One afternoon last week, I was sat on the edge of my bed trying not to be sick when Bridget came in to say hello. I said I was feeling a bit tired because of the medicine, but wasn’t it great there weren’t any more Big Medicine Days (as she calls chemo). ‘Hurray!’ she said. ‘Is all the bad stuff gone from your booby, mummy?’. ‘Yes, all the really bad stuff is gone, but you know I still have to have a little operation to take out a bit of other stuff that shouldn’t be there.’ And then she said, in a serious voice, with her little arms round me: ‘Yes I know, but you don’t have to worry about anyone else, mummy, you just have to worry about yourself.’ She’s four and a half. I tried not to cry. I didn’t know what to say, other than I always worried about her and her little brother, because that’s what mummies do.
I don’t know what goes on inside Bridget’s dark little head, but whatever it is, there’s a lot of it. She’s remarkably eloquent and emotionally intelligent for a Very Small Person. She’s sensitive and empathetic and thoughtful. She’s kind, and loving, and generous. Earwigging on her conversations with Rupert (aged two and a half) is fascinating. She’s bossy and protective, and they absolutely adore each other. I’ve struggled deeply with various aspects of motherhood, but when I hear and watch them together in fits of laughter playing a game that a grown-up couldn’t hope to comprehend, it gives me profound joy that at least I’ve given them the gift of each other.
She’s been quite remarkable throughout my treatment. Sometimes I or someone else will tell or ask her something about what’s going on and she will appear not to have heard if she just doesn’t want to talk about it. But she takes it all in, and seems to be OK with everything. After four chemos of Bridget and Rupert being shipped off to stay with their grandparents so I could recover, she was getting a bit pissed off. She was increasingly clingy and was starting to play her grandmas up, which came as a bit of a shock since they were used to her being a complete angel. So after chemos five and six we all went to stay with them instead, and she calmed down immediately. Sometimes you just need a cuddle from your mummy.
Bridgey tells me a lot that she loves me (mainly To The Moon And Back), that she likes me, that she needs me. She strokes my face when I sing Raggle Taggle Gypsies to her at bedtime. She gets really cross when she doesn’t think I’m listening to her. She has often worked out an argument in her head before asking me something, and I admire her putting her case so much that I’ll say yes even if I was going to say no. She’s full of creative ideas, would quite happily spend all day drawing and making, and gets withdrawal symptoms if she hasn’t been near a pen and paper for a few hours. In the mornings, she wakes early and stays in her room playing quietly and drawing and trying to write. She’s bright, and extremely funny (her one joke: ‘Why did the banana go to the doctor? Because his skin peeled off!’).
In the car last week she said ‘You know you said that when I smile, your heart lights up? Well look, I’m smiling!’ [cue crazy-person fixed grin]. I told her my heart was full of fireworks. Biased as I am, she’s beautiful, with pale skin, brown hair with gold highlights, and grey-blue eyes. And although I’m cautious about labelling the child rather than the behaviour, Bridget is broadly what you would probably call A Good Girl. And she’s quite capable of getting into a bit of a rage, she does know how to press my buttons, and we do lock horns. I am sensing that her teenage years will be an ‘interesting time’ for our relationship. I’ve already started worrying about how quickly she’s growing up, and am trying to work out the best messages about stuff like her body, make-up, and her interest in being a ‘pop star’…
She already seems to have a strong sense of who she is. At school, she’s friendly and will play with anyone and everyone, but hasn’t yet got (and doesn’t seem to need) one, or a group of, ‘best’ friends, and rarely initiates activities. (Outside school, she has two really lovely best friends, one from NCT and one from pre-school). Initially this was interpreted as shyness, as something that Needed Addressing, but her teachers have now worked out that she’s actually more interested in having a good relationship with them. This is very familiar: at school I was part of a number of different friendship groups, but was never in a cosy twosome or foursome, and craved approval and understanding from the teachers I respected (not the shit ones, obviously).
Having said that, I am loathe to say Bridget is ‘like me’. Of course, genetically she’s half me and half her daddy, but while we can spot a number of physical features and personality traits that have come direct from us, I am in awe that she is mostly Herself. A whole new person, very much more than the sum of her parts. And I feel very, very blessed that there is now every chance I’ll get to see her blossom into the amazing woman she will undoubtedly become.