillow. Your changed shape reminds me of the life I brought into the world.
To my back, which aches with spinning, bending, leaning, supporting the weight of two bodies…To my split, grey hairs that are pulled and twisted around little fingers…To my bloodshot eyes, which beam at my baby when they just want to close.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
You have given me everything. I will find time for you again, I promise.