And in the blink of an eye, I have a seven month old baby.
A few months ago, I did the pregnancy test in my old flat in Chorlton. I remember being happy, terrified and hyperventilating, crouched on the scratched wooden boards of the hallway.
Weeks ago we were going to the hospital for scans, eating lunch after each appointment in the Whitworth Gallery Cafe or Gemini greasy spoon. Then the pandemic hit, and the fetus kicked. New terror and new love, hand in hand.
Days ago it was summer, I was huge and hopeful, pausing in my slow walks when Braxton Hicks set in or gasping while cycling as my baby’s head settled into my pelvis.
Then she arrived in a mess of hospital bureaucracy, a selection box of brilliant and baleful midwives, and a traumatic birth that I am still unpacking.
Minutes ago, she was tiny and helpless. Eyes and hands not yet doing what eyes and hands are designed to do. A grub, full of soul, but with little personality beyond needing milk… plus everything else you have to give.
It’s been seven months, but it feels like hours and minutes. They say that babies are sleep thieves, and they are, but mine has compressed and contorted time in a way that can only be explained by magic.
Or seven solid months of sleep deprivation.
Before she arrived, I joked that audax had prepared me for motherhood. It does and doesn’t, in the way that every experience prepares you for every other experience, similar and different. I do think being absolutely and profoundly fucked, and then keeping going anyway is a learnt skill. Audax and parenthood are a crash course in both.
Lond distance cycling is also a lesson in sunk costs and knowing the price of giving up. Like parenthood. For a moment, a week in, I thought I couldn’t do it. How could I be trusted with this little human life? But another moment to consider the consequences, and that idea was quashed and I battled on with the task at hand. I can’t count the moments snatched to look at train station locations and hotel prices, to then push the thought away and keep on going.
Both require you to do the bare minimum, as effectively as possible. Eating enough (or more) to function, and scraping by with what sleep, rest and comfort is within reach or budget.
Being alone late at night, whatever you are doing, is lonely. When you are inside that bubble of reality, the realm created by a bicycle light in a dark lane or that cast by a nightlight in a quiet bedroom, it is everything and always. Everlasting, and then ending in a blink. I think back to the long mad dark hours of long-distance riding, and they were no more than a microsecond of my life. I project forward to my new life, years of nights caring for my daughter, and it is an eternity. Welcome, but daunting.
This thing is like this other thing, but also not at all.