Sub Fertile: Memoir by Ros Thomson for Skin to Skin

Pencil and markers on paper inspired by Carmen Marcus’s poem Daymoon
Tears by Clare Hansford

Sub fertile.

Not infertile.

Sub. Apparently that was meant to be slightly nicer to hear.

That’s what the Doctor said to me. I’d had some fertility tests and then the ‘diagnosis’ came. I was deeply saddened, in fact devastated.

Fast-forward only six weeks… two blue lines… I held my breath for an eternity, in reality only four weeks, and then the little flicker on the screen told me it was definitely true.

Due date, nothing, then three days later he arrived, his face was beautiful. I couldn’t stop looking at him, a little blood relative of mine there in my arms, a miracle in itself yet more so as I am an adoptee. Here was my boy, mine, and he was not going to be removed from me in the cruel way I was removed from my birth mother.

I held him for what seemed years in the delivery room, in reality only a short while, but he felt like nothing ever felt before.

Like perfection should feel.

Fast-forward three days, I feel like I’m recovering from flu and a car crash. Pain in my breasts, pain in my back, every joint aches, I dread going to the loo as it’s excruciating, all the while I’m counting hours between feeds.

What if I’m starving him?

What if I don’t know when to change him?

What if I’m not that mum who ‘knows’ her baby’s cry and what he wants and needs?

I’m zombie-mum.

Fast-forward six weeks, I’m tired, I’m unwell, I’m sad and can’t shake it, I’m not washing properly, I’m not eating well, my then-husband telling me ‘if you don’t sort yourself out then the baby will be taken from you.’

Words of horror.

Maybe he was scared too?

Maybe he was just being angry with me? His useless wife.

I held my little bit of perfection tight to me and cried into his hair while he sucked from the bottle- yes, a bottle, the nerve of me, not using what God provided.

All the while the lady on the breastfeeding poster wagging her finger at me.

But still, there he was, content with his bottle and me content with him.

I remember walking through the town on a mission to buy Christmas presents, he was two weeks old and Christmas was another ten days away, and four separate people telling me that my crying baby needed feeding.

Four of them.

I couldn’t think of anywhere to feed him, my mind was blank, and I ended up in the Boots parent and baby room in a crying mess of guilt and shame that he’d had to wait so long ( around ten minutes ).

My little bit of perfection and I got through those first weeks of heaven and hell.

Perfection 2 arrived 6 years later and Perfection 3 arrived six years after that.

I held each little newborn boy close to my skin and breathed them in, my little miracles.

They are my life.

Ros Thomson is a 50 year old mum to three boys. Stepmum to two. Married to a fabulous man. Care worker. Adoptee supporter. Beachcomber. Cake maker/lover. Tea addict.

Author: Carmen Marcus

As the daughter of a Yorkshire Fisherman and Irish Mother, my writing brings together the visceral and the magical. My debut novel #How Saints Die was published with Harvill Secker in 2017. It won New Writing North's Northern Promise Award as a work in progress and was longlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize in 2018. My poetry has been commissioned by BBC Radio, The Royal Festival Hall and Durham Book Festival. As a child of an 80s council estate I am an advocate for working class writers and stories. I’m currently working on my first poetry collection The Book of Godless Verse and my next novel. I try to live up to the words of my first critic and primary school teacher ‘weird minus one house point.’

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