On Becoming a Mother
The day I found out I was pregnant with my first child, I walked with an extra spring in my step. I felt maternal protection over my baby. I dutifully brewed myself decaf coffee that morning and had a sense of honor with the responsibility I had been given.
I took a little stroll at work that day to call the doctor and make a first prenatal appointment. I ate better during my pregnancy than I ever had before, and consequently felt better than ever before. I read pregnancy books, practiced prenatal yoga weekly, and attended birth class with my husband.
Fast forward to the birth of my son. The moment he was born I was elated; not so much at finally meeting him face to face, but because of the pure bliss and relief of labor ending and the pain vanishing. While my husband burst into tears at the sight of our child, my eyes remained dry and my heart filled with pride at my strength and endurance rather than with awe of the miracle of my child.
Though the tears caught up with me ten-fold in the days that followed, I’d chalk that up more to postpartum hormones. Reflecting on his birth, I was surprised by my lack of emotion in the moment. I loved him, but I didn’t feel a sudden shift when I met him. I remember hearing so many times that the love you have for a child is immediate and so different than anything else. I wondered, where were the tears? How was my husband’s reaction so raw and mine so stoic?
As the weeks progressed, friends came to visit and I was often asked, “So how does it feel to be a mom?” I answered in all honesty, “I don’t feel so much like a mom as much as I feel like I’m simply taking care of a baby.”
Weeks became months and as I got to know my son more, and the more I watched him develop, I realized two things about my maternal love for him. One is something I have heard from many mothers, especially after they welcome a second child: Of course you love your child unconditionally, but love also grows with time. The more you get to know everything about them, the more you watch them learn and the more you become so familiar with their smell and touch. You love them more and more each day. But I also realized the difference between my husband’s experience and mine.
I thought back to that day of my positive pregnancy test. The sense of pride and responsibility I felt was sudden, and it was strong. To me, that was the day I became a mom. I wanted a baby, and that little bundle of cells was entrusted to me. My husband–who read the books, attended the classes, and was filled with just as much anticipation–became a dad the moment he saw his son face-to-face. I had experienced that sudden shift, only it had happened to me nine months earlier.
Now that I’m expecting my second child, I wonder, will I have a rawer reaction, like my husband did, when I see this baby? This pregnancy has been different. Less planning, less pomp and circumstance. My mind is focused on my toddler son. Perhaps I’ll feel a stronger shift when I meet him, having progressed through my second pregnancy without the intense preparation of my first. Regardless, I’ll have the experience of becoming a mother to my older son to be confident that the bond with my second will grow, with time, exponentially.
Photo by Vanessa Stoller Photography