We’re at the Niagara house as I write this, and I love this place. It’s gray and misty today and the back forty looks like a painting with the tall grasses a rich palette of umber and golden. I’m watching my family pass around little Noah who is snoozing peacefully in their arms, and my girls are curled up on the sofa with Faerie Tale Theatre playing on the television. My life feels very rich.
In my vast amount of pregnancy reading, there seemed to be lots written about how the bonding process isn’t always instant. I had no worries about bonding with my baby. I knew when he came out into the world I would feel very connected to him, and feel very natural about my role as mother. What I didn’t count on was how much love I would feel for him. I love this little creature with every ounce of my being and I feel that he is completely a part of me, which I guess is true – I grew him with my body, and with my body he continues to grow. Deep in my heart, I know he knows that I am where he came from, and that we are connected by blood.
With parenthood comes the knowledge of the very deepest kind of fear. Never before have I been so aware of my own mortality, or of the finite amount of time we have in this life. One of the easiest triggers for my postpartum tears was contemplating how soon my little babe would grow out of his tiny clothes, how fast the passage of time would fly, and how one day he’d be in the world without me. I cannot imagine a time when I can’t just reach out and touch my son, and yet that is exactly how the natural course of things unfolds. We create lives, we nurture them, and then we set them free to find their own way. I want this little man of mine to experience all of the richness and love that his own life has to offer.
This love I feel is so profound that now I understand why people unflinchingly say they would do absolutely anything for their children. This love is the deepest ache I’ve ever felt, and that ache is compounded whenever I think of my own mother, and any of the moments when I was unkind to her. I cannot imagine that anyone has ever felt for me what I feel for little Noah, and the realization of that love is the most humbling thing I’ve ever felt. I hope my children can look at the scope of their parents’ love one day and feel like they are worthy. For me, it is only through having children who are so beautiful and inspiring that I feel like I’ve done anything to deserve a love as deep as a mother’s love.
My heart is on my sleeve now. If I feel like compassion is hard to reach, I merely think of my baby and then think of how each person (hopefully) has a mother who loves them as I love my little boy. I think of how they were once perfect and unmarred by life’s heartbreaks, and how they received such deep and simple comfort in their mother’s arms. With my stepdaughters I feel a true sense of sadness, realizing that I missed so much in not knowing them when they were babies, and I understand so clearly now the bond they share with my partners. I know how despite loving them with all of my heart, and knowing I want their lives to be filled with love and happiness, there is something unique about shepherding a tiny life from conception on. I understand the huge risk my partners took in deciding to let me be a part of the girls’ lives.
Have you had friends who’ve had children, only to vanish from your life, forsaking you for the company of their new parent friends? I now realize that this choice isn’t personal. The experiences of childbirth, postpartum hormones, insane new sleep schedules, and early breastfeeding woes are not unlike having survived a traumatic event. You are left raw, and changed forever by what you have felt and seen. You need the company of other survivors who know what it’s like to glance up from the dinner table when your baby coos, only to burst into tears as you realize you’ve created this magnificent little life and he totally depends on you. We probably don’t give our child-free friends enough credit, but I think we’re afraid to speak candidly about these feelings and experiences in case we frighten them, or worse, have them judge us.
I’ve known for a long time that I wanted to make a baby. Now, on the other side of baby-making I have few regrets. Each step I’ve taken has led me to the path of motherhood, and I feel confidant in my abilities and so very blessed to be able to give life. My child has three amazing parents, two unbelievably brilliant and beautiful sisters, three adoring grandmothers, three proud grandfathers and some truly golden aunties and uncles. We have the means to provide for our children, we have a wonderful network of friends, an incredible school family, we live in a beautiful house in the heart of a beautiful city, and we are healthy enough to enjoy the life we are living. Without the mistakes of my past, I would not know the success of my present, and this present really does feel like a gift.