'WHERE IS THE LOVE?'
BY LAUREN DUBOIS
The moment you finally look into your baby’s eyes is when you’re supposed to be walloped with a love so great it leaves you breathless. There will be fireworks, angels singing, a fairy floss machine in the corner. All good and happy things will rain down on you, instantly changing your life and awakening your soul to what it really means to be a mother. The bond will be instant and more powerful than anything in existence.
So why does this wingless pigeon feel like he could be anyone’s kid? Why won’t he stop squawking? Has he been in a fight? He looks like he’s got two black eyes. That gunk and blood are so gross, I want to wipe it off so badly, but I don’t think I’m supposed to notice that.
Is everyone expecting me to kiss it? I don’t want that stuff in my mouth. I really thought I’d make a better-looking kid. This one looks a bit like Nick Nolte. Why don’t I think he’s beautiful? Don’t all mums think their babies are beautiful? Is everyone waiting for me to cry with happiness? Do I do that now or is it too late? What’s the time? I wonder if it’s still raining outside.
The one thing no one ever tells new mums is: when you hold your baby for the first time, you might not feel much at all.
If you’re lying there feeling nothing more than shock and disbelief, there is nothing wrong with you. If you take one thing away from this book, I want it to be this.
Of course, some women do give birth and enter that dreamy, loved-up phase immediately and that’s great for them. Their hormones kick in, the endorphins from labour flood their system, and it’s an oxytocin party for two. Delightful. I don’t know many of those women. Most women I know are from the ‘I went numb with shock and didn’t know which way was up’ camp.
The instant connection isn’t a done deal. Feeling a lack of anything resembling love is far more common than people think but no one ever says it out loud because, well, that’s just not what you do, is it?
‘Introducing baby Axelotle, born this morning at 6.23 a.m., weighing 3.2 kg and measuring 51 cm. He looks a bit like a dropped pie and we’re not quite sure if we like him yet.’
When your body has been through a trauma—and even if it all goes well, it’s still a huge bloody trauma—your brain might prioritise your physical and mental healing over the bonding. You need a chance for your body to calm down and for your brain to process WTF just happened. But the truth is you’ll have absolutely no downtime to recover because your job starts NOW.
So give yourself a break for not swooning over this tiny stranger just yet. You do love your baby—you just don’t know her yet. Your love is a slow burn. It starts out as a fascination, a protectiveness. You stare at your creation with wonder.
It grows to affection and a primal desire to make sure the baby is okay. You start to notice how cute she is and you want to be near her all the time, even when she doesn’t need you. You become accustomed to the feeling of that tiny body in your arms and you want her there as often as possible.
It could be a few days later, or it could be weeks or even months, but eventually you will look at your child and realise you are stupidly, fiercely, head-over-heels in love with this tiny person you grew. The love that has been hidden under a fog of fatigue, confusion and desperation to be a good mum has ensnared your heart so completely you can barely believe you hadn’t noticed it before.
But wait, there’s more!
That overwhelming love for your newborn? That’s nothing. That’s just the start of it. This right here is your entry-level love. It’s big, no doubt. It’s HUGE. Truly bigger than anything you’ve felt before. Remember all that time you thought another adult was The One? Wrong. Your child is The One. But the love is going to get bigger. And bigger. And bigger still.
That tiny infant is amazing, it’s true, but let’s be honest: newborns don’t really do anything. They open their eyes, they look at you, they cry, they demand food and they poo. It’s cool when it’s your kid, but in retrospect you realise it’s not that impressive.
Wait until your child actually starts DOING things. When your newborn turns into a baby, then a toddler, and then a child who thinks real, deep, amazing thoughts about life, your heart will swell so much that it physically hurts and you will do weird, creepy things like lie down next to their sleeping bodies so you can have a little cry into their hair . . . and other, regular unhinged stuff like that.
I don’t know if there’s a plateau of parental love. It’s probably about the time they start telling you they hate you and want to live with their mate Spiniker because his parents let them hang out at the street races, or something. I’ll let you know when I get there.