by Aimee Taylor

I shower with her. Her sleek little six-year-old body—protruding ribs, bony shoulders, knobbly knees and the tightest, cutest little bum you can imagine—push into me, flesh on flesh, as if we are one again, and I have a moment of revelation: I made her. She is perfect.

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I take my thumb and brush it over her top lip, a dull red from the leftover marker she’d used to dupe me into believing she had a nose bleed. I let her believe she’d tricked me. She’d shoved her face into a pillow to hide her smile. She smiles again, here with me now; I take her front tooth and wiggle it back and forth between my thumb and index finger. “Soon,” I say. She beams and squeezes her knuckles tight in excitement.

Oh, how I longed for her. How I’d puff out my stomach in front of full-length mirrors to get a glimpse of what I might look like growing a child inside of me. How I’d imagine her sleeping on my chest each time I’d get a fertility procedure to distract myself. How my whole body exhaled month after month after realizing she wasn’t ready to come yet. How empty I felt after a year of trying with no results.

Then on Mother’s Day almost seven years ago, I placed a colander in the sink, and as the pasta water seeped through the holes, I smelled the strongest scent of burning plastic. I knew she had finally come. And in that instant, I knew she was a girl.

And then, when I stood before the full-length mirror, I watched her grow for real, felt her hiccups inside of me, and when she was big enough, watched as her hand would swoop from one side of my uterus to the other. I’d follow her hand with mine, as if through the layers of fat and muscle and flesh, we held onto each other, dancing.

The pain of back labour. No rest between contractions. 23 hours of the most intense pain I’d ever experienced, I begged her to come out. Her thick black hair reflecting off the midwife’s mirror, in and out, in and out, teasing me with each push, finally arriving through a slit in my lower abdomen. As she was placed on my chest, I expected my longing to pass. I had been given what I’d dreamed of for over a decade. But almost as soon as she arrived, so did my cancer diagnosis. And thus began an even more intense longing: to live. For her.

Now, each day is filled with the wonder of a learning mind and yet, with each day that passes, so does the clock of my life. With each smile, each bear hug, each first, each moment of pride, I long for more moments. More life. The sharpie lines on her growth chart go further and further up the wall, while I feel the clock ticking down for me.

This gift—the gift of life, of love—seemed to come with a condition. I have never known motherhood without the threat of losing it. I want my baby—my little girl—to be more than just my legacy. I want her to have me. And as much as I long for more time here on earth with her, I know she longs for the same.

Aimee Taylor is a past retreat participant and member of Callanish’s Younger Adult Group. She is a writer, researcher, musician, mother and more.