What was it to be a mother?
She knew the truth of the answer now.
She had laboured to bring sweet little Robb into the world for two days and six hours after her waters had broken. It was to gaze upon your child with wondrous delight, to take pleasure in those perfectly formed blue eyes and to feel the kind of love that bursts out of your chest. A mixture of pride and protection, he was the most perfect baby she had ever seen.
He was all Tully in his features, that auburn hair and bright blue eyes. He was hers. She marvelled at the serene expression upon his face, the tiny puffs of breath and the way he looked at her as if she was the only person in the world. She wanted to press him to her breast and never let him go.
Displaying him for the whole of the world to see, she had wrapped him in the white furs and held him tight against her so that everyone would know that Robb Stark had arrived. Ned had been notified by letter that his son had been born and she hoped his birth would bind them closer together. He did not look like a Stark, a fact that pleased her. She and Ned would have plenty more children, she was certain, so why should she not have this one all to herself?
Had she known what would await her, perhaps, just perhaps she would have prayed for a son who was Stark in name and looks.
She had been so proud to present her sweet son to Ned. To gently pass him to her husband and say ‘This is your son’. She watched as Ned placed a loving kiss on their son’s forehead and looked at him, his dark grey eyes softening. She felt Ned place his hand on the small of her back as he carried Robb to be presented to everyone in Winterfell, the pride shining from his face. Their little son gurgled and smiled, the future Lord of the castle.
It was a moment she would cherish for the remainder of her life. The sight of her son held by his father for all to see amongst the clean, white snow of Winterfell. It was perfect.
Upon her entrance, Robb safely held within her arms, she heard a baby’s cry. It was unremarkable and in her mind nothing more than the sound of a servant’s child. The cry intensified as they walked toward’s Ned’s chambers, their chambers now, and she wondered what servant would be allowed this far in with their child. Ned opened the door to his bedchamber and she heard the cry louder still.
There was a tiny black haired child with red cheeks screaming in a wooden cradle at the foot of Ned’s bed.
Ned looked apologetically at her as he began to explain although the words were lost to her. The honourable Eddard Stark with a bastard? It could not be, surely there must be another explanation for the child. Robb began to wriggle against her breast and she held him tighter, determined to protect him from the bastard child’s cries that were undoubtedly upsetting her son. The child screamed louder. She would not offer her comfort to the bastard, the bastard with Stark hair and eyes. The bastard that looked more like Ned’s son than her own.
“Cat” Ned said as he picked up the child. The boy, it had to be a boy of course, nestled closer amongst Ned’s furs. “This is Jon.”
Her stomach turned over and her heart hardened. She had laboured to bring a Stark son into the world and here was one already with black hair and grey eyes, the very picture of Ned. She had been so thankful Robb resembled her and now there was nothing but regret. Another woman had given Ned the Stark son.
Robb would have to compete with Jon for the rest of his life. People would look at Jon and believe he was the trueborn son of Ned Stark and that Robb was the bastard with his southron looks.
Biting down on her lip, she turned around to leave with Robb still cradled in her arms. She would not show an inch of emotion, the only telltale was the red spots on her cheeks and the glassy nature of her eyes. They would not stay here with a bastard. She and her son would go home to Riverrun. Her Uncle Brynden would take them in without a question. She heard Ned’s pleading voice and ignored it though her heart felt leaden with anger. She would not stay if the bastard would live here too, her son deserved better than a father whose attention would always be divided.
She could have loved the child if it had been a girl, could have taken her within their household and pretended it was her own. A girl could have been mothered and married off to a great lord, would not have posed a single threat to Robb’s inheritance. A boy would grow up to compete against her own son, could one day proclaim his right to Winterfell, could one day murder her son in cold blood.
She now knew that to be a mother was to protect your son inside the womb and out even if that meant opposing his father.