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A lifetime of memories

Her little kicks started off as flutters, at first you weren't quite sure if they really were her! But as time went on, those little kicks became stronger and you'd excitedly grab her Daddy's hand and place it on your tummy, each and every time he was near. His smile melted your heart. The weeks dragged, but the months seemed to fly by as you lovingly folded tiny baby vests and arranged her little toys along the new shelf in the nursery. The need to get your home just perfect was intense and important to you - and you only had 5 weeks of maternity leave to do it in! At 39 weeks pregnant, you precariously balanced on a step-ladder to put the finishing touch on her nursery - a delicate cream light shade. Her Daddy told you off when he came home from work, but when he saw the nursery he just held you close to him and smiled. "Next time, ask me" he murmured.

The morning you went into labour, you felt afraid "What if I can't do this? What if something goes wrong... am I strong enough?" but you were. You were so strong and brave and your baby girl came into the world, with a soft little cry. "I'll never forget this moment", you tell yourself and it's true - you'll never forget. It's seared vividly into your memory as you breathe her in and hold her tight to you. The hospital room, so busy a few minutes before is now calm, quiet and still. You glance at her Daddy and see him crying... you've never seen him cry before and it touches you. Home now as a family of 3, life is a beautiful blur. You never knew it was possible to survive on so little sleep! But you did. You worried about so many things and some days felt a little overwhelmed with this new responsibility. Is she getting enough of my milk? Is she too hot? Is she gaining enough weight? Does she have colic?

You lean in and lightly kiss her hairline where the wispy hair meets her soft skin, listening to her content, snuffly breathing. The day of her newborn photo session, you did your hair and put your makeup on for the first time since having her - 10 days old and the time has gone in a flash! You feel a little more human today and the moment of clarity you felt watching her have her photograph taken is yet another memory you know will hold forever. You gaze at your beautiful girl and think "I made her! And my gosh, she's incredible!" You leave feeling buoyant and proud. 5 weeks old now and you lovingly unwrap the canvas you chose to have printed from her session. Daddy has fixed a new hook onto the wall above the sofa and you lovingly place your canvas there. As you stand back to look, you feel just so complete in your heart and say a silent thank you into the quiet room.

The night before her first birthday, you place a bundle of pink wrapped presents into the middle of the floor. A bear shaped helium balloon sways quietly in the corner and you stand on the sofa to pin up some bunting. You hang the bunting across the canvas and stop for a moment to softly trace the outline of where her little wispy hairline met her soft forhead with your fingertip - oh how she has changed in just one short year. Her first day of nursery came after her 2nd birthday. You know she'll have so much fun, as she has done with you at the groups you go to... will she be ok without you there though? Will she miss you? You point to the canvas (as you have done many times before) and say "Who's that?"..."Baby!" She laughs, she still can't grasp that it's actually her. Her first day of school has arrived. Dressed in her brand new uniform, you thought she'd look grown-up, but really the oversized shirt and too-long skirt make her look smaller than ever. What is someone is unkind to her? What is no-one wants to be her friend... what if she cries for me... You feel lost and a little panicky. But as she grins at you and bounces up and down on the spot, you take her hand and leave the house together.

You sit in your quiet home after, feeling a little lost. You've taken the day off work for this, but now what? You decide to go upstairs and find the baby memory box. You find it up on top of her wardrobe and brush the thin layer of dust from the top. You lift the lid and pull out a tiny vest and her first soft hairbrush, still with one wispy little hair tangled through the bristles. You allow yourself to cry a little. When she comes home from school, you have the box there ready to show her and she's mesmerised! This becomes your new nightly routine and she has to look at and touch each precious item in the box as you tell her the story of when she was a baby. You've always hired a hall for her birthday parties, but after she begs, you give in and let her have her 9th birthday at home. She wants her friends to come for a sleepover. As they cosy down with popcorn and a movie in the living room, one points to the canvas and asks about it. Your daughter pipes up proudly "That's me as a baby!" and pretends to roll around the floor as a baby - they all laugh. You stand quietly in the doorway, one hand on the doorframe and another on your heart. As a 14 year old, her new favourite thing is to huff when she is annoyed. Her Daddy nicknames her "the dragon" and she isn't impressed. During a disagreement, she likes to say "I'm not a baby anymore" as she gestures wildly at the canvas. You have to bite your tongue to stop yourself from saying "yes... you are to me"

At 20, she and her childhood sweetheart gather the family at your home and make an announcement - they're engaged. You burst into tears, which is so unlike you! She laughs and puts an arm around your shoulders, telling you she hopes they are happy tears! In that moment, as she stands there with her beautifully styled hair and the soft scent of her perfume comforting you, the thought of her moving out and starting this new chapter in her life washes over you in a wave of pride and heartbreak. Her Daddy grasps your hand and squeezes it silently amidst the joy and congratulations. The Sunday afternoon before her 23rd Birthday she makes an unexpected call. She still has a key to the house and you always tell her to just drop in, anytime, but she always calls you first regardless. She looks a little pale and you worry she seems stressed, perhaps she isn't eating enough. She refuses a cup of tea when you offer and, then you know. You just know before she even tells you. At 8 months pregnant, she asks if you have any photographs of when you were pregnant with her - you pick out your photo album with a flutter of anticipation. You sit together, on the sofa under the canvas as you always have done, and delicately open the first page. There you are, a lifetime ago - a moment captured and frozen in time. You laugh with her at how pregnancy can seem to last an age, but in reality it's oh so fleeting. You tell her how she used to kick her Daddy's hand and she smiles, her own hand resting on her bump. You relive your own pregnancy again through hers. She looks at the canvas a lot more now, as if she's only noticing it for the first time. You can see her wondering about her own baby. "I wonder if the baby will look like me mum" she murmurs - one hand on your arm and the other on her bump as she gazes up at the canvas. Her baby boy arrives 1 week early, taking everyone by surprise. You have on your coat and shoes, a little gift for him in a bag by the door. You stand in the quiet living room and take one last look at the canvas. You kiss your finger and lightly run it along the line where her wispy hair meets the soft skin. Then, with a smile, you rush out of the door to meet your grandson, with a thousand colourful memories bursting from your heart.

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