Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Bumps and Bruises in Mothering

Yesterday, when exiting my illegally parked car to pick Landon up from Maya'a apartment, I admired the softly falling snow and noticed that it was starting to hide the sheet of ice covering the sidewalk. I made a mental note to be extra careful while walking with Landon because that path was going to be very slippery when I came back out

I went upstairs and was greeted with big smiles from Landon, wrangled him into his puffy coat, carried him out the revolving door, and immediately slipped on the ice. I caught my balance twice before falling hard to the ground. Seven months ago I would have thrown out my arms to soften my fall. Yesterday, I held Landon to my chest the whole way down. My throbbing right hip and elbow were probably not so pleased with my change from self-interested individual to self-sacrificing mom. Landon was fine, though startled and pissed about the snow on his pants; I am fine, though pretty badly bruised along my right side.

A little while ago Someone Being Me wrote about a mother's love for her baby even before he is born. You can read my less than eloquent comment there, but suffice it to say, I didn't have the feelings she describes. Landon's pregnancy was planned and his birth was eagerly anticipated, but contrary to what I'd heard from others, I felt almost no connection to him as a baby until after he arrived. And even once he was here, it took a while for me to really feel like I was a mom- like I was his mom- and that he was my son. Of course I knew he was my son in the biological sense, but the words "son" and "daughter" mean so much more and that extra meaning took a little longer to develop. I remember crying at lunch with JP while Landon was in the NICU because he was so full of love for his son and I felt like I was outside the loop- I knew him so well when he was inside of me, but I didn't know that baby in the isolette at all. I felt like a defective mother. I loved him, but not like I was sure I was supposed to.

But then slowly, over the days spent sitting by Landon's side in the NICU willing him to breathe normally, during the countless hours trying to feed him through the acid reflux pain, over the miles I walked in circles around our apartment calming his cries from colic, and through the delight I felt at his every movement, sound, and blink of his eyes, he became my son in every way that word is supposed to mean. I'm not sure when the transformation was complete (and I'm not sure it ever is, this morning when he gave me a giant smile while spitting out his pears I felt absolutely certain I could not possibly love him more- until I did, five minutes later when he pumped his arms in excitement as I made quacking noises), but I remember very clearly a morning in September when I realized that he felt like mine- and that I wasn't sure when it had happened.

And yesterday, when I was lying on the ice, holding a crying Landon with snow on his pants, but no bruises, one of my first thoughts was "I acted like a mom" and that made me feel really good, throbbing elbow, hip and all.

21 comments:

  1. I didn't get so much of that feeling when my daughter was in my womb, either. But I did the minute she was born and they placed her on my chest.

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  2. I know what you mean. While I do believe that I loved my baby when I was pregnant and felt like a Mom, the baby in my belly was still an abstraction. After giving birth, I felt a disconnect between the baby in my arms and the baby in my belly (kind of like "Who are you stranger? Are you really the same person who was kicking me all these months and swimming inside me?") It took time to get to know my baby - while I knew she was mine and I definitely loved her immediately and I knew I would do anything for her, I think the meaning of Mom and daughter evolved as I knew who she was as a little person. I don't think this means that I didn't love her during pregnancy, because at the time I really thought I did. But I realize now that the love I felt then doesn't compare to the love I feel now. When pregnant, I loved this abstract baby (an idea of a baby, if you will) but now I love this little person, every inch of her being.

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  3. I've had thoughts about what I would do if I tripped while carrying Becca, exactly like your post. I like knowing the instinct to put your arms out is overridden by a baby in them, even if it resulted in major bruising. Great post.

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  4. I read about this article on this post on Ms. JD. Thanks so much for sharing your experience! If you look at adopted parents, it's clear that there is more to a parenting bond than blood and yet there is this expectation that mothers have this perfect love for their children before they even know them. Babies are so different and unique, and getting to know them as more than just our children is what really deepens the relationship.

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  5. I too, felt like the defective Mother after the birth of my daughter. I actually didn't like her for those first couple of days. Every time I looked at her, all I could see was the intense pain of a long, hard labor. When we did bond, I sobbed from depths I never knew existed. My soul flooded with a level of unconditional love that I could have never imagined.It's now fourteen years later, and it truly has grown even more since then..It's an awesome ride!

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  6. thanks for this. i got all gushy at my desk. i'm emotional that way these days.

    after carrying this little girl for five+ months now, i can honestly say that there are moments when i feel an immense stab of love and wonder for her, and moments when it simply doesn't compute, and i'm resentful that i can't have a stiff drink or seven.

    the love and wonder moments win, though, and i can't wait to meet my little kicker.

    i hope you wear your bruises like badges of honor.
    xo

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  7. What a beautiful post. You're a kick-ass mom.

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  8. I felt exactly the same way when I was pregnant, and when Cora was born. Of course I cared about her in utero, and right after she was born I was so happy she was (seemingly) healthy. But it was in actually being able to care for her that it clicked, and she became my daughter. The first few days when she was still in the NICU, I was holding a stranger, someone I was just getting to know. And as I'm currently pulling snot from her little nose, I can say we know each other real well now. :)

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  9. Awww..perfectly put. It comes differently to everyone. I remember being so angry and frustrated when Bear was in the NICU. I wanted to be Momma and instead I felt like an interloper in their perfectly scheduled, sterile environment. I think the NICU really makes it difficult to bond with your baby because you almost feel like he isn't yours. It is all very confusing and scary especially for first time parents.

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  10. I had the same experience recently, although I didn't get nearly as bruised. Prime Directive: Protect The Baby. And I had to laugh at your quacking too, because yesterday I was doing, and thinking, the exact same thing. Have you ever seen the Tina Fey American Express commercial where she's running around like crazy and her assistant pops his head in and says, "Your calendar says it's octopus time," and you see her hailing a cab, shaking a stuffed octopus at her daughter across a tea table, and then heading right back to work. Yesterday when I ran home from school so I could sit on the rug with K and quack at him, I could totally relate.

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  11. Like you, it took me some time after meeting Charlie to really feel like his Mom. I loved him immediately, but it took some time to really feel connected.

    I look at his newborn pictures now and it doesn't even seem like the same boy. I know him so much better now and we actually have a relationship. The bond just keeps getting stronger. In fact, when he got his newborn shots I was totally able to separate myself from his pain, but when he has shots now it feels like they are hurting ME.

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  12. Oh your poor hip!
    I almost bit it...instead I twisted an ankle within an inch of its life...but I didn't drop Gavin!

    And for the first week of Gavin's life, I jut called him "baby" or referred to him as "the baby". It certainly took a little time to make that adjustment and realize that he's mine.
    With Cooper, however, I think because I knew more what to expect, I felt a lot more connected to him. So instead of crying after labor because of the pain (like I did with Gavin), I cried with sheer joy when they tossed a naked, messy, squawking newborn on my belly. So maybe when you guys have another baby in a few years, you might have a less abstract experience.
    Meanwhile, I hope that hip heals soon, because from the weather reports I get from my parents, you'll need your hips to be in good working order for some more slipping and sliding. ;)

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  13. I know exactly what you mean about that not-so-lovey-dovey feeling right after birth. With my daughter, I was drugged out of my mind (and didn't see her until almost a week later because of severe HELLP syndrome). My first feeling was one of bewilderment, but I attributed it all to the drugs. I was totally surprised when my son was born this past September, and this time relatively drug free, I still had that same "huh?" feeling. Even saying "my son" didn't sound right. It finally clicked weeks later when I just had my daughter in the back seat and felt incomplete because my son wasn't there.

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  14. As mothers (heck, as women!), we put so much pressure on ourselves to live up to this idealized standard of what we should be. I think that your relationship with Landon sounds like it's developing perfectly for you guys. Sometimes Pumpkinhead drives me up a wall but there are so many times his intelligence or his wit just take my breath away and I have to sit back and think, "How on earth did this little miracle come out of me?!?" Makes you look at the person you made him with differently, too. Just wait until Landon starts talking!! :)

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  15. Sally in Texas2/13/08, 7:59 AM

    The instinct hits us when we least expect it. We know we love our children and would do "anything" to protect them. I think it's the definition of "anything" that we really don't know until the time comes. Mother's are amazing creatures and I'm proud to be one

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  16. I did have that feeling with both of my kids while they were in utero. However, with my son (now 2 years), it took a few days to feel it. With my daughter (now 7 mos) I felt it instantly - on the delivery table.

    I was not disturbed by my surreal, slightly detached feeling towards my son, though. I had read before from other mothers that sometimes that connection is NOT instantaneous on the delivery table (something I refer to as the Hollywood Moment, which I just wrote about this week, coincidentally enough).

    Thank you for you honesty - more women need to be this honest so that new mothers are not freaked out by that initial lack of intensity. I am so appreciative that I already knew about it because I did not worry about it when it did not happen instantly with my son. With him, it did not happen until Day 3 and I will never, ever forget that sweet moment.

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  17. I bet it's extra hard to bond if your baby has to be in the NICU.

    Sorry about that slip- Landon is lucky you're a smart faller :) I think if I was holding a child and I fell, I have no idea how I would proceed!

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  18. I totally bit the dust while carrying the baby in the Baby Bjorn (100 years ago when he actually fit in the Baby Bjorn). I broke my toe rather than allowing him to fall . . . it's mommy instinct. Mommy instinct that I remembered EVERY STEP after that for six weeks until the stupid toe healed! Heh - it was worth it, though.

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  19. what a great post! Hope you aren't too sore today though...

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  20. I've been checking in on your blog for awhile and I just wanted to let you know how much this touched me. I have moments like that with my son but could never have described them so eloquently. I'm so happy that life is "normal" for you.

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  21. I tripped and fell while babysitting and had the baby in the bjorn, forward facing. I did like you did and wrapped my arms around her and ended up falling on both knees and one elbow. That was almost a month ago and I still can't kneel very well. But the baby never even touched the ground.

    I think forming a strong bond with your child - no matter how that child came into your life - takes time.

    I'm not a mom yet, but I do form bonds with the kids I take care of. The bond I have with them after a year, or even 6 months is so different from how I felt about them in the first few months. Part of it is just getting to know them.

    I'm glad you are sharing this, though. Thanks for your honesty. It's refreshing.

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