Skin to Skin

It had to be skin to skin. She’d read the books, attended the classes and watched hours of birthing programs on cable television. She’d become slightly unhinged in the process, the horror stories of others were collecting on the shelves of her brain. She was away from home and untrusting because of it.

“Whatever you do, don’t let them take the baby away” her girlfriend had sat in her hospital room for 24 hours post birth with nothing to show for it. The nurses had told her to rest in broken English, unable to fathom her distress.

“They’ll feed your baby a bottle in the nursery even if you insist they don’t” she’d heard it more than once.

It had to be skin to skin – the moment they were born, however they arrived, it had to be skin to skin. She’d insisted.

In those rushed moments each child had been placed gently and encouraged to suckle, she’d cried each time in wonder of how instantly everything changed.

What she hadn’t realised was the lack of urgency, there would so much time for skin in those initial years. She would spend hours with a child on her breast, holding a baby in her arms. She would carry a toddler over her shoulder and lay in their bed, side by side telling stories. Hair would be brushed, feet tickled, tummy’s rubbed with cream. She knew their skin as well as she knew her own.

As time moved on distance came between them. First days of school were ended with hugs which lasted for minutes. “You’re such a big girl now” people would say “so independent”. They continued to touch, their skin side by side at sports practice, in the car. She wiped her tears, held her hand, kissed her cheek.

Time now raced, and distance caused her skin to ache. A treat for a teen, a bed with a desk underneath meant that bedtime involved a ladder. She blew her kisses, timed her hugs, and willed herself not to stroke a cheek in front of friends knowing it would not be well received. She requested a hug, and stayed calm when spontaneity was the result of affection. She knew she was loved but it was different now, not everything could be solved with a kiss to make it better.

She lay in bed in the middle of the night when a small figure cast a shadow by her side. Her youngest, her baby. “Can I get into bed with you Mummy?” his head had hit the pillow before he’d finished his sentence. They lay together, arms entwined, she kissed the top of his head and wondered how much longer it would be before he stopped his midnight pilgrimage.

“Skin to skin” she whispered into his ear.

“Skin to skin” he said faintly before falling asleep.

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