I didn’t cry when my son was born. Golly, that sounds so heartless. But, I didn’t. Even though we’d gone through extensive fertility testing and rounds of treatments; even though this moment was never a guarantee. I’d been laboring for 30 hours, hadn’t slept in two days (I’m looking at YOU, back labor!), and had been pushing for more than two hours. I was beyond exhausted, and for the love of humanity, would someone please screw protocol, ditch these ice chips, and give me an actual sip of water!
As I crossed over into motherhood there was a striking absence of that shrill newborn cry I’d dreamt of. Instead, as the doctor held him up in response to my frantic “Is he okay?”, our son was content to just look around the room in silence and take it all in. Hospital staff even delayed his Apgar scores to give him a chance to gather his wits and let out a satisfactory cry. Eventually it came, and it was as piercing and as relieving as I’d imagined it would be.
The first time I held him, his head of hair was matted wavy to his head, thanks to the brutal journey of the last few hours. As we looked each other in the eye, even then, I was rather surprised at my subdued display of emotion. Here he is, this child we weren’t certain we’d ever have, and my eyes were dry (dry and burning with lack of sleep). As the student doctor worked on putting me back together, stitch and tug, stitch and tug, I held my son close and introduced myself as his mama.
As I replay that day, those first moments of sitting with my motherhood, while there was an absence of tears, I am entirely certain that there was an abundance of love. I was in utter, first-time-mom shock, stunned at what my body had just accomplished, and at the little person that was now in the crux of my arm looking around wildly. I felt paralyzed by the weight of it all, stunned and amazed and thirsty and so dang tired.
We celebrated his fourth birthday earlier this month. He’s undeniably no longer a toddler but there’s still some baby left lingering here and there if you look for it, I see it in the dimpled backs of his hands and in the way he can still fall asleep in my lap with his head against my chest, although now with gangly limbs spilling over. Just yesterday I heard his high little voice carrying in through the open window as he and his daddy played outside. All at once I bent to the crushing reality that this sweet voice won’t last forever. I found myself teary over the impending loss of this precious sound, a sound that I cherish above all others, a sound that isn’t even gone yet. Like so many mothers before me I pondered what it would be like to bottle up his singsong voice and prevent it from ever fully leaving.
Four years old and clever as can be, he has quite recently adopted the practice of telling Daddy, at the very moment that lights are being turned out and covers pulled up tight, that he “needs to give Mommy just one more kiss on the cheek.” Well, while we’re privy to his ways, we’re also certainly not going to deny such a tender request (which he very well knows), so out of bed he crawls, finding me tidying the kitchen or preparing to shower or sitting on the couch catching my breath. How many of these slobbery bedtime shenanigans do we have left? As his small steps shuffle back up the stairs and I savor this extra bedtime smooch, the tears come.
Now that he’s in a big boy bed and not confined to his crib, he’s taken to getting himself up in the mornings and wandering sleepily into our bedroom. In lieu of an alarm I wait, wait to feel him hoist himself up over the side of our bed and snuggle in close to me, his stuffed Sheepy situated snug between us. It’s a spectacular way to wake up, hearing whispers of “You such a bootiful Mommy” (…minus those mornings that also involve a police whistle, a harmonica, or foam swords), and I find myself missing them already, before they’re even gone.
There are still times I am frozen by the reality of the present moment. Motherhood is powerful and unpredictable like that. Tightness squeezes my chest as I am overcome with this fierce love for another, for this other. Perhaps it’s because I love him quite literally more than life itself that his love possesses the capability to steal away my very breath. If the love of a mother didn’t come in waves, strong and stronger still, I’m not sure I could bare its intensity on this side of eternity.
So, for now, I wait for the misty moments, and I know that, even with dry, tired eyes, this little life came sweeping in on that February night and rocked my world. Like a chemistry experiment that I don’t fully comprehend, this boy has been reducing me to tearful puddles ever since.