Moments after Ellen gave birth, she had a primal instinct no one had warned her about.

I wanted to lick her.

Fortunately midwives had cleaned her with towels, my husband helped, so by the time I held her she was dry and clean and didn’t need to be licked. She didn’t need to be licked, a towel had done the job. But I really, really wanted to lick her.

A primal urge perhaps? Hardwired instinct?


Or maybe I was responding to our first face to face communique, after nine enervating months, her being in the next cell, so to speak. Faceless and mute. Anonymous. Yet present. So present she was me, occasionally.

Now we were face to face, breast to breast, blue eyeball to blue eyeball and this person (she was a person!) was telling me in no uncertain terms, as clear as anything I’ve ever heard in my life: ‘I’m completely vulnerable, I need you.’

What do you say to that?

‘I’m completely vulnerable, I need you.’

I’d never been told that before. Never been so needed before. It was a bit of a shock, the unabashed urgency. But only for a fraction of a fraction of a billionth of a second.

The instant I touched my daughter I became her mum.

Midwife Cath Curtain tackles some myths about birth. Post continues after video.

‘I’ve got you, I won’t let go.’

I had to tell her.

‘I’ve got you, I won’t let go.’

I had to tell her in every possible way and in some impossible ways.


Except, how? I was woefully unprepared. She couldn’t understand words. Touch wasn’t enough – arms, fingers even chest compares woefully to the pressing surround of a uterus.

Nothing was enough for me, for her. I was intemperate with desire to communicate and fraught with guilt I couldn’t entomb her again in the safest part of me.

Thus licking.

The first time you hold your child is the first time you communicate. From her to me and back again. Everything that matters. Everything that will ever be, there.

I wanted to lick her. I wanted to lovingly devour her. Warm her. Refresh her. Catch her. Make her feel safe beyond any and every ripple of doubt.

I might have licked her, I honestly don’t know.

I kissed her. Her empurpled head and any part of her skin I could find. I’ve never kissed anyone with such intention and promise. Such gentle ferocity.

I’ve got you, I won’t let go.

She calmed and settled into my chest. Ten minutes later I nursed her.

I’ve got you, I won’t let go.

My daughter licks me now. All the damn time. Can’t get enough of my face, my hair, my ears, my skin. She snorts and chuckles, out comes the tongue and before I know what’s happening she’s licking my face and holding my cheeks with grabby fists.

Claiming ‘Mum’.

She licked my eyeball the other day. It sucked.

You might ask, ‘what the hell are you doing with your daughter that’s she’s licking your eyeball?’ You’d be right to ask.

I’d say, she’s not even one years old, this happens. (Right?)

But mainly, I’d say, we’re communicating.

This post was written by Ellen Vrana and has been republished from Quora with full permission.