Saturday, April 18, 2015

Laboring in love

Love at first sight. That's how a lot of people describe meeting their baby for the first time. It's what I always expected. The thought of meeting my baby and feeling that breath-taking love is what kept me going through some of the less-than-wonderful moments of pregnancy.

After a grueling 2 hours of pushing, they laid Nate on my chest and my husband and the nurses were excitedly celebrating his arrival, asking me if I wanted to nurse. I barely remember mumbling something apparently in the negative and they whisked him away to go clean him up. The room felt like it was spinning and I felt so confused and tired and oddly sad and I just wanted to go to bed. I tried to get a grip and sit up to meet this baby that had consumed my every thought for 9 months. As they placed him in my arms, I kept waiting for that feeling of love and elation to wash over me. But all I felt was tired, and I just wanted this tiny wrinkly stranger to go away for a while so I could go to sleep. My husband and mom gushed over him and I feebly tried to join in, but I just felt so detached and so so tired. The days in the hospital were a blur of trying to nurse and a nonstop flow of people in scrubs coming in to poke and prod my baby and me. I wanted to go home, and I kind of wanted to leave the baby at the hospital and pretend none of this ever happened.

We got home, and the sleeplessness and overwhelmed feeling continued. But even with these confusing emotions swirling in my head, I knew that I would take care of my baby. Even if I didn't feel all that bonded to him, I felt a sense of duty from being his mother, and I wouldn't let anything happen to him. After all, it wasn't his fault that he got a dud of a mom. He deserved someone to take care of him and someone to love him. And I wanted to be that someone. Oh how I wanted it. I would post a picture of him and people would comment about how cute he is and how much they loved him- If they loved him so much, why didn't I? I would look into his curious little eyes and say "I love you" to my tiny baby, but I felt like I was pretending. It felt so forced. I so badly wanted to mean it. It felt more like, "I want to love you. I know I SHOULD love you. I'm trying to love you." Where I expected a roaring flame of all-consuming love for my baby, I found instead a tiny bed of coals. Tiny coals that made me want to take care of him and protect him, even if I didn't find the experience that all enjoyable.

With an unwavering sense of duty to this tiny person I brought into the world, I tended to this little babe. I struggled through nursing because I wanted to give it my all, I spent countless hours rocking and soothing a baby who didn't want to sleep. I knew I was capable of taking care of him, but it felt like such a chore. I started to dread our night time routine. The whole bathing/lotioning/diapering/feeding/rocking felt about as fun to me as a 2 hour root canal. I felt like if someone knocked on my door and said "Hi! I promise to love and care for your baby; can I have him?" I would have shrugged and said, "Sure! He's all yours." But as no one was making the offer, I continued to take care of the many needs of this tiny little person, all day and all night.

What I didn't realize was that every diaper change, every middle of the night feeding, every minute spent rocking and cuddling was stoking the fire. Those little coals were burning and tenderly caring for my baby was slowly adding kindling to my little fire. It took my breath away to realize that where once a few coals burned, a huge fire was roaring inside of me, and I knew I loved my baby more than I had ever loved anything in my life. I would without hesitation give up my time, my money, and my life for him. And I would do it not because I have to, but because I want him to be happy and healthy more than I've ever wanted anything. It didn't happen overnight, and it didn't happen because I sat around and waited to love him. It happened because I just kept working at it. I kept telling him I love him even when it felt forced, I kept bathing him even though it was tedious, and I kept going to him in the middle of the night even though I wanted to put in ear plugs and pretend I was anywhere else.

Last night, I scooped Nate up from his bath, wrapped him in a fluffy towel, gave him a squeeze and soaked in all 16.5 chubby pounds of sweet-smelling, 5 month old perfection. I sang to him as I lotioned him up and gloried in his chunky thighs, his sweet giggle, and the way he smiles so big when his head pops through the onesie as I dress him. I sat in the rocker and melted at the way he touches my face as he eats and the way he nuzzles his head into me when he's ready to go to sleep. I kissed him goodnight, closed the door, and my heart felt like it might burst. I found myself looking forward to our middle of the night feeding because sometimes I miss him when he's sleeping. Tears sprung to my eyes as I realized how much I love that little boy, and how much joy he brings me. Our night time routine is now a highlight of my day. Actually, it's a highlight of my life. I never could have imagined how much happiness a clean and sleepy baby in my arms would bring me. Sure, sometimes I wish he would just stop pooping so I wouldn't have to change diapers, and sometimes I'm slightly less joyful about seeing him when it's the middle of the night. But taking care of my baby now brings me so much joy and fulfillment.  Every single night, I thank God over and over again for blessing me with this little one that lights up my life.

Falling in love is an interesting phrase. It makes it sound effortless- like you trip and suddenly find yourself in love.  And for some, that seems to be the case. A baby is placed in their arms and they are instantly in love. But for me, I find the phrase laboring in love to be much more apt. I quite literally labored for the love that now fills my entire heart and soul. I had to work for it, but it doesn't make that love any less genuine or any less blissful. And for any new mom out there struggling through the newborn haze of sleeplessness and endless feedings, looking at her baby and wondering if it is ever going to be worth it, I want to hug you through the computer screen and tell you YES. Keep kissing those cheeks and wiping that bum. Keep tending those little coals. Pretty soon you're going to be feeling the warmth of a burning fire of love for that baby, and nothing has ever felt better.


  1. Thank you so much for sharing your experience. I think I could just cut and paste your words into my journal because it was so much like my experience of becoming a mother. Of course now I wouldn't trade my kids for anything and I realize that those early experiences contributed to the incredible love I have for them now. It's good to hear I'm not alone!

  2. YES! I wholeheartedly agree. I love your posts!

    I am not a naturally-talented mother and I love the perspective of laboring in love.

  3. Hi! One of our mutual friends shared this post with me 5 months ago when I had just had a baby and was really struggling. This was quite possibly the most perfect post I'd ever read, and I wept knowing I wasn't alone. I actually referenced it today in my blog post, so many of my friends will be reading this today. I'm still so touched by your words. Thank you!