I was a novice when you were born
and you, an alien in my arms.
You cried at me and I was terrified.
Then came the night when you stood
upright on my knee, refusing to suck
and screaming with such ferocity.
Again and again you rejected my breast
Until I laid you on white
flannelette and you slept.
It’s you, they said at the clinic,
an anxious mum – we learned
abruptly that it was you.
Cerebral palsy, the doctor said,
Keep her until she’s two,
then send her to a Steiner School.
I learned to scrape up food
your tongue thrust out and flick it back,
to hold you in my newly-muscled arm
as the startle reflex jolted you away.
I worked to find the child you might have been,
placing your hands on bricks, banging tins
with sticks, feeling the shape of wooden balls,
crawling around the floor together.
We talked and talked although
you’d never say a word.
You discovered Bournvita
and grandmas, shouted and laughed for Daddy.
A pouty lip meant, I don’t like
that person and usually, you were right.
Your all-embracing smile charmed the world.
You became my heart, my breath,
my moment-by-moment thought.
I grew with you, I became yours.