The dog has cleaned his bowl
and his reward is a biscuit,
which I put in his mouth
like a priest offering the host.
I can't bear that trusting face!
He asks for bread, expects
bread, and I in my power
might have given him a stone.
I intended for this blog to be more professional than personal, but as a poet, our personal is our profession, and for now, the addition of a small boy to our family has consumed all of my energy.
You know how waking up on your thirtieth birthday doesn't really feel all that different than waking up the day before? We expect some radical internal change to come about due to the milestone, but the reality is, it probably takes several months to "feel" thirty.
The mythos of aging pales in comparison to what people tell you about (how you should feel on) the day your child is born. Mothers for ages have been reporting with dewy eyes that the second they saw their child or heard it cry, something in them clicked and they felt instantly different, in love, responsible - they felt like mothers.
In the delivery room, as they placed my son on my chest, I felt relieved. I had labored for twenty-nine hours with almost no food and no sleep. I looked at my husband and felt such love. He was proud of me, maybe even impressed, and he was deeply, deeply enamored with our baby. I held the baby while the nurses cleaned the room. I liked his slight weight in my arms. I liked watching the color come into his face. I nursed him with coaching. It felt strange.
Later, in a different room, any trace of medicine, adrenaline, and serotonin worn off, I held my baby while I slept to comfort myself. This seemed backwards, but I had never hurt so much or felt so used up, and after having another person inside me for so many months, I felt lonely and alone, a cold, hollowed-out vessel. Still, I liked the sounds he made, his small fingers, the brief glimpses of his dark eyes. And though I waited and expected it, I never did have "the feeling." I didn't feel like a mother. I knew that I would put my body between my son and any danger, that I would protect him and feed him and keep him warm. I even cried when they took blood from his heel or touched him with cold hands. But overwhelming, life-altering, joybursting love? In those moments, it seemed like a lot to ask just then.
I'll just say the weeks after were uneasy. But as the fog of my painful recovery began to thin, I sat in bed with him one night while he stirred in his sleep. I knew he was hungry before he cried, because my body had begun to know his body. I lifted him to my breast, and, his eyes still shut, his mouth opened. I did not deserve this trust, I felt. I wept hard as he nursed in his sleep, the small creature whose faith in me was total and unearned. That was the feeling I had been waiting for, and it was more like a season changing than a switch flipping. That was the job, I figured. A lifetime of earning it. I felt like a mother, then, and I loved my son.