I was so excited to become a mother. I had a countdown ticker. I memorized every page of Baby Bargains and Dr. Sears. I read the books, followed the blogs, and hung on to every word of TLC’s Baby Story. That moment of indescribable bliss when the baby was deposited skin-to-skin in your arms? I daydreamed about that moment. I told my doctor how important this was to me. I included it in my birth plan. Let all else fall to the wayside, I said, I was going to have that special moment with my son.
What is it they say about the best laid plans?
Labor lasted twenty-four hours. My son had meconium aspiration so there was no cord cutting of the proud new father and no skin-to-skin contact for the new mother. And then as the doctors ensured his well-being under fluorescent lights nearby, I crashed. My blood pressure plummeted as fast as my fever rose, and despite my pleas to hold my son, I was told I wasn’t strong enough to do so.
It took twelve hours before they let me hold my son. I remember this moment. I waited so long for it and it was finally here. I remember taking in his tiny arms and fingers, and then, the moment shortly after as I watched him in the bassinet next to me swaddled tightly with a blue cap on his head. I waited for the indescribable moment I read about. I felt something. But it was not indescribable. Instead of a jolt of tender emotion, all I felt? Was terror. What had I done? I took a perfectly fine life with a man I loved and added this new person for whom I would now be forever responsible for. After all the monitoring and the ultrasounds and hand-holding by a team of doctors through the pregnancy, in a few days, they were going to send me on my way to do as I deemed fit. But who on earth deemed me fit?
I remember that moment, and the moments that followed when I had a minute to myself from feeding, and changing, and washing. I remember the heavy brick of responsibility pressing into my shoulders threatening to cave in my chest. I looked at my husband, my mother, my brothers, all starry eyed with love for this little one. I felt broken. I did right by him. I fed him, clothed him, took him to his appointments, but the lingering worry remained: Wasn’t the fierce tiger love for your child the most basic animal urge a woman has? Where was mine?
It took four days before I felt hope. When my mother deposited him weeping into my arms to be fed. I took in his wrinkled little face in my dimly lit bedroom and whispered you don’t like me very much do you? I know newborns don’t social smile, but I can swear to you as I am standing here today, that when I said this to him, he stopped crying as though surprised by my question and his face broke into a large, pure, grin. It took my breath away.
It took seven days before I felt love. Sitting in a dentist waiting room dealing with a root canal that emerged immediately after delivery, I looked up from the outdated magazine in my lap, and suddenly, I missed my son. I couldn’t get home fast enough. I needed to hold him, not because I wanted to, but because it was a deep physical need and suddenly I felt like a dam surrounding my heart had burst and the love began pouring in. . .
. . . and its never stopped pouring. Not a day goes by. Not one single day, no matter how difficult or mundane, that I don’t look at my son and marvel at this love. It’s a love different from any other love I’ve known. It’s made me stronger, its made me softer. It’s made me grow up, and its brought out my inner-child. I didn’t know it was possible to love anyone quite this much. It’s frightening, its emboldening. And like now, it sometimes turns me into a big mushy mess.
And so its only natural that given how different things are now, that I might look back at those early days and wonder if I imagined it all. I’m almost tempted to recreate a different story, one in which I felt bunnies and sprinkles and rainbows upon meeting my son. But I didn’t. And now that I will be a mother again soon [insh’Allah] to another little one, its so critical I not pretend I had a TLC Baby Story memorable moment. Because I didn’t. Call it baby blues, or sheer exhaustion, I felt nothing I expected to feel and was horrified at the things I did. And while this time around my hormones may lead me down a different, better, path [I sure hope so] I am writing about this to remember it may not be so. And that it will be okay. That as hard as it will feel in that moment, I will get through it.
And I share this here because I know I can’t be the only one who looked into her dearly desired newborn’s eyes and felt emotions other than high-strung-out-love. I share this to say that I hope every mother gets a giddy high from the moment she holds her child, but if she doesn’t, trust that love will come. Maybe not like in the movies. Or A Baby Story. And maybe the challenges won’t be as simple as my baby blues, maybe it will involve PPD or even medication. But it will come. In the meantime be patient with yourself. Be gentle. And if you’re doing the best you can, know this is all that is expected of you. Love will come. And it will be beautiful.