Saturday, January 31, 2015

Falling in love

When you've had a baby, you're supposed to love it. Often, unbidden, you do. Sometimes, it's just plain old love and not Love love, though. It can happen that, in the madness that follows the appearance of a baby, you're absolutely bewildered by what has just happened to you. It feels like parts of you have exploded, there's a room full of people, and noise, and - paradoxically - silence, the kind of silence that sets in when you're about to faint, a drowning out of everything that's going on, as your mind tries to pull itself together. You have to figure out what's just happened; if you're all right; if the baby's all right. What time of the day or night is it? (because the day you give birth becomes a weird kind of non-day in which time seems to stand still and you give not a single, solitary fig about anything that happens outside your delivery room.) You're given a baby and, while some women immediately fall in love with their child, others (like me) look at it and try to figure out what on earth I'm supposed to do with it and, goodness, doesn't he look strange and what are these people all doing to me?

Of course, you love your baby. You do. But at that point, you love it the same way you love a puppy or kitten - in fact, puppies or kittens have the advantage of being cuter than most newborns. My midwife always warns mothers not to worry if they don't feel the  Love love they're "supposed" to feel straight away. Sometimes you just don't - sometimes it takes a while. But you will learn to  Love love your child. It'll sneak up on you, never fear. One day you'll look into your baby's eyes and you will think, "I would die for you. I would gladly lay down my life for your tiny soul." And that's it: the little sucker has you hooked. The word 'bond' explains it perfectly: you're glued together for life.

How do they do it? What happens? I think I've figured out their modus operandi. Look:

1. They learn to smile
This is a sneaky move. They're just plopping around, leering cross-eyed at anything that moves and then, suddenly, they focus on you (or your partner: Baby Robert decided that his father was more smile-worthy than me) and grin. Was it gas? Was it an accident? Was it ... a smile? After that, you find yourself doing remarkably stupid things without a trace of self-consciousness to get another one, competing with your partner for a token of affection from a 6-week-old.

2. You want to eat your baby.
I don't know why this strong love develops side by side with an inclination towards cannibalism. You have a handful of baby chub - a fat leg, a pudgy arm - and you just have to lean in for a nibble. You find yourself nuzzling a jabbery jowl while making "Nomnomnom!" noises. Rather than be alarmed by this, babies tend to find this hysterical. They laugh, waving limbs madly, and setting off ripples of cellulite (because, yes, babies have cellulite. There's no hope for the rest of us.) Spurred on by the recognition of your natural funniness (finally), you just have to dip down and nibble a toe. Hiccup-inducing mirth follows. This is how stand-up comedians feel on a good night. It's a heady feeling: regardless of your level of slapstick, your child will find you hilarious.

3. Your heart melts
Yes, you get a warm melty feeling in your chest region. It might come when your child is doing something remarkably cute, like sucking a tiny thumb in his sleep or pointing at a kitten or whatnot. In our case, it came at moments slightly less idyllic. Recently my husband stood side by side at our bed and watched our youngest baby suckle the pillow. "Awww," we said. "The poor little nincompoop." Similarly, we watched his brother topple over into a puddle (wail!) and exchanged fond smiles: "Awww. Isn't he a proper little eejit?" Bless their little socks. Occasionally the hairs on the back of my neck stand up and I know I'm being watched. I turn around to this face, the face of a child who does not understand what I'm doing but knows one thing: he's not in the middle of it - and he genuinely doesn't understand why not. We've bonded, we're joined at the hip, Mama + Rob 4 ever. He's right, you know, though I do expect him to lead a reasonably independent life at some stage. But I'll break that to him later.

So if you're having a baby or have just had a baby and you're not feeling the Love love, don't worry. You will. It might take days or weeks. Or even months. But don't worry, that baby will reel you in. It's just a matter of time.


Anonymous said...

"Love LOVE"...the cliche of the birthing room. Like you, most of what I felt when I gave birth was complete and utter relief. The fact that there was a small screwed up red blotchy squawking thing laying on my stomach was neither here, nor there...RELIEF! Holy blessed mother that pain had stopped! Now I just wanted to have a rest but there was that small squawking thing to tend to...somewhere in the haze of sleep deprivation, being covered in nefarious substances, pain, fear (there is NOTHING like having a baby to teach you how to fear in more ways than you would have ever felt possible) and desperation you find that love. Its a most amazing feeling and it certainly does creep up on you. One moment you have no idea what to do with this tiny screaming individual who seems so very foreign to you and the next you are girding your loins to do battle with some grandmother who hasn't sufficiently admired and cooed over them. Life is strange isn't it?

PlayingWithFibre said...

Thank you for posting this. I feel like I could have written this myself... At least the sentiment, but not nearly as eloquently.

The Foggy Knitter said...

You are one of the most reassuring people on parenting I have come across in years, if I ever I find myself pregnant expect to hear from me!!! Such a relief from the "everything out there has it out for your baby" or "whatever you're doing, it's wrong" bombardment that seems to be going on endlessly, I feel very sorry for new parents sometimes.