Like most mothers, I will never forget the moment I fell in love with my first born. I was exhausted. I was emotional. I felt drained and full of imperfections. Yet the weight of this beautiful baby girl on my chest was enough to keep me awake. Soaking up every minute of our moments together. I was embracing motherhood. I put my nose to her soft fuzzy head and inhaled that sweet baby smell. I rubbed my hand across her back, in awe of her size compared to my hand. I gently patted that little baby bottom of hers and touched her sweet little feet as they curled under her body.
As I looked down at this perfect little being, a new wave of emotions swept over me. Hot, slow tears trickled down my cheeks and onto her head. I held her tighter, almost willing her back into my body. ‘I love you so much my sweet girl,’ I choked out in a whisper. I let my tears fall for a few more minutes, soaking in her short breaths and the heat of her little body against mine. When I felt good and ready, I stood up and placed her in her crib for the night. She was six months old.
The thing is, when I delivered her, I thought I would have this welcome to motherhood moment of OMG I LOVE YOU SO MUCH! But I didn’t. Instead, I had this OMG HOW DO WE KEEP HER ALIVE moment. I was so caught up in new momma things. Am I doing this right? What does that cry mean? Is she getting enough food? Should my body be doing this/feeling this/looking like this? I was consumed with subconsciously grading myself and measuring my success. I remember I kept telling my mom, ‘I don’t know how to be successful here. At work, I am successful. I know what it takes to do my job and do it well, but this mom thing really has me thrown’. I wasn’t ‘bluesy,’ I was frustrated.
Looking back, I think these feelings were due to our emergency c-section and the fact that when she was delivered, I was immediately asking if she was ok? Was she breathing? The nurses assured me, yes, but I couldn’t hold her, and her cries were minimal. The umbilical cord had been wrapped around her waist which was causing distress, hence the speedy delivery and need for extra attention. But an hour and three vomits later (weak stomach) I was back in my room with my girl, my husband, our parents, and a dear friend who was there to photograph these first moments as a new family.
I am so thankful I have pictures from that day because my memories are distinct, yet fuzzy. The picture I am most grateful for is of the first time I held my girl. I was holding her up in front of me, looking her in the eye. Those fierce blue eyes that the doctor immediately commented on when she was born, barely cracked open, looking back at me. She was here, she was ok. We were a family. I was a mom. I was waiting for my “welcome to motherhood moment.” I remember thinking, when will I feel it? When will I have this overwhelming connection to this beautiful, tiny human? Why isn’t my heart bursting?
Once home, I remember sitting in my big recliner, in my family room, with just the overhead light from the stove dimly shining into the room. It was 3 am, everyone else was sleeping, and I was sitting there with my new baby, nursing her. All I could think was ‘this is so permanent…she is never leaving….why did we do this’? Yet, I couldn’t put her down. I didn’t want her to be away from me. She was mine. I finally got to meet this active little girl who lived in my belly for all those months. Still, I didn’t have this overwhelming moment of love, but rather a feeling of obligation to do and be my best as a mother.
But then one night, as I rocked my girl to sleep, my heart exploded with love. I remember telling my husband about it after I laid her down that night. I will never forget and always be grateful for his honest response. He said, with a smirk ‘I’m pretty sure I didn’t love her for about six weeks.’ We both chuckled, and at that moment, I realized this transition to parenthood had been hard for both of us.
What I’ve realized is my experience, and lack of a “welcome to motherhood moment” doesn’t make me a bad mom or diminish my love for my daughter. It’s just a different experience. I had a different “moment,” and that’s ok. I will remember that moment for the rest of my life and be able to tell my girl all about the night I fell in love with her.