I've been staring at this little human's face for 20 days straight today. I would gladly jump in front of a bus or sacrifice all of my worldly possessions for him and yet, there are times I still feel he is a complete stranger. I know his moods and his sleep habits and his eating schedule, but I often look into those eyes and don't recognize them at all.
Who are you little boy?
The unspoken expectation is that from the first moment we lay eyes on our children, we feel an immediate connection with them that lasts a lifetime. Although it may happen that way for some, in my experience, developing a bond with my boys (like any other relationship) takes time, and can be particularly hard in the newborn stage when they are so needy and unable to engage in any meaningful way. The joys of motherhood in these early days are eclipsed almost entirely by supply and demand, instinct and neediness. He cries when he's hungry. I nurse every two hours. He cries when he's wet. I change diapers 12 times a day. He stares off into space. I coo and make baby faces and funny sounds, receiving in exchange blank stares and shifty eyes struggling to focus.
Are you really mine?
This tiny creature can do absolutely nothing on his own except nurse and sleep, and yet I love him. Fiercely. Undoubtedly. Biology has tethered us together forever. I understand it is both my duty and privilege to care for and serve him despite, and perhaps because, of his helplessness. What the Bible says is true: he is a beautiful, beautiful gift. Still, it takes more than neediness (on his part) and commitment (on my part) to know someone. Knowing takes intimacy and intimacy takes time. He's still getting to know his crazy mama, and I'm still studying his every motion, wondering who he is and what makes him tick.
Unfortunately, they don't warn you about this stuff in the hospital or at the baby shower, and they don't cover it in the parenting classes either. We feel confused and let down after childbirth when we don't feel the motherly magic right away. We're shocked when postpartum depression and baby blues show up in place of warm tinglies and butterflies. Somehow, we forget that birth is as much trauma as it is miracle. Our bodies go through enormous amounts of change and pain and need time to recover. Our emotions go haywire trying to find the "new normal". We, ourselves are needy, even as we care for our newborns.
I learned this the hard way the first time around, so I wasn't completely caught off guard when I looked into my son's beautiful brown eyes and felt wonder and mystery, but not the knowing, not the closeness, not the bond. Not yet. I have no expectation for what I should feel, or by when. I only know that one day, it will come - the rush of emotion, the closeness, the knowing, all of it. We wait together in the meantime.