I had a vision of what the first few minutes of my son’s life were going to be like. I pictured a magical moment where I would hold him close and tearfully tell him how much I will always love him. My husband would brush the perfect wisp of hair off my face while marveling at how brave I was in the hours of drug-free labor I endured to bring our child into this world. It was supposed to be a moment of peaceful wonder, a flood of innocent but powerful love. I would be zen. And, the way I imagined it, I would look fabulous, but that’s less relevant.
What I got was this mysterious little human plopped on me while I, covered in sweat and shaking so badly I was afraid of losing my grip on him, was unable to say anything except “this is our baby” over and over to my husband as much as to myself.
From the countless articles I read online, the classes we took at the hospital, and the women I talked to about their experiences, I expected him to give me at least 12 hours notice of his arrival. But with an impatience I can only blame on my genes, my little man powered through and was born a short hour-and-a-half after my realizing I was in labor. Since it went so quick, I never got to the point of frustration that he wasn’t in my arms yet.
Honestly, it was a little awkward. I didn’t recognize him, but he settled right in, having known me his whole existence. Sure, I loved him in a “this is my son, and I’m excited for the next phase” kind of way. But there was some “there’s no turning back now” fear mixed in there as well. How did I know if I was ready for this? And where was that instinctual “Mother’s Love” bond I expected to kick in as quickly as my labor did?
Mothers always shake their head a little bit, look up at nothing, and drop their shoulders with a happy sigh as they spout some cliché about a mother’s love. Before my son was born, a stupidly naive part of myself would think about the dog we adopted and how it’s probably the same thing, only with less slobber. (I was wrong on both counts.)
More than anything, what I felt was pride. I was proud of myself for lasting nine months of pregnancy since I am not one of those unicorns who thought it was awesome. I was proud of my husband for being such a damn good father right off the bat. I was proud of the baby for being strong and healthy and freaking adorable.
I started talking about this tiny little human as an innocent ball of potential that would someday leave a mark on the world. Maybe he would grow up to love and have his own babies with someone else who was just a teeny baby or not even born yet. Maybe he would cure Alzheimers or construct a part of the New York skyline. Maybe he’d win a gold medal for swimming in the Olympics. He couldn’t even lift his own head but he had a community of people who were in awe of his existence, and I was proud.
But about three days after he was born, it hit me. I didn’t care what he accomplished, how or even if he changed the world. I didn’t love him for his beautiful blue eyes or his 10 tiny toes. I wasn’t proud because of the hordes of family and friends telling me I should be.
I loved him at each and every second for nothing more than who he was in that moment. Thoughts of his future became more focused on my dedication to being a good mom to him because he deserved it, and less about his contributions to the world that I could somehow take credit for. My love for him was whole-hearted, unyielding, and strikingly sudden. I couldn’t point to a sense of humor or generous spirit or captivating mind to love about this days old person. My love for him just was.
This was “A Mother’s Love.”
I didn’t feel it when I found out when I was pregnant or when I first heard his heartbeat. I didn’t feel it during those first few moments he was in my arms. But when I did finally feel it — when I did realize just how powerful of a hold this little, tiny man had on my heart — it never let up.
A “mother’s love” isn’t so much something I have; it has become an integral part of who I am. It makes me feel vulnerable, honored, and humbled, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.More On