I’d heard time and time again about the magical moment when you hold your first born in your arms for the very first time. The ground shifts from beneath your feet, every worry in the world disappears and you feel love like you’ve never felt before. Your life suddenly has a new purpose and it’s so much larger than yourself. I’d heard about this magic and I saw it happen in front of my eyes when my husband set his eyes on our daughter in the delivery room, but strangely enough, I did not experience it for myself.
It would be blasphemous to say that I didn’t love my daughter when she was born. I think I’ve loved her since before I even conceived her. I did everything I could to ensure a comfortable and healthy nine months for her in my womb – I took all my vitamins, I ate healthy, I exercised, and I talked and talked and talked to her all the time. I meticulously prepared for her arrival – I read page after page of parenting literature, I washed and ironed all her baby clothes, I had all the upholstery in the house professionally cleaned, and I bought every baby item under the sun. I walked to the maternity ward when I was 4cm dilated, I put on make-up after I got my epidural and then I pushed and pushed, and waited for that magical moment.
I love the feeling of anticipation. I cannot explain the sense of euphoria I experience simply planning vacations, prepping for surprise birthday parties, or in this case, waiting for the birth of my child. High on anticipation and numb from the epidural, the first few moments of Baby A’s life are a bit blurry in memory. I do recall that when she finally arrived, the doctor placed her on my chest instantly. She was tiny, covered in amniotic fluid, and her tiny head was resting right underneath my neck, so that when I looked down, the first thing I saw was a full head of matted black hair. What I do remember very clearly, is turning to my husband and telling him that the baby smells really bad. That was my magical moment: black hair covered in amniotic fluid, resting on my chest, smelling.
During those first few weeks as a new mom, there were plenty of times when I just wanted to go back; back to those 8-hours of sleep, back to the freedom of leaving the house when I wanted without thinking about feeding and naps and diapers, and back to having my body as my own. There were plenty of times when I wanted to give up: when nursing was too painful or when I’d woken up for the third time within a span of three hours. There were times when I wondered whether I’d had a baby too soon, and whether I’d even thought through the decision before jumping into it.
For many months after Baby A’s birth, I beat myself up every day for the apparent lack of love I had felt on that first day and for those escapist thoughts in the first weeks. I was convinced that those moments outweighed the others when I was smitten by her and that they made me a terrible mother.
Baby A is 19 months old now and I’ve come to the realization that sometimes, just like most other human relationships, the mother-child bond needs time as well. It doesn’t make me a bad mother that I didn’t fall head over heels in love the first time I saw her face. I still loved her and I still took care of her just like every other mother does for their child. I breastfed her every 2-3 hours, I changed her diapers, I gave her baths, I rocked her to sleep. I talked to her and sang for her, I danced with her and played with her. I did everything a new mother does for her child, but I did it more out of a sense of duty than out of sheer love and happiness.
Somewhere in the first few weeks of Baby A’s life, between changing poopy diapers and 3 am feeds, the magic just happened. It wasn’t like one day Baby A snapped her tiny fingers at me and ‘Kaboom’! It was gradual, it took time, but soon enough, I wanted to feed her because it made me happy (we’re still going strong at 19 months), I wanted to change her diapers because it helped us bond (still going strong here as well), and I wanted to spend every moment with my daughter, because I was head over heels in love.
I have also realized that one of the barriers on my part, was the inability to accept the major change in my life. I had a very smooth pregnancy and in my head, life after D-day was going to be all rainbows and flowers. When I held Baby A for the first time, it had hit me that motherhood was going to be very different from how I had imagined it to be. Very rewarding, yes, but you work hard for that reward. So in those first few weeks, I was unable to digest that life had changed, irrevocably, and my yearning for a life I would never have again made me resentful towards the most beautiful person in my life.
Life works in a linear fashion and once a phase of your life is gone, it’s gone. It is change that makes life worth living and only when we embrace change with open arms can we live life to the fullest.
Every day, I thank God for blessing us with Baby A. She’s made me kinder, she’s made me more patient and she’s definitely made me a better cook. She has shown me beauty in the world around me like I had never noticed before. She’s made me stronger, she’s made me bolder and she’s shown me how to appreciate the simple things in life. Each morning, I wake up with a yearning to make the world a better place, for Baby A, than it was the day before. Each morning, I wake up with a yearning to make myself a better person, for Baby A, than I was the day before. Each morning, I wake up with a yearning to make every moment that I spent with Baby A count, regardless of how the day before went.
It’s okay that it took me time to let go of my fears, to get to know my child, and to fall in love with her. It’s okay that it took me time to get here, because I’m here now and that’s what counts. There is no doubt that I love Baby A more than I do anyone else in the world. There is no doubt that no one loves Baby A as much as I do in this world. There is no doubt that for every day for the rest of my life, I will wake up to the magical moment of falling in love with my first born, all over again.
Note: Many women experience baby blues in the first few weeks after giving birth. If these feelings persist or if you feel that you may harm yourself or your baby, you should consult a doctor immediately.