I am due to give birth to my second child any day now.
I officially only started maternity leave today, but as a teacher I’ve been lucky enough to have the summer holidays to prepare for our new arrival. If anything, it’s been too long. I have become obsessed with making every little detail perfect, both for the baby and our 3 year old boy.
After weeks of sorting, washing, buying and organising, this week I reached fever pitch. I worried that not all the old baby clothes had been washed and ironed; I stressed about the fact that our new bouncy chair didn’t fit together properly; I was close to screaming over the failed delivery of our new oven. How could I possibly be expected to cope with all this when I should be practising my breathing and preparing for birth?
Then, last night, something stopped me in my tracks.
That photo. The photo we’ve all seen and will be haunted by for years. The photo of a young refugee washed up on the shore. The photo of an innocent little boy killed by his and his family’s desperation to find a better life, killed by hideous situations beyond their control. After days of worrying and stressing about nothing, this was the thing that finally made me burst into tears.
Suddenly, none of my worries seemed that important.
The truth is that being able to bring two healthy children into a stable home environment makes me one of the luckiest women in the world. That’s not hyperbole, it’s not hormonal sentimentality: it’s a fact. We don’t need perfectly white baby grows or matching nursery furniture, and I’m ashamed to admit that I’d forgotten that. We just need our home, our family and love.
Like so many people, it took that photo to remind me what matters. Even though I’ve written about it before, I’d lost all perspective. In another time and place, that little boy could easily have been my little boy. There but for the grace of God…
It’s not just me who should be ashamed: in years to come, I’m sure we’ll look back as a nation and be ashamed of ourselves. Of how concerns over our own lives and comfort made us forget that everyone deserves somewhere safe to bring up their family. Children are children, regardless of where they come from.
In the meantime, I’m giving up on my obsessive preparations to think about what really matters. I’ll hug my son a little tighter and cuddle my bump a little more. If anyone I know is reading this and was thinking of buying us a baby present, give the money to Save the Children or send the presents to the migrants in Calais. We’ve got everything we need.
Let’s not let that poor little boy’s death be in vain. Let it give us all the perspective to see what’s important and have a little more mercy and humanity.