Friday, April 13, 2007

Exponential [Secret] [Love]

This morning as I sat with the Cricket nursing on my lap-- both he and I still prefer the football hold-- I was thinking about how big he's gotten, easily twice the size of when he was born. And then I thought of how I loved him.

I'm going to confess something I'm hesitant to reveal, which means it's really true and "close to the bone." (I used to teach my own writing students to write 'close to the bone'-- it's honest and scary and wonderful all at the same time... See how I'm hedging my confession here?)

When the Cricket was born, I don't know if I loved him immediately. Oh, and see I don't know that love is even the correct word here because of course I loved him, even when he was in the womb. I can remember one day when I was pregnant and Partner and I were driving the Very Busy Road in our city and I had to swerve and slam on the brakes to avoid a woman who was turning left into us. I pulled over into the first parking lot and just sobbed thinking how if she had hit us, Cricket would have been in serious danger. So, yes, I loved him even then, but it was different.

When I realized that I was going to have the baby five weeks early, I stood in my sopping wet socks and cried. I wasn't ready. Yet. I was hoping to have those five more weeks to think about his impending arrival, decorate the nursery, mediate with my hands on my enormous stomach and try to get closer to the new life. Instead I sat on a towel in my Partner's truck hurtling down the expressway to the hospital three days after Christmas and tried to calm myself down. Just because things didn't start the way I wanted, it didn't mean, I thought, I couldn't have the birth I wanted. And as calm as my demeanor in the hospital was, I was scared. Scared to have the birth I wanted, more scared to have the birth I didn't want, and petrified of the new life inside of me that I would soon be responsible for in an ever-so tangible way.

Not once when we finally got the hospital did I cry, scream, or otherwise. Toward the end of the first pitocin drip when I had no epidural, I probably mooed. But to no one, not even my Partner did I admit how scared I was. Then when I was wheeled into the OR, I told them I was freezing and so they put a warming blanket over the top half of my body, but nothing could stop me from shaking. Why? Because I was not so much cold as scared shitless.

And when they showed me the Cricket, I stretched out my fingers to touch him, but no one could see since they were strapped down under the warming blanket. When they took him to the NICU, it only made me more scared. When the wheeled me into the NICU, I can remember looking at him lying on his stomach, tubes and wires attached to him. I wanted to pick him up and hold him as much as I wanted to close my eyes and not see any of it. And so while I loved him, I was more scared of him and his fragility and my responsibility for such in the first few weeks of his life. Love underlined all the fear.
Now he really is growing into a sturdy boy, just as I wanted him too. I'm not so scared, however that's not to say there isn't any fear. Tears can appear instantly if I think of something happening to him, but that's just normal mommy fear. So what's happened is that the love is growing, exponentially. As my confidence as a mother grows, so does my love for the kid. I feel totally different about him now than I did when he was first born. Instead of love underlining the fear, love is the dominant emotion now. Fear is a footnote; always present in some ways, but regulated to the end of the text. It's important enough to be present, but not so central to the text of my motherhood.

With exponential growth, the larger something gets, the faster it grows. Being one of the few geeks that actually enjoyed differential equations when I took calculus, I was thrilled when we did problems that demonstrated exponential growth. Then this past year in Microbiology, I was captivated by bacterial and their log growth in optimum conditions. Hey, I'm a dork, and you should now that by now if you read my blog. But as I studied different ways things grow, exponential growth seemed to be concept limited to things like growing interest in bank accounts and specimens of S. aureus. Probably there was some sort of learning exponential growth curve too, but I never thought of love following such a graph. Which is silly because now that I think of it, most love in my life has followed such a pattern, such that real love begets more and more love. My brothers, my parents, my partner, and now my child have all proven that such a mathematical model holds true. It would be difficult to prove in the mathematical sense, in that I have no values to place on where we started and where we're going, but if you can know in your heart a math concept is true, I know it keenly and joyfully.

I'm quite sure that I'm not the only woman who felt this way when her child was born, but isn't it taboo to talk about? What we hear is "I fell in love the minute I saw him/her" which is, as I said, true, but that love might be fraught at the start. I had to tell the truth because where I've come from that time to now is unbelievable, and reaching such new heights deserves to be chronicled. To be close to the bone. And all that love for such a wee man.

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Anonymous Jenn said...

I felt the same way. The first few months were so hard on us, while I loved them, I wasn't sure I liked them let alone be in love with them. I felt terribly guilty over that too.

I think it's nuts that we place this expectation on ourselves to fall in love with these little people instantly and feel guilty when we don't.

4:18 PM  
Blogger Nico said...

I think Pru had blogged about this too...

I find it hard to believe that there ARE people who are totally in love with their babies from the beginning. I certainly wasn't. Fiercely protective, absolutely. But I didn't fall in love until he started smiling and laughing, and showing some personality. Now, I find the I love him more and more every day. And sometimes I wonder how that can be possible given how much I already love him.

Suposedly it's the oxytocin that makes you "love" at the beginning - perhaps we just didn't have that much of it. Or something.

8:41 PM  
Blogger Suz said...

What I felt towards the boys, initially, wasn't exactly love. It was more like ownership; they were mine, all mine, and I would have to take care of them. I wanted to take care of them. So, I felt an enormous amount of responsibility too. But love? Love had to grow.

9:22 PM  
Anonymous J-Le said...

what a great post. thank you for sharing it. i don't know what to expect when the twinkle arrives but i don't want to naively assume it will be all roses and love. but you don't often hear it any other way.

2:17 AM  
Blogger Portlairge said...

He is so adorably gorgeous Katie. I'm with you on the love thing. It grows with time as it does in all realtionships, I suppose. I also think that we tried so hard to get pregnant and we wanted it sooooo badly, it is a little shocking when the baby arrives and we don't feel that big rush of love. But when it does come, it is oh so sweet.

11:30 PM  
Blogger hd said...

I hope this makes sense. I'm at work. The teenagers are sucking out my brain.

Ahem. I think in the beginning we love them in a fierce, animal-like way that involves protection and responsibility and a little awe. But they keep us awake and scream and all those other things they do, and we have to fight not liking them, even though that big protective love is still there. When they start responding to us like humans, when they make communicative sounds and have emotional responses, we love them in a deeper, more human way. I totally understand what you mean. Sometimes I look at Mia and feel so much true love that I think I might just burst with the bigness of it. It's a good feeling.

10:25 AM  
Blogger Michko said...

I had such a hard time after No. 1 was born because I DID have this rosy picture about how life would be and life was definitely not rosy. I did not feel love for my little guy for several months. It hurt then and it hurts now (he's 7!). I think you're so right, though, we're not "allowed" to talk about the parts of motherhood that aren't this Hollywood version of how life should be after the baby comes. I typically speak freely about how my life changed after the kids were born, but I know there are lots of people who are more reserved because, I suspect, they fear others will think they are weak. It's a sad cycle.

12:08 PM  
Blogger Kim said...

Thank you for writing this and for making me feel less like the leper I fear I am.

8:48 PM  
Anonymous Susan said...

I think this is way more common than generally acknowledged.

10:27 PM  
Anonymous Mary said...

This entry brought tears to my eyes, because I know what you mean.

When Frog was born, I loved her - but I was SO SCARED. Scared as I watched her stop breathing, scared that my partner wasn't going to come back to me. Scared that if I turned my head, her blood pressure would drop just a *little* too low. Scared that they BOTH were going to leave me.

Last night I had a total epiphany - and our daughter is 6 MONTHS OLD! Watching my partner rock her, I was like - that's OUR baby. OUR BABY. WE MADE HER. She's here, and she's healthy, and she's not leaving. It was amazing!

I think the feelings that you described are TOTALLY normal for all new parents, and you put them into words wonderfully.


12:55 PM  
Blogger pixie sticks said...

this definitely feels familiar.

5:57 PM  
Blogger sarah said...

nicely said. Have you read Catherine Newman's book? She mentions how it's interesting to have a second child: you love them quicker, she says, because you already know how. That was a comment that caught my attention because I hadn't thougth about love that way, but I think it's true. Having a child made me think a lot about what love is, how it works: how it really is something that we learn, if not how to do exactly, it's definitely something we have to learn how to do well.

11:01 PM  

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