If it’s true that a picture is worth a thousand words, my picture of the moment I met my son doesn’t exactly tell a fairy tale. The words I would choose to describe this instant would be awkward, hazy and utterly terrifying. Not on the list: love at first sight.
You don’t have to look very far on social media to find pictures of women holding their newborns in their arms for the first time. They’re obviously exhausted from the labor and delivery of their child, but that’s not what typically stands out about these pictures. What stands out most is the obvious beam of light these women are emitting — their eyes filled with tears, their arms warmly wrapped around their babies, their faces so smitten with love. If there ever was a picture that was indeed worth a thousand words, it would be the moment when a mother meets her child for the first time.
Movie, magazines and books all paint a picture of that moment as this life-altering euphoria, coupled with the heart-stopping jubilation of falling into a deep, passionate, and rapturous love. They make it seem as though those are the only acceptable emotions a woman should feel during such a precious moment and that if she doesn’t immediately have her heart stolen by this tiny, perfect person she must somehow be deeply and profoundly troubled.
Well, color me crazy but I didn’t fall in love at the first sight of my son. He was beautiful. I mean really, really beautiful. He was healthy and plump, and he had a head full of perfect fuzzy hair. He was flawless, but I wasn’t in love.
The moment we met could be best described as two people about to partake in an arranged marriage. After 24 hours of labor, 12 hours of mind-numbing Pitocin contractions, 4 hours of awkwardly crying in front of my even more awkward in-laws and 2 hours of pain meds, my sunny disposition in regards to meeting my son had all but deteriorated. So when I made the final push that brought him into this world, I really just wanted to pass out.
When the doctor placed him on my chest, all I remember is he felt so warm. He didn’t cry. I didn’t cry. We just stared at each other for a moment, and I uncomfortably shook his little hand. “It’s nice to finally meet you,” I said, “I’m Han, your mom. I’m your mom.” We continued to size one another up while the doctors and nurses tended to my lower half and my husband practiced breathing exercises so as to not pass out. A nurse grabbed Dylan and carted him off to the other side of the room to check his vitals and monitor his breathing.
With stone cold shock and fear in our eyes, my husband and I stared at each other, silently asking the same question — did that really just happen? Are we really parents now? As I assume it is for most parents, the moment your child enters the world is a sobering experience. Yes, it’s beautiful and life-changing and exultant, but it’s also terrifying.
I’m still not sure whether it was the fear of the unknown or the drug-induced haze that caused my reaction to meeting my son to be so muted, but it bothered me. I felt it should have been stronger, that I should have felt something deeper. All the pictures I had seen of my friends meeting their children for the first time told the tale of a woman who had just fallen in love. Their eyes were so obviously filled with bliss, and glee had manifested itself in their beaming smiles.
The fact that my emotions didn’t come pouring down my face worried me. We live in a society full of fantasies, one that pressures women and mothers to feel certain emotions and to be a certain way. This society is constantly telling us that if we don’t all adhere to these standards of conduct — whether physical or emotional — that our stock is worth less, that there most definitely must be something wrong with us. And that’s exactly how I felt, like I was somehow flawed for not feeling enough.
Once we got to our room, my husband took care of our son while I rested. It was around 8 a.m. when I woke up. The sun was shining, and both my husband and my son were sleeping. The light shined through the window and sparkled against my son’s beautiful blond hair, and he wiggled his little fingers and toes every time I brushed my finger against his soft, chubby cheeks. Slowly but surely, I was falling in love.
I don’t have a picture of the moment I met my son, but I do have a thousand words. Some of them are strange and awkward and questionable, but the extraordinary love story they tell is completely worth every single anomalous emotion that I questioned. I might not have fallen in love at first sight, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t eventually fall deeply and madly in love with my son. It took us some time to get to that point, and that’s okay. We got there.