Extract from Margery Williams (1881-1944)
the The Velveteen Rabbit
‘What is REAL?’ asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. ‘Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?’ ‘Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘It’s a thing that happens to you. When someone loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.’ ‘Does it hurt? Asked the Rabbit. ‘Sometimes,’ said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. ‘When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.’ ‘Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,’ he asked, ‘or bit by bit?’ ‘ It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in your joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.’ ‘I suppose you are real?’ said the Rabbit. And then he wished he had not said it, for he thought the Skin Horse only smiled. ‘Someone made me Real,’ he said. ‘That was a great many years ago; but once you are Real you can’t become unreal again. It lasts for always.’
We had the above reading for our wedding day. I chose this reading because it describes perfectly what love is like. It hurts, its not always easy, you have to be strong, and resilient, you can't be too precious about it. Love is never perfect.
When Joseph was born, I went and bought a copy of The Velveteen Rabbit. I think this passage describes perfectly what it is like to have a premature baby. I felt at first that Joseph wasn't real. It was such a weird situation I had a baby, but I didn't have a baby. I was on a maternity ward with nothing. A few cards, a teddy bear, but no baby. It was weird, it was horrible. It was frightening.
I would spend a lot of time on the ward, in those first weeks, looking at a tiny little creature, so frail, hearing bewildering news, wondering what on earth our future would hold, learning to love him.
And I think through loving that tiny baby, from believing in him and caring for him made me real. It's made me real as a mum and my husband, real as a dad, and I like to think that by loving Joseph we've made him real too, strong, resilient, not easily broken.