I think, therefore I am.

‘I told my teacher I need to leave early on Wednesdays now, so I can get to my Bhangra class on time’, Bean pipes up as we walk home from school. My bemused response of, ‘But Bean, you don’t go to a Bhangra class?’ was quashed with a self-assured, ‘I know I don’t go to one YET. But I WANT to go to one and my teacher said I just need to remind her next week’.

So that’s it, a done deal. Next Wednesday I shall be leaving work early to take my four year old daughter to a fictitious Bhangra class.

This approach in many ways is admirable; I think it, therefore it will be. No barriers, no uncertainty and total unwavering self-belief. It leads me to question whether the focus of my pondering as we walked home that all four year old children are clearly bonkers should actually have had a strong leaning towards championing the true genius of these little people.

I passed my driving test having repeatedly muttered to myself, ‘It will be okay. I have never met this person before, they have no idea what an awful driver I am’, before the test. The shock on my driving instructor’s face told me I was right to have questioned my (in)ability, but the bottom line was I had proved I could do it. The ability was there, it was my prior belief that had not been.

When do we lose our self-assurance that things we want will just be?

When do the lines between everyday life and make-believe stop being blurred?

It is these blurred lines that frequently provide the magic of a young child’s imagination. They do not believe they are imagining; they just believe. They did not possibly hear their toy dinosaur roar when they were in bed last night, they definitely heard it. They do not doubt they will simultaneously be an astronaut and a milk-maid when they grow up, they know they will be. Minor details like appropriate habitat for the accompanying cow, ‘Space Moo’, are easily solved by planting ‘A field on the moon’. It doesn’t matter that, aside from anything else, there will be no one to sell the milk to because ‘It will all be so much fun!’.

This inability to differentiate between the real world and everything else is what makes reading stories with a child so great. It is what makes them believe the International Space Station is Santa Claus pulled by reindeer in his sleigh. It is the reason I watched a lengthy puppet show of dubious substance but abundant enthusiasm yesterday. It is what makes you question your own sanity if you spend too long with a young child.

Clearly, we cannot all go about our lives with unwavering self-assured belief in fiction. But I am sure just a little more of the ‘I think and so I am’ attitude of a young child would serve some of us well as adults.

I really hope Bean holds on to every bit of her refreshing childhood shade of crazy for just a little while longer. And I hope the smallest amount of it rubs off on me.

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Singular; adjective, just one person or thing.

‘Do you just have the one?’, an innocent enough question that never fails to make my eyes sting and my face do this thing where it feels like parts of it are paralysed while I compose myself to answer that, ‘Yes, I have just the one child’. I feel disappointed in myself that every time I respond I mirror the ‘just’, but know that for some reason dropping it would be just enough to give away the upset in my answer.

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Bean is by no means ‘just’; she is one, a complete, a whole. I have never heard anyone ask if someone has ‘Just the two?’.

My answer is normally followed by flippant questions along the lines of, ‘One enough to put you off then…?’, when the truth of it is I would give almost anything to have another child.

Having Bean was the event that took away my ability to have another one. I had no idea of the depth of the love I would feel for this little human until she arrived, and then two days later had the ability to feel that love for another baby taken away. I bled profusely and had my life saved by the removal of my uterus.

So it is not only the ‘just’ that makes my eyes sting almost five years later, it’s the inability to detach it from the trauma and loss that is the reason I have one child. It’s the fact the stinging in my eyes proceeds the image of my baby, fast asleep, being pushed out of the way in her cot as the crash team responded to me. It’s the way the increased frequency of my blinks to hold back the tears invariably coincides with an image of the bright theatre light directly above me that I looked at while totally convinced the strangers around me were the last people I would hear speak. I simultaneously wanted them to anaesthetise me, so they could try to make it all better, but also take me back to the people I loved so I didn’t feel alone. After a failed attempt to surgically stop the bleeding while preserving my uterus and copious amounts of blood being transfused through numerous lines, every part of my being thought my baby and I would not see each other again. Perhaps my prior working in the hospital I was now a patient in was not helping any potential for some blissful ignorance of the severity of the situation.

I had assumed that by now the various pre-cursers for the frozen stinging face would have stopped being associated with such vivid images, but it turns out some things do not appear to fade. I know now these images will cease as quickly as they flash before my eyes, but I do not think I can expect they will ever become more distant in my mind. They are just not like other memories; these ones seem like they are etched on the inside of my eyelids at times, stubbornly refusing to be blinked away.

They do however serve to remind me that I am very fortunate to be a part of my ‘just’ one’s life, and for that perhaps I should be grateful. I appreciate the new phases of her life in a way I would not be so acutely aware of as being the only time I will see them, and once I put the bittersweet in that aside I can see the positives.

My ‘just’ one often refers to her Grandmother’s Labrador as her brother, but maybe life is too short to worry about that. And maybe most dogs are better than most humans anyway.

Perhaps one day someone will carry a baby for me and perhaps I should be able to verbalise the truth of my feelings to people more easily so as to stop the stinging in its tracks, but until then I will focus on what there is to be grateful for.

Commonly used language may refer to Bean as ‘just’, but to me she is my complete.

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