It’s almost enough to make me want to have more…

by Julie Alpine-Crabtree

imgresFor years, her arms had ached with longing. It was a self-indulgence she didn’t often permit herself, but sometimes she would sit in a chair, her eyes closed, her arms crossed against her breast, and she would imagine holding a small baby there – its trusting warmth against her body, its tiny head smelling of milk and talcum powder, its skin softer than flower petals. She had watched other women with infants and eventually understood what she craved: the boundless permission – no, the absolute necessity – to hold and kiss and stroke this tiny person. Cradling a swaddled infant in their arms, mothers would distractedly touch their lips to their babies’ foreheads. Passing their toddlers in a hall, mothers would tousle their hair or even sweep them up in their arms and kiss them hard along their chins and necks until the children squealed with glee. Where else in life, Mabel wondered, could a woman love so openly and with such abandon?

Eowyn Ivey, The Snow Child

Maybe it’s because it’s cold outside. Or because I’ve finally started working away from home, three mornings a week, on my writing, rediscovering a sense of self, the absence of which has been gnawing at me. The joy and wonder of losing myself in work that is not a mother’s work, of looking up occasionally from my spot on the sixth floor of the Royal Festival Hall, seeing the winter sun glittering on the Thames.

With perspective comes a new appreciation of my children. Of children in general. Catching sight of a baby in a buggy outside Waterloo Station, rosy-cheeked and wide-eyed, in a knitted Fair Isle hat with ear flaps, my heart swells, and there’s a pang, an awareness that my babies are no longer babies. I used to believe it wasn’t possible for me to love a child any more than I loved a kitten. And then I had my son. And my daughter.

Its prose as delicate as the first snowflakes of the year, its celebration of parenthood as powerful as the Alaskan wilderness in which it is set, Eowyn Ivey’s The Snow Child found me at the perfect time. The words quoted above struck me in a way that was both visceral and profound. Re-reading them now makes me want to scoop my children in my arms, run my fingers through their hair, shower them in kisses.

Of course, it’s easy to feel this way when my kids are a 40-minute train ride away in our new home in Teddington, safe and sound with their father. And is it just me, or do we all love our kids just that little bit harder when we catch sight of them asleep, arms flung above their heads, the epitome of peace?

Still, that pang on glimpsing someone else’s rosy-cheeked baby is something I’ll have to get used to, as I watch my own two grow. Because truly, whether we’re talking about a kitten, a fledgling novel or our own flesh-and-blood offspring, what’s not to like about loving with abandon?