Nothing can be paralleled with the love a mother has for her child.
This is general knowledge, isn't it. It is also one of the reasons I wanted to be a mother - I wanted to experience this ravishing, consuming, making-you-die kind of love you hear from everyone. I remember a mother once telling me she always thought she knew what love was - until she was proven wrong when she had her children - for this emotion was so much stronger than anything she'd experienced until that point.
We read of mothers lifting cars to rescue their babies, we hear parents tell us they'd die instantaneously for their children, and so on and so forth. I must admit that this raw kind of love first frightened me when I was pregnant. I so wanted to feel this love, but was scared I might not be able to. What if I wouldn't love my own child enough? What if something was wrong with me?
Because of my anxiety and endometriosis, I was scared pretty much to the end of my pregnancy that I could lose her, so I restrained myself a little bit from bonding too much, so it wouldn't hurt so badly if something went wrong. And yet, I felt so much love surge through me when she kicked inside me, when she was communicating with me in her own way. I guess being torn between love and terror pretty much sums up parenthood.
When Lily was finally born - a week too early, mind you - and put on my chest, I was in awe. There was this tiny bundle and I wanted to protect her, but I must say that wave of love didn't immediately come. It was not that it was absent and I didn't NOT love her, but the first weeks were almost like an out-of-body experience in which I cannot entirely recall what I felt - there were so many raw emotions tormenting inside me, it's hard to press the finger down on it. And although I constantly worried she might not breathe; I broke into tears one night because I allowed myself to think one second that she could die, I still was scared I didn't love her enough. Probably because all the "propaganda" surrounding parental love was filling my head, I didn't feel I shaped up enough.
I have heard different stories from various parents, but, ironically, I usually hear about this deep-seated love from parents whose children are at least a few months old. Now that Lily is almost five months (five months! Can you believe it!), my love for her surges so easily through me, and on some days it's so much I don't know how to to even bear it (you know, the kind of love that makes you kind of aggressive; when you just HAVE TO pinch those little cheeks, nibble on those chubby legs, or threaten to just gobble her all up because she's so damn cute).
When speaking to mothers who had their baby a little time after me or around the same time, it is usually a good mix of emotions, and sometimes almost a wariness towards your child because you still have to get to know each other better.
And that is OK. I battled with the fact that I sometimes was overwhelmed, even wished for my old life for a moment, or thought "what have we done?". The weeks after birth are the most intense, I believe, a woman experiences in her life - much more intense than birth because there's so epidural and also not a limited time frame. Birth, also, is active. You push, you breathe, you scream.
And then there is silence. You are alone, mostly, with your baby at home. This little alien thing that wholly depends on you - and it scares the shit out of you, at least it did for me.
It was maybe because I'd been under the delusional impression that I'd somehow "grow up" as soon as Lily would be born. You know, be like a real adult. However, with this little baby bundled up in my arm, I was still me. Incomplete, anxiety-ridden, feeling-like-a-fraud-as-an-adult me. There was no "illumination", no clear path to follow, just because now I was a mother. Life was as confusing, challenging and frightening as before - and now I was supposed to take care of this innocent being!
When you read all these parenting books, you feel you can only fuck up. Suddenly the responsibility to mould an actual life seems ridiculously unattainable. There's no way you can turn this little bundle into an actual human being who will be kind, understanding and not hate you by the end you're done with them. I questioned everything. Should I take her into my arms now? Or wait another two minutes? Is she hungry? Tired? Angry? Annoyed? Cold? Warm? Devastated? Can I put her in the crib and risk going to the loo, or should I hold it until hubby comes back? Am I a bad mother if I DON'T take her into the bathroom with me because she's sleeping soundly? Will she suffer life-long trauma if I use nappies?
And so on and so forth.
In the end, I stopped reading and that would also be my advice, should anyone ask. I found one or two good books I rely on, but even so I try to listen to my instincts and figure out what works for us - Lily and me and Jakob - and not try a short-cut through a book. And for the love...don't get insecure when a mother of three dreamily tells you as a first-time mother how parental love is so great. It is, but when she was a first-time mother, it probably also took some weeks until she could clearly tell it apart from all the other emotions that were triggered from childbirth, breastfeeding and the fact that you now have full responsibility for a small human being.
So, remember, raising a child is a huge task, and our love for them carries us through it - so Keep Calm And Carry On, you're doing amazing!