Friday, February 13, 2015

Warmth at First Sight

They told me it would be love at first sight.

They said that when the doctor placed that new baby on my chest for the first time that angels would sing. The world would smell sweeter than it ever had before. I would feel like I was floating. Waves of the most overwhelming love would come crashing over me.

But it wasn’t like that.

I loved him to be sure. I felt warmth. But I didn’t Love him.

When I saw my firstborn for the first time, I thought he was beautiful, precious, but the nurses couldn’t whisk him away fast enough to clean him up. I didn’t want to touch my newborn, much less kiss him. Yes, I probably would have gouged out the eyes of anyone who dared harm him, and I willingly took care of all his needs, but I expected more. I expected to feel changed. And I felt largely the same. Just a little more banged up than normal.

I didn’t have post-partum depression. I knew that. So I assumed something must be terribly wrong with me. “Do some women never feel Love toward their children?” I wondered. “Am I destined to be a horrible mother?” I despaired.

I continued to mother with love. I gently bathed him and changed him and nursed through the toe-curling pain. Until one day (days later? weeks?), I realized that a tenderness had grown, almost imperceptibly, so that I was now Mothering with Love.

When my second and third sons were born, the angels stubbornly refused to sing at their births, too. But this time, I knew that the Love would come, as it had before. I wasn’t a bad mother. There was nothing wrong with me. This was simply my normal.

I have since talked to other mothers who experienced the same slow growth of Love for their newborns. I wish I had known their stories before my eldest was born. I wish I had known that there was nothing to fear, that I was not unwell or destined to be a bad mother. If I had known that some mothers feel warmth but not overwhelming Love at first sight, I needn’t have worried.

So when the nurse placed my firstborn on my chest and I felt only warmth at first sight, I could have simply said to myself…

They said this might happen, too. And that’s okay.

Our first family photo (taken by my L&D nurse).

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