Olive is three months old. Suddenly she can recognize us and smile, search for us in a room. Suddenly she can lift her head, look around. She’s fascinated by the world around her.
I always says “suddenly” as though we’ve leapt from her birth day to here, three months later, but it hasn’t been sudden, it just feels that way. Each day melts into the next, punctuated by the small milestones. The first time she smiled, the last newborn sleeper she fit into. But suddenly, suddenly because every so often I step back and look at her,really look at her, and the changes are so evident. She so very distinctly a real person.
In the days and weeks after she was born, I would often confide to Adam, “She doesn’t feel like mine. She doesn’t feel like she belongs to me.”
I loved her – oh, fiercely, intensely – yet this strange feeling of unbelonging persisted. I attributed it to delayed bonding. A gradual evolution of attachment, rather than being hit with it all at once like a freight train.
“It’ll change.” I reassured myself, “She’ll feel like yours soon enough.”
But here (suddenly) three months later, and she still doesn’t. And it surprises me.
When I look at her I don’t see me, I don’t see Adam. It’s just Olive. Purely, wholly, Olive. She’s her own person, independent of my own thoughts or desires – she’s got her own.
I think she’s going through the 3 month growth spurt. I’ve packed up all of her 0-3 month clothing, her baby diapers. She’s gradually shifted her bedtime up from 12:30am to 10:30-11:00pm ish. She’s been fussier than usual, clamouring to be held, nursed, rocked. She gnaws on her fists and is drooling like crazy and I don’t want to be one of those moms who thinks everything means something, but I was texting back and forth with my mom (a former pediatric nurse) and wondering if it could be teething.
I’ve been trying to go with the flow, and adjust to her new schedule, her new demands. As a result I’ve spent a lot of time with her in my arms- nursing, walking around, her laying on my chest as I rubbed her back.
This is about to get real mushy and I apologize for that, but this morning we got back from our walk and I fed her and started rocking her to sleep. She lay there completely still in my arms, just staring at me with these big blue eyes, a smile playing across her face.
Oh I got it then, I understood how easy it would be to lose yourself in this – this whole world made up of just one small inhabitant. I saw in an instant how tempting it would be to subsume myself, to push everything of mine to the side in order to better foster everything of hers- dreams, goals, activities, health.
In that moment we locked eyes and I would have given her anything, because she was smiling at me. It’s the heady rush of falling in love – the infatuation and obsession and quiet whispers, “I’ll always take care of you. I’ll never leave.”
Logic doesn’t play here. It’s just the brute animalistic force of something so much bigger than yourself. It’s crushing and overwhelming – and oh, oh I get it now.
I understand why it’s such a challenge for mothers to take time for themselves. Why they are constantly putting themselves last. Why they will do anything – even now, even when you’re a fully grown adult – to make sure that you are comfortable. Fed. Warm. Happy. It’s a desperate need cultivated over decades, and hard to let go. It grew from hours of rocking and shushing, rubbing your forehead to help you sleep.
Oh. Oh. This girl.
Yet despite this crush, these swells I’ve felt since the moment I saw her, she’s still not mine. I’ve stopped arguing against this, and accepted it. She is of me, but she is not me. Simple as that.
Olive no more belongs to me than Adam does. She’s a part of me but she’s not derivative, she’s so much more. So much better.
And that’s the point, isn’t it?