“Do you feel that overwhelming sense of love for your baby girl?”
I always thought I’d feel it on first glance, on first touch, on first smell. I’ve wanted to be a mom for as long as I can remember, and I just KNEW that I would have no trouble bonding with my baby when she was born.
However, I didn’t anticipate the uncontrollable full-body spasms, taste of vomit from throwing up during the C-section, and an inability to keep my eyes open post-surgery when my daughter entered the world. I could hear the delight in my husband’s voice – “She’s so beautiful. She’s SO beautiful, Innae!” – but I could see and feel nothing.
In the days that followed, I continued to have little control over my body. I swelled to the point of looking like the Michelin Man, and my eyes were barely able to close due to the regular feedings and attention the little human needed. Every time she woke up to feed, I dutifully satisfied her hunger while wincing at the many trials and pains that come with breastfeeding, and then immediately looked to hand her off to other doting family members who could not stop gushing about how perfect she was. What I looked forward to most was when I could catch a few minutes of sleep, and that would only happen if the baby was not in my vicinity. Relatives came and went, and I mustered up the joy and excitement necessary to reflect the image of a glowing new mother.
Friends had shared that the ‘bonding’ with the baby took time, but I assumed that it wouldn’t be an issue for me. I assumed so much and knew so little.
At one month, the moments of connection come and go. In a dark room for a late night feeding, I feel connected. 3 hours later for the next feeding, though? The moment is gone and the new mother is disgrunted and frustrated.
Yet of all the trials of this month (which include, but are not limited to the following breastfeeding woes: painful nursing, clogged ducts, cracked nipples, milk blisters, vasospasms and painful letdowns at least 10 times a day), the hardest has been my own self-shame.
Until now, I had heard many a mother friend admit that she felt like a failure. As her single friend, I emphatically reassured her she was not. Now I became the one in need of reassurance because amidst my crying fits in the dark, I realized that this role requires a selflessness that I could not possess. My shame came from coming face-to-face with my own selfishness and I hated that I couldn’t be the mother I wanted to be.
But it’s been 30 days of realizing that I can’t be the mother I want to be, and in those low moments, I am given one comfort: I am the mother I am capable of being.
The mother Iwanted to be doesn’t exist; she is an ideal based on a supernatural selflessness. This I will only find in the Savior I believe in.
Instead, I am called to be me: broken, imperfect, selfish – and still a mother trying to love her daughter the way that Christ loves me. I’ll fail, but He won’t.
What will month two bring?