Motherlove

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“Ripe Tomatoes.” Robert Duncan.

When my first child was born, I thought I knew what love was.

But then . . .

Alone for the first time this day, I’m lying in the hospital bed, looking at the bulletin board with a few cards from friends and family already pinned to it, thinking of my mother and grandmothers.

How they warned me.

Three different times, unbeknownst to each other:

“I delivered all of my babies quickly, so don’t wait around when the time comes . . . ”

How each of them nodded sagely after giving their own individual versions of this pronouncement. Like lesser, more amiable versions of the mythological Three Fates. 

Good thing I listened, I tell myself.

I beat them all.

He came so fast.

Less than an hour after I walked in here.

*******

The doctor, thinking he has plenty of time, arrives almost too late. As soon as his gloves are on, it’s over.

“A boy,” he says. I get only a glimpse of tiny flailing arms as the doctor immediately hands my son to the nurses, who sweep into a side room to suction his mouth and nose before he draws his first breath.

Loud, remarkably strong cries reverberate through the rooms.

“Whose baby is that?” I ask the nurse attending me.

She chuckles. “Yours.”

Gracious. I never imagined a newborn’s lungs could be so strong.

Within minutes, another nurse brings him to me, puts him in my arms.

He’s already quit crying.

His father, standing by in green scrubs, weeps audibly.

This tiny face. The nose. It’s uncanny. “He looks exactly like pictures of your father,” I tell my husband.

“I know,” is all he can manage. 

Now, more than ever, I wish I could have known my father-in-law, who died when my husband was twelve. But the pictures are enough to know that his namesake, here in my arms, is a living replica.

*******

I feel a rush of something that surpasses euphoria. I recall a friend telling me about this sensation: Right after your baby’s born you feel like the most powerful person on Earth, like you could do anything. It’s almost superhuman.

The neonatal people come to take my baby.

I say I’m starving. 

My nurse brings me a breakfast tray.

After the first three bites I promptly throw up. On the rest of my breakfast.

“Sorry,” I tell the nurse.

So much for being superhuman.

My nurse, chuckling again, takes the tray away. “That happens a lot. It’s just your body stabilizing.”

*******

It’s all still a big blur, really. Family members coming, going. Grandma calling to see for herself that I’m okay, saying what she always says when she calls: “I just needed to hear your voice.”

The room is still now, strangely silent for a hospital. I hear muted voices down the hallway where my husband is glued to the nursery window, staring at his son.

The chilly gray morning has apparently turned into a sunny afternoon befitting late April; a ray of light shines through the high window above my bed onto the bulletin board. This golden finger of light illuminates a card with a little boy in overalls standing on the front: Congratulations on Your Baby Boy!

My baby boy. 

Mine.

An internal switch flips. A floodgate opens, some kind of dam bursts with a force too great for words. It surges through my entire being. My body shakes with the ferocity of it. Tears flood my eyes; I can’t see the bulletin board anymore, just the light.

He is mine, he is MINE. If anything, anyone, tries to hurt him, they’ll have to take me out first. 

*******

Motherlove.

The moment it kicked in remains vivid in my memory, many years later. My son was just hours old; looking at the sunlight on that congratulatory card, the sudden thought of something harming him nearly turned me animalistic. I knew I’d move heaven and Earth, I would fight to my death, to save my baby boy: Take me instead. I’d have been completely consumed by this force if a voice in my brain hadn’t said, Look, just be wise. Take care of yourself. Live so that you can keep him safe.

I don’t know why some women are infused with intense motherlove and others are not, for there are women who bring harm to their own. I don’t know everything that can go awry with a person’s psyche or all that causes internal barometers to not function properly. I only know the power of this moment and that the force of it is with me still, even now when my two boys are grown and beyond the protective bubble I could cast over them when they were small.

That doesn’t mean the love is any less fierce.

Mine. They’ll always be mine, as long as I am alive, and even when I am not.

For, once begun, motherlove never ends.

********

My thanks to Kathleen Neagle Sokolowski, whose post “The Cariest” on her blog Courage Doesn’t Always Roar in January brought back the intensity of these moments. 

8 thoughts on “Motherlove

  1. All so true! My sons live zillions of miles away from me and oh, that mother love! I am already excited to see one in June and the other in July. It is amazing to have those strong feelings come rushing in at some moments (and somehow surprises me that my parents may feel the same way about me!). Beautiful job bringing back those early hours.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I remember that “superhuman strength”. I had plans while on my twelve week maternity leave to spend time with my three year old and newborn. I was going to clean the house, visit friends and family, bond with my children and run errands. It sounded great, and I was excited. I don’t think I lasted a week. My mom came to the rescue and saved me. That superhuman strength left and a meltdown occurred, but that strength still visits when necessary. It seems to visit a lot now that the three year old is finishing his final year of middle school. There’s nothing like that strength and a mother’s love for her child. ♡

    Liked by 1 person

  3. How could you have crawled inside my head and heart? I am 2,000 miles away from my son (who is 35) and I still worry about something happening to him (or his family). Mother’s love is there no matter the age or distance. Love You Forever was a book that grabbed my heart every time. I could be that mom (although I’d have a hard time crawling up a tree into a window). 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. There is both familiarity and unfamiliarity in your post. There is both strength and vulnerability in the birthing experience. I’m w/ you in not understanding women who reject their babies, although I did suffer from severe depression in the aftermath. What perplexes me most is how some women don’t see their babies in their teen and adult child’s face. My baby boys will always be my baby boys.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Yes to all of this! I distinctly remember not just feeling this beautiful thing called motherlove, but really, all KINDS of emotions on a deeper level than ever before. Though I considered myself sensitive before kids, it was a whole different story after kids. I felt (feel!) things so fiercely and deeply when it came to my kids that I wondered how I never felt it before. And then I knew why…when your kids come from you (whether it’s from your belly or your heart), it’s like they take a piece of you that never gets put back. That piece is a hole that feels things so intensely…hence, motherlove. This is a beautiful piece. I hope you show this to your son! Thank you for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

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