Friday, July 2, 2010

What I Really Felt (when I saw my baby)

I always knew love at first sight as a rare, romantic occurrence.

It happens, sure, but certainly not for my husband and I.  With us it was more like infatuation at first site. 

And not even with each other.

No, ours was a mild acquaintance that grew to inseparable friendship that evolved into strong and honest love (another story for another day).

But I still reserved the phenomenon of love at first site for the birth of our first child. 

Children were my dream.  I was that little girl playing mother to children mere years my junior. 

My younger cousins would huddle for a place on my seven year-old lap and looking back I am sure my aunts and uncles adored me for the hours of relentless entertainment I provided their children.

My pregnancy was uneventful, but I thrilled at every little nudge and panicked over the mildest of cramps and slightest of temperatures.

Labor was typical.  Long and hard.  I planned for an epidural only to completely miss the window in a narcotic-induced fog (yet another story for yet another day).

So when I finally peered upon my slimy, purple son I was tired.  And angry.  And amazed.  And hungry.

But I was not in love.

I knew I loved him, and I managed a few drunken "That's our baby boy"'s before they whisked him off to the weighing station.

I practically swooned over my husband as he sweetly stroked the arm of our screaming baby, saying over and over, "It's okay buddy, it's okay."

But when it came time to hold that little thing I just wanted someone to take him away and let me sleep.

Now much of those early emotions were a direct result of the late-in-labor narcotics I begged for.

But hours later after an all-too-short nap I gazed down at this little life shooting tiny, pointy needles into my delicate nipples (or something like that) and I felt resentful. 

I mean, I was more than prepared to mother this creature, just right after I caught up on the entire night's sleep I missed while birthing him.

In the course of the next few days I oftentimes peered into his clear, plastic cradle and literally hurt with love.  But other times it felt like spying on a shriveled stranger.  (It didn't help that the blonde-hair, blue-eyed newborn of our imaginations ended up looking distinctly Asian and not at all like my husband and I.)

I cried a lot that week.  When my husband wanted to watch the basketball tournament on our tiny hospital television.  When I watched an elephant ultrasound on the Discovery Channel.  When we were served applesauce with dinner (a pregnancy favorite).

Looking back I view this tearful time as a kind of grieving process.  While I thought I was bringing home a little bundle to snuggle and tote around like one of those fashionable dogs, I was actually losing a whole world that, despite marriage and my best efforts at selflessness, revolved entirely around me.

And on top of that this particular little package, while sweet and sleepy and seemingly good-natured, did little to make my heart soar.  At least not how I imagined it.

I loved my son from the very beginning, and at times I think even before that.

But I didn't realize that you could fall in love with a child as well.

And now, two and a half years later, when I sneak into his room at night and lay my hand on the slow rise and fall of his chest, the love I imagined from day one hits me like a brick.  Knocks the wind right out of me. 

I find myself searching to both contain and express a love beyond words and actions. 

Sometimes I wonder if I could possibly love him more, only to realize the next day, as he laughingly reports his recent flatulence, that somehow it doubled over night.  And if it keeps going at this rate how will I even survive him leaving in just 15 and a half short years?

I guess I wish someone told me beforehand.  That it's not like movie love.  That my deepest, natural instinct would still be to sleep and not to hold and adore my son for hours at a time.  That those feelings would eventually overwhelm me, in the days and weeks and years to come.  That it is different for everyone.  That it is okay.

But I suppose part of becoming a parent involves making those discoveries on our own.

And realizing the parents we were in our imaginations rarely reveal themselves in our reality.
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