Jan 15, 2012

Posted by in Articles & Essays, Family Life, Women and Health | 0 Comments

That First Kiss Revisited

I originally wrote a version of the following piece in my journal following the delivery of my oldest son. Today, I celebrate the 23rd anniversary of his birth. I reflect on what I wrote all those years ago and realize that many of my concerns were very real and worked themselves out in their own way and in their own time. I look at my oldest son, along with his two brothers, and I feel confident in writing that my husband and I did quite an amazing job of parenting our sons. We have gone from being mom and dad to three little boys, to being parents of three young men who have the world at their feet. We are truly blessed.

Me, with my first son, shortly after his birth

 

Everyone tells you what the labor and delivery will be like. Mothers on playgrounds share their horror stories and their pain. Some newly delivered mothers at the obstetrician’s office tell you, while holding their six week old babies, to get the epidural; others tell you the drugs are bad for the baby. Everywhere a pregnant woman goes, experienced mothers seem to be on a mission to give her the nitty gritty on the physical aspects of having a baby. They tell her how long their labors were; they tally the stitches they received. The experienced mothers discuss ill fitting nursing bras, stretch marks and burping babies. As important as all of these things are, most mothers do not share the most important aspect of having your first baby. No one truly prepares you for the emotional impact of holding your firstborn child for the very first time. 

From the moment I first held my son, I knew I loved him. I was in love with him. I was amazed that he was in my arms and no longer wiggling around inside my belly. I counted his fingers and toes; I caressed his tiny ears and nose. I inspected his little face, waiting for his sleepy eyes to open. I was so happy; I was flying on a post-birth high. I felt invincible. I was now a mother. Now what? As I kissed the top of his little misshapen head, bruised from the difficult delivery, it occurred to me that I am “it.” I am the one responsible for this other tiny life. What on earth was I thinking nine months ago? 

My mother always said that having children is not something you just do. She said being a mother is someone you become. As I held that little bundle for the very first time, it occurred to me that I was going to become part of a special group of women. Because of this six pound, thirteen ounce, squirming bundle, I was on my way to becoming a mother. Although I had all the right “gear” for the baby at home, I was not convinced that having diapers, a crib, newborn clothes and a few noisy rattles were going to help me become a mother. Sure, I knew I could feed this child. I knew I could change his diapers and bathe him. But how would I do the really important things? 

 

My husband, David, and I with our first son, on his first day home!

As I cradled my son against my breast, I had no idea how I would teach this little guy how to live! The tremendous job of raising this child consumed me. How could I protect him from the scrapes and bruises of life? What if he chokes on a grape? What about the inevitable bullies at school? How would I protect him from the frightening claps of thunder during a summer storm? So many thoughts and nightmares swirled in my head. What would I do if he has the same eye problems his dad has? What if his foot does not turn back the right way? Would he be able to walk properly? What if he is allergic to my old faithful dog? Am I crazy? How did my mom cope with this? How on earth did she do this six times?

This is the precise moment I realized my own mom was most likely afraid during a raging storm. It is also the moment I realized that as a child, I did not see that she was probably afraid when the lightning flashed and the thunder shook our house. I always saw her as a strong, brave woman. I knew I could always trust her to keep me safe. Somehow, she was always there to make everything all right. Would my own son look at me the same way? Would he blindly trust me to protect him always? How could I let him trust me when I was so afraid and unsure? 

As I continued holding my son, something inside told me it was going to be all right. I had made it through the labor and the delivery (with lots of help from an epidural). I survived all the physical pain. Although no one had told me what to expect when I held and kissed my firstborn child for the very first time, I realized no one really could. This was one part of life I would have to experience and discover on my own. As I kissed my son for the second time, I just knew somehow I would become a good mother. After all, I had my own mother show me how to do it in just the right way. I just wish someone would have warned me that the first kiss is harder to handle than the delivery. 

 

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