Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Strangers

When we went for our very first ultrasound, at eight weeks, the goal was to see a heartbeat. At that point, we'd been cautiously excited for a month, thinking about the possibility of a baby, but not wanting to get too excited, either (I swear, during that month, I heard more miscarriage stories, without even TRYING, than I heard in my entire life leading up to that point). When the image came up on the screen of the little white blob with the little flickering heartbeat, I swear something chemical happened in my brain. I mean it, I was instantly in love with that blob. The tech printed pictures for us and I sat in the car, all the way home, staring at them like the Mirror of Erised.

When Grace was born, it took me a little while to realize I'd had no such moment in the delivery room. I was excited and overwhelmed and it was all a bit much to take in, and when I get like that, I'm the type to just keep moving and not stop and take everything in. The moment they laid her on my stomach, I was stroking her and trying to see if she looked like anyone, taking in the fact that we'd really had a girl, that she was really here, but there was no, "oh my god this is my child" moment. There just...wasn't.

And that moment didn't really come in a big bang. I think it does for a lot of people, and it was sort of hard that it didn't for me. It was a gradual thing. I kept staring at her, trying to figure her out- what did she want? (she wanted to yell, oh how she wanted to yell...) what did she need? what the HELL was I doing? But the rush of instant love? It's hard to say it out loud, but it wasn't there.

I have a friend who had the same thing happen. She told me that rather than instantly loving her daughters, she fell in love with them. And that's what happened with Grace. One night, at 3am, when I was up for aprpoximately the fiftieth time, I found her with her little lip curled out and her eyes puffy with sleep and I wanted to spend the rest of my life squeezing her. Sometimes I catch her right as she's waking up, before she starts to cry, and just as she's opening her eyes, she has that look on her face like she's still shocked to find herself out in the world, and I scoop her up before she can cry and bury my face in her neck and kiss her all over.

I think a lot of the same people who have instant-mommy love say they feel like they've known their kids forever. In a lot of ways, I feel like I have a different baby every single day. I've figured out a few things- she loves baths for about seven minutes, and then she HATES them, I am her favorite pacifier, she likes having her feet out in the breeze as opposed to having them covered, and that cowlick on top of her head isn't going anywhere. The more I get to know her, the more I love her, but there's so much about her I haven't figured out yet. (For the record, I also think there's a lot that she hasn't made up her mind about yet, either.) It's the hardest part of all of this, having this little piece of you that you don't really know. Admitting that is hard, but it's also the truth. Just because we dont' all instantly know and love our babies doesn't mean we love them any less. It's just not what you always hear about.

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