She pulls her knees right up to her tummy, froggy-style, then kicks them straight again, quickly, over and over, learning the strength in those chubby little thighs. She’ll be rolling over soon. His legs are sometimes floppy, sometimes tense and rigid. He doesn’t move them voluntarily; they will likely never bear his weight.
She brings her hands to her mouth, sucks on them, explores the fingers one by one. His hands never enter his own line of vision. He looks straight ahead; his hands remain by his side like a soldier standing to attention.
She waves her arms furiously to bat at a hanging toy. Delighted, she smiles and repeats the manoeuvre. His arms hang limply or tense suddenly, his only level of physical response. Occasionally he presses a switch placed immediately under his hand – I’m not sure if it is intentional or pure chance.
She gurgles, and when I gurgle back she smiles and repeats it again. We have a conversation. She cries when she needs something – distinguishable squawks for hunger and cries for other needs. He shrieks in delight. Or is it in pain? He whimpers when he’s too tired to cry.
Tickle her tummy and she grins, revealing big dimples in her cheeks. She’s so rewarding to play with, I just can’t help myself. I have to schedule his exercises in my diary to remember to do them. Often, he falls asleep during therapy.
She shakes her head vigorously, butts me like a hungry calf, then takes a great mouthful of breast: ‘Owp.’ I feed him, drip by drip, through a tube into his stomach.
Carrying her, she holds her head proudly, looking around with wide eyes, taking in the world. Carrying him, his head lolls against my shoulder.
She’s two and a half months. He’s two and a half years. The contrast brought me up short the day she was born. Before her, I had convinced myself that he was progressing, perhaps functioning at the level of a six-month-old. Now I realise, in many ways, he’s less able than a newborn.
She’s always busy. When she’s not feeding or sleeping, she wants to be playing. He’s happy to cuddle, relaxes into my arms, lays his soft, soft cheek against mine and his breathing slows.
She’s a delight. He’s a treasure. I love them both with a fierce love, the love that just keeps on expanding the more children you have. I wanted this so much – the joyous experience of a ‘normal’ motherhood, that I felt I’d been cheated out of with Benjamin. But I didn’t want to be reminded of what I’d missed. She brings me up short.