You hear it all the time. Mothers and fathers saying they fell in love with their baby from the minute, the very second he was born. I expected that. I planned for it and I was excited to experience the immediate high and the rush of joy and love that happens when you see your baby for the first time. But that wasn’t my experience.
As soon as my son was born, I heard my husband talking to him, saying “Hey buddy”. I heard him falling so deeply in love. But before I’d even laid eyes on my baby, all I felt was fear. When my husband passed him to me, through my legs, and I held him and touched his tiny hands and stroked his cheek and wiped the blood from his brow, I had feelings of curiosity and interest, but not love. I waited.
Overwhelmingly, above everything else, I remember feeling intense, ferocious protectiveness over him. I didn’t want anyone else to touch him. Before I did or said anything else I asked the midwife if he was okay. She reassured me. An hour later, before he had a name, my son began to struggle to breathe.
When I lay in my hospital bed, on a separate ward from my son, having just heard from the neonatologist that he had an abnormality of the heart, an enlarged diaphragm that was pushing up towards the lungs, and an extra set of ribs that may indicate a congenital disorder, I felt pain like nothing I’d ever experienced before. It was a hard rock in my chest, making it difficult to breathe. So I took stabby little breathes, and forced myself to choke down the tears, and told my husband a bunch of lies about how we’d make it through together, no matter what.
And then, when I could hear that my husband had exhausted himself into sleep, I prayed. I prayed to God for hours. I prayed for him to take it back, to give me a miracle. I told him to take me if he needed it to be someone. I told him I wouldn’t live in a world where he would not allow me to keep my baby, and that he would have to take us both – all or nothing. I told God that he owed me. I was selfish and desperate, and I tried it all. The excruciating ripping of my heart was almost more than I could endure. This pain, my initiation into motherhood is something I am now truly thankful for. My heart needed to be pushed beyond the brink of agony further than I ever knew it was capable of.
I realize now that when my son first opened his eyes and looked into mine, with his umbilical cord still pulsing, and I felt such an animalistic and fierce desire to protect him above all else, above myself, like it was my life’s one and true purpose – that was the highest form of love that exists.
Birth experience submitted by Ashlea G.
Photographss by L. Hinchey.