This was the look on my face when I first had Sabine:
Do you see the fear and terror in my eyes?
Everyone told me I would be overcome with love and attachment the minute she was born. What I was actually overcome with was complete exhaustion, hallucinations and the desire for her to stop crying and crawl back inside my body so I could sleep for two days.
I scheduled an induction on the day Sabine was due. I couldn't wait to meet her and was sort of bored since I'd been laid off four months prior. Big mistake. Babies come out when they are ready. And Sabine was NOT ready. She held strong against any medicated liquid encouragement, refusing her eviction for 36 hours until the doctors finally cut a hole in the wall of her perfectly warm little home and dragged her out. As the actual home, I was the vehicle for all of the medication, procedures and other failed types of encouragement. So by the time they forced her out, I had vomited three times and was shaking and hallucinating so badly that they wouldn't let me hold her. I remember feeling too out-of-my-mind to hold her, but I was also strapped to a table which would've made it impossible. I heard her cry and thought, "Is that mine? Did I just have a baby? No, it can't be--must be someone else's." Yep, I actually thought this.
Soon enough, I was itching to hold her. And once I did, I didn't put her down for almost two days straight.
Even though I held her constantly, she cried. She cried in the hospital, on the way home and at home. She cried in the car, in the stroller and while sleeping next to me in bed. She was inconsolable. And as her mother, it felt horrible to not be able to alleviate her discomfort (it turns out she had digestion issues--acid reflux and painful gas). There were times when I found it difficult to bond with her because no matter what I did or how hard I tried, nothing comforted her. (Prior to this, I was the baby whisperer to my nieces and nephews.) I felt like a failure. Intellectually, I knew that I loved her, would do and was doing anything and everything for her no matter what and at any cost. Emotionally, I felt like somehow she was refusing me. I cried. A lot (and no, I did not have postpartum depression--being a first-time mom to a newborn is just a very difficult and important thing). Still, I would rarely put her down or take a break. I'm sure this just made everything worse, but I physically couldn't separate from her. I wanted her to feel that I was there no matter what (I'm sure my mother's death also had something to do with it.).
Day by day, Sabine began to grow and change. She started to sit in the car and stroller without screaming in fear. We sleep-trained her at five months and she slept beautifully. She walked for the first time at ten months-old. She was suddenly fearless, incredibly social and was almost always smiling. Her nickname around our apartment building became "the intrepid Sabine." She began to fall asleep when I sang to her vs. out of pure exhaustion. When she hurt herself and I kissed her, she stopped crying. When she was unsure about a stranger, she awaited my reaction. She grew to trust me and know that I was her foundation. But we had to build that.
My emotions eventually caught up with my intellect and I didn't just love her, I was in love with her. I think while you always love your child, your feelings for them grow and change and blossom. The more time you spend with them and the more you get to know them--just like with anyone (friends, partners)--the more you fall for them and all of their idiosyncrasies. You don't just love them because they are yours, you love them because they are at times wonderful or awful or happy or sad or difficult or easygoing or silly or serious or smart or quirky. And you love them because you grew together, experienced together and learned to trust each other.
And before I knew it, I was looking at Sabine like this (added wrinkles and all):