Everyone makes it sound like as soon as you hold your baby you fall so deeply in love that it makes all the hard stuff somehow not hard. That even though your boobs are sore and your baby is hungry at 2 am the big love somehow makes it so easy. That pacing the floor for two hours in the middle of the night to calm your crying newborn won’t bother you because of that big, huge love. Because of these people I was not prepared.
Nobody told me that being a mom wouldn’t be magical.
It took awhile to get to this place. I didn’t know it would.
I thought motherhood would come with that big love. Especially for me–I wanted her so badly.
A friend described the birth of her son saying she could feel her heart grow at his first cry. That’s what I expected: the promised supernatural bond between mother and child that makes sleep deprivation “so worth it.” I knew having a baby was going to be hard, but I wasn’t prepared for how hard it would be to cope, so I felt wrong.
Why didn’t I love my baby right?
The tears came. That first night through the midnight cluster feed, the day we left the hospital and I watched all my help fade into the distance, that third day home alone with a baby that wouldn’t sleep unless she was in my arms–the tears came and they came and they came. The mixture of hormones and shock and loneliness had me in a choke hold for three months.
One day I got away. I left for just half an hour to drop a friend off after a visit. Clarabelle woke up while I was gone and Garth held her for half an hour, putting her back to bed just before I returned. “We have a hungry baby,” he said when I got back, so I went in to feed her. And, oh.
I picked her up and sat in the chair with her. She reached up a hand and traced my face over and over in the dark. She ran little grimy fingers through my hair. She stroked my arm, cooed, and fell asleep.
She just wanted me.
Love came. It bowled me over. It wasn’t magical, but it was real.
I loved her all along, but it was conscious love, clearly a choice, and a hard one.
The other night when I put her to bed, I realized I was going to miss her. I used to look forward to it, now I feel a little sad as I lay her down for the night.
Love comes. Just not always right away.
I’m still terribly sleep deprived. I still get intensely angry when she wakes up two hours early and won’t go back to sleep. I still cry when she cries so hard and is inconsolable. But I’ve learned that the anger and the crying are not from my frustration with her but with the situation (like when she’s so overtired she can’t get to sleep and cries for half an hour). I get so concerned about every aspect of her life that it comes out in anger and tears. It’s my love for her that drives me completely crazy.
I try not to feel guilty for not enjoying her newborn stage enough. I was too anxious to put her down, to get her sleeping alone, to get work done without her crying for me. I should have enjoyed that time, it was so easy to get her to sleep. She no longer sleeps on me, or anywhere really for that matter. Instead, I’ve tried to learn from that mistake and enjoy her now.
My love for her is growing every day, and so is she.