Y’all – I have a confession. I am totally, crazy, overwhelmingly and intensely in love with my daughter. Isla is nine months old and I love her more every single day. Cliché, yes. But it’s the truth. She brings me more joy than I could have ever imagined. However, I didn’t experience this type of love until Isla was seven months old. Here’s my story.
While I was pregnant I didn’t feel a strong connection to the baby inside of me. I did feel an overwhelming sense that I had to do whatever I could to keep the baby safe. However, I was not one of those people who had conversations with my baby while rubbing my swollen belly. Maybe it was my superstitious nature holding me back from getting too excited, or maybe it was because we didn’t find out the sex of Isla until she was born so I couldn’t fully connect with who I was carrying. I don’t know…
When Isla was born and I heard the words “It’s a girl” I had an out of body experience. I knew I was supposed to be more excited than I was, but I was more focused on how exhausted I felt and how anti-climactic the whole experience actually seemed. Maybe it was because I was at the hospital for 37 hours and had 41 weeks (and 37 hours) to think about what the delivery was going to be like. It was nothing like I imagined. I thought when I held my healthy baby in my arms and found out who had been hanging out inside of me for all that time I would be over the moon. I wasn’t.
After Isla was delivered we only had a few minutes before things got a little scary. She wasn’t breathing well and her heart rate dropped. There was five-minutes of sheer terror – for my husband. He kept looking over at the pediatrician working on Isla. I could hear the sounds of her feet being slapped and the pediatrician saying, “Come on. Come on!” Tears filled Neil’s eyes. And all I could do was scream at him to look at me.
“Don’t look at the baby, look at me! Just look at me!”
My fresh, beautiful bundle of joy was almost lifeless on a table a few feet away from me, but all I could do was howl at my husband to keep his eyes on me. I didn’t want him to see what was going on – I wanted to protect him.
Five minutes later, Isla was fine and she made her way into my arms. I looked at her and said, “Well, you certainly know how to make an entrance and give your father a heart attack.” And then laughed at myself for having my first moment of parental sarcasm.
(Note: As I recount the events that happened in that five-minute scary period, I realize I’m pretty breezy about it. But the bottom line is, I can’t control what my emotions were, and Isla is more than OK now. That’s what matters.)
I stared at her for a while. Her face was flat. She had a crazy overbite. Her nose was smushed. She was furry. Was she cute? I thought she was. But I was acutely aware that other people probably wouldn’t think so.
I wasn’t drunk on my baby yet – you might know what I’m talking about. The feelings you have inside of you where you’re 100% confident that your baby is smarter, cuter and better than any other baby out there. And you are sure that other parents say the same thing about their babies – but you know that your baby REALLY IS the smartest and cutest baby of all time. It took me a long time to get to that place, which is pretty friggin’ awesome. I digress…
The overwhelming sense I had to protect Isla while I was pregnant grew into an intense sense that I would kill anyone or anything that tried to fuck with my baby after she arrived. Yes – I loved her. But I wasn’t in love with her. It was a very strange mix of emotions. The first week we had Isla at home I stayed up with her all night, terrified that something would happen if I wasn’t awake every single second. Neil forced me to let go a little – and little by little I became more comfortable. I spent three months on maternity leave. And yes, we bonded. And I thought she was adorable. But I certainly didn’t have “that feeling” that so many parents described. Instead of a sense of bliss I was busy wondering if Neil and I had made the biggest mistake of our lives. I definitely remembered what life was like before having Isla and thought about it often. PS – So many people say the minute you have a baby you forget what life was like before the baby. You guys – I still remember what life was like before having a baby. It was pretty awesome.
The months went on, I went back to work and Isla suddenly started becoming a person. She wasn’t a lifeless lump. She started to laugh. She started to play peek-a-boo. I could interact with her. But I still didn’t have this feeling that I craved – this feeling of all-encompassing love. I didn’t miss her when I was away from her. Sometimes I even forgot about her. I finally gave up and accepted that I wasn’t going to be one of those parents who sat around and thought about my baby all of the time. It wasn’t like I didn’t love her. I just didn’t love her as much as I wanted to. I vowed protect her and do anything I could to give her a great life. And then, I moved on.
Then one day, something changed. I came home from work and my keys jangled in the door. I could hear my daughter start to squeal with joy. My stomach flipped as I struggled to unlock the door. Finally as the key caught the latch, I swung the door open, and there was my beautiful daughter staring at me. Her smile was so wide that her nose crinkled. She chirped with delight as I put down my bag and went to wash my hands. I walked towards her and she bounced up and down with excitement. I scooped her up in my arms, smelled her hair, kissed her plump cheeks and wanted to inhale her. My eyes filled with tears. Our nanny Suzette (slash third parent) asked if I was OK. I looked at her and said, “I’m absolutely, positively, head-over-heels in love with my daughter.”
I tell this story because I want people to know it can take a long time to feel the type of love so many parents talk about – a love you have never experienced before. And you know what – that’s OK. Being a parent is really hard and the trials and tribulations that come with this new role are overwhelming. A small part of me is terrified that one day Isla will read this and be upset with me. The larger part of me wants her to know that it’s OK if it takes her time to fall madly, deeply, head-over-heels in love with her babies. And if she falls insanely in love at first site, she’s pretty damn lucky to feel the most incredible love she will ever experience so early on.