I wanted to write this letter to you today because this is a big day for us all, I think.
I remember when I first told you I was pregnant. I was 23 years-old, and I felt about 15 in that moment. I was so desperate for your approval and so desperate to tell you because, in truth, I needed my mum.
I was terrified. I’m sure you’ll remember. Not because of your reaction. But because I was 23 years-old. And I hadn’t planned to become a mother so soon. I was worried because my heart was already in love with this baby, but I didn’t know what to do. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to afford to be a mother. I was worried I’d lose my house. I was worried that I wasn’t married. That maybe I might have let you down.
In the end, I exploded at you and dad, in tears. And I’ll never forget what you said to me:
“Charlotte Louise Taylor. That is no way to tell me I’m going to be a grandmother.”
And suddenly, it all felt like it was going to be okay.
You had left your job recently. In a school. You weren’t very happy there sometimes. And Dad was so supportive of you. We all were. It wasn’t nice to see you unhappy. So you were doing some shifts at Waitrose, just to do something with your time and keep earning a little bit. I was happy for you, and it was always funny to nip in and see my little mum in her uniform. But that said, I always wanted you to leave with me too.
When you offered to look after my baby while I went back to work. I felt such sheer relief that I was staggered by it. It was almost like my body physically sagged with the relief of staying poker-straight with fear and worry for so long.
I’d been doing spreadsheets for weeks. Trying to work out what I could afford. And it was nothing.
We were in the middle of renovating a house at the time. I was the breadwinner. And while my heart thought it was so simple to have a baby, the fact was that I would risk losing everything I had worked for if I did. That sounds like such a material thing to say, but even before I became a mother, I knew that love wasn’t enough. I knew my baby needed a home, and clothes, and basic essentials. And without working, there was no way I could give them to him.
In the end, I could afford ten weeks off. And at the time it felt like years. It was all I had and I was grateful for it.
You were there for me when the first scan showed a heartbeat.
You were there for me when I found out that my baby was a boy, my William.
You were there when I worried he might have what I had. When genetic counselling made my head hurt. And when I felt overwhelmed.
But you were there for me when he got the all-clear.
You were even there the day he arrived. With his little ear bent over from being in the birth canal. Little Spock.
I was able to have my time with him. I was able to lie in bed, just gazing at him while the world slept. I was able to learn who he was. Watch him grow from a wrinkled newer-than-newborn, to more of a baby.
Those eight weeks were some of the best of my life. And they went by far too quickly. I remember crying when my last week drew to a close. And I didn’t know what I’d do. I didn’t want to go back. I felt hurt. I felt guilty. I felt very lost. And very, very sad.
And the only saving grace was that he had you. The only way I could have coped was knowing that my eight week-old son was going to be with you.
The first day back saw me sobbing in the back of a colleague’s car. Holding Eve’s hand. Trying to stop crying before I arrived at the office. Nothing felt strange or alien to me. That was the worst part. It had flown that quickly that my desk was still my desk and I hadn’t forgotten anything.
Meanwhile, I’d keep an eye on my phone for photos and updates from you. And I still keep at eye on my phone for those today.
You even wrote me a scrapbook of all of his first months. I keep it in a drawer, along with first shoes, and the little reports from nursery, when he first started going so we could make sure he met other little babies and make friends.
I’m going to give it to you today, so you can look back at what you did and how much it meant to me at the time. Those aren’t just memories for me. But they are your memories too.
It’s been over three years. The 6th August 2012. That was the day I went back.
I could never manage to work it out, but sometimes I wonder if you had more time with him than I did. Sometimes it baffles me that he manages to love me in the way that he does. When I could never do the things you did for him.
I’ve only ever done one swimming lesson. I’ve only taken him to nursery and picked him up three times. I’ve never gone to a baby group. Though you didn’t think I’d like them too much as no one really spoke to you. And it made me wish that there were granny groups so you didn’t feel left-out.
When he was poorly, you’d urge me to go to work: “He’ll be fine.” And I’d only ever feel guilty. And when you were poorly, you’d urge me to go to work: “I’ll be fine.” And I’d only ever feel guilty.
A lot of people tell me how lucky I am to have you. I don’t need to be told. I know that, without you, I wouldn’t be where I am now. I don’t know where I’d be exactly. But it wouldn’t be here.
But I also want to say that, actually, as much as this is a very lucky scenario. I know it hasn’t been easy.
Somewhere along the way, you stopped just being my mum. And we evolved into something different. More. But sometimes I felt like I saw you every day, but never properly. I felt bad that our time existed in handovers, and little boy updates. That you had to bend for me. Be there to catch me. Watch me go through a split. And then bend all over again for the person that you least wanted to be around. A person you owed nothing, but I owed something, because he was the father of my son.
And how could I repay that? Money has never crossed hands. And I don’t think words or actions will ever be enough.
And today, I feel bad. Because I know that today you will be sad. I know that you’re thinking that you might lose the bond you have with my little boy. That your heart might break. And I can understand that. Because I’ve felt that way for most of his life.
It’s almost like we’re on a seesaw and for me to come up, you have to go down. And I don’t want that.
I want to say thank you. Thank you for looking after him while I worked for him. Thank you for supporting me. And for putting him first. Thank you for telling me, all those years ago, that it would be okay.
I’m finally able to say that I’m ready now Mum. I can take over again. I did it! I managed to save up. And I managed to find myself a second chance, when I never expected to be dealt a new hand. I can be his mum in the way that I want to be for the last few months of his tiny years, before he takes on the world on his own, in September. School. How did my little boy get to be so big?
I wonder if you still think the same thing about me.
You’ll always be my mum. And you’ll always be Granny.
Thank you for putting him first. It will never be forgotten.
Take hold of today and enjoy it. It certainly won’t be the last. But I know it means something to you. And so it means something to me.
He’ll always love you. He’ll always appreciate you. Just like I appreciated Grandma for doing the same for you. And I still do. Because she made my mummy happy. She made it easier on her. And helped her. Which made me happy too.
I love you.