We grabbed the mail on our way out of the house to have coffee with Aron, an old friend who did his history PhD on the Royal tours of Australia. I tear one envelope open and can tell from the feel of the paper that it is not a bill. This is thicker, watermarked paper. When I stare at it, I can’t tell if it is just my eyes or whether the colour of the paper changes softly towards the centre – from creamy white to pinky cream.
This paper certifies me as a “mother”, and certifies Z’s birth – that she was here – a human child, even if she never drew breath. [Why do they produce these certificates? Is she ever going to need it to get a passport? To get her driver’s licence? Will we ever need it to enrol her in school? Is this some kind of sympathy consolation prize just to make us feel better? The most comforting reason I can think of is pure administrative completeness. A child was here. She must be recorded.]
On paper, I am a mother, but there is no pram here, no noisy squirming baby. Only a flat two dimensional photo and this certificate.
I feel like one of those flat felt figures we had at kinder. You can peel me off this situation and stick me onto another scene. It makes a soft ripping sound as you do it – quieter than velcro. Here is my picture-baby, here is my piece of paper. I love her so much, but she’s now my two-dimensional child – stilled, flattened out on the page like a rare flower. I didn’t dream her three dimensional little life, she was definitely here (right here) – moving and being. But all the remaining evidence I have of that fact is unsatisfying.
The next envelope I open is an overdue fine from the library – Sheila Kitzinger, “Rediscovering Birth”. We have to go, to move on, we’ll be late for coffee with Aron. I fold these pieces of mail together and worry that I’ll mix them up or lose them – confuse the proof of my daughter’s existence with a library fine.
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