Our country has been reeling in the wake of the unspeakable tragedies that occurred in Orlando these past weeks. I’ve spent a lot of time contemplating the mothers of these victims. In addition to that, the alligator that snatched the two year old and drowned him has been wreaking the most havoc on my emotions as he was not much older than my little bub. As was the case with Gorilla Mom, once again I could see something like that happening to my baby and it horrifies me.
One of my symptoms of postpartum depression was a lack of connection. I’ve written before about how I struggled with love even after I treated my postpartum depression. Today I can say confidently, that yes: I do love my baby. I do feel a bond and a connection and it is growing with time. As he gets older and gets more interactive, I feel him bringing me more joy.
There are more stolen moments. There are more beautiful mornings where I feel time stop…for just a brief moment while I watch him entertain himself with a simple backpack strap or an errant sock. My heart feels full.
But then we go about our day. We get him fed, or down for his nap, or off to daycare.
I go to work or to the gym or wherever I’m going. When I’m there, my mind goes elsewhere. I don’t wonder what he’s up to or really think much about him…until as I click send on another email, that I happen to look over and see his smiling face in the silver frame that sits upon my desk. I smile and then get on to my next task.
My love for my little guy feels like a nice, long, warm, cozy hug that wraps around me like a soft blanket.
So it’s strange to me when I read about other people’s expressions of the love that they feel toward their children. I see it on social media, usually on the child’s birthday, but not always. Other parents describe their love as ‘a love unlike any other I’ve ever known’, ‘an overwhelming love’, ‘a rush of singular raw emotion’, ‘the best thing that’s ever happened to me’.
While I love my son, those descriptions always felt forced with my motherhood. It feels over the top. That realization makes me feel isolated…alone…different. It makes me think there’s something still wrong with me; I ask myself why I can’t relate to the things that these parents share. What these other parents write reminds me of young, teenage love…your first love. Intense, burning brightly with surging adrenaline…beautiful…but almost overpowering. It’s on the brink of destabilization. It threatens to consume you…or destroy you.
Seems a bit off from my characterization of a warm hug.
But then…but then as I read the news, I see stories of loss. I read the statement, “body of toddler found”. Images flash in my mind of my little guy. My blood runs cold. I find tears pouring down my face. The thought of something so terrible happening to my son is devastating.
It would break me. If something happened to him, no matter how, it would destroy me.
So here we stand on the brink of destabilization. Our life is so warm and full, now that I’m well on the recovery from perinatal depression. But in an instant, I could be destroyed. My future, my well-being, my happiness and the joy that I find in life – it’s all entirely controlled by this tiny little human whose favorite thing in the world is to locate all of the dangerous objects in whatever room he is in…regardless of how many toys stand in his path.
That is a sobering thought.
Love has many definitions – as it should. It’s a complex and beautiful emotion. One definition that I think of belonging to love is ‘not being able to live without‘.
And there it is.
That’s where the powerful emotions bubble up. The fear of living without my son – that’s where the intensity burns bright. That’s where I’m overwhelmed with incredible emotion. That’s raw and powerful. The depth of my fear that something will happen to my baby; that’s where I can see a glimpse into what these parents are so ardently trying to convey in social media posts.
That realization strips away my isolation.
Because as mothers and fathers, we know: we are forever changed by our child.
We can’t read about horrible stories where little babies are hurt. Because that could be our little baby. We can’t watch a video where a gorilla drags a three year old across the zoo. Because that could happen to our three year old. We can’t read about the horrific acts of cruel men who snuff out the light of 49 innocent, beautiful people. Because those victims are all someone’s child.
So my love is powerful, awesome and terrifying all at the same time. And yet, I can honestly say that now, in the calm after the storm – I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I wouldn’t have it any. other. way.
That, my friends, is the love of my motherhood.