Last time I was in Dayton we did a bit of talking about your becoming a parent. One of the most thought provoking questions you asked was in response to my statement of how much joy a baby brings on the day of its birth. Your question was: ” Does that feeling last?” I was struck by your question because it is not something that I have reflected on often enough as a parent. So I will do some reflection now, for you.
The day you were born started as a regular workday. In to work at 8:30, lunch at noon, a strange cramp mid-afternoon, home by 5:30. Your dad made spaghetti for dinner while I mowed the lawn (yes, I mowed the lawn on my due date!!). Later in the evening I went upstairs to get ready for bed, vomited, then sat on the toilet where I thought I was going to deliver you. Labor came on so fast and strong that I thought something was wrong. An hour and a half later, you were born, a 1/2 hour late from your due date!!
When you slipped out and they set you in my arms all wet, with a shock of thick, black hair I cried such tears of joy. I felt more love for you than I have ever felt for anyone or anything in my life. The feeling was so overpowering and overwhelming that it gave me a whole new look at life. Even in the delivery room, the warmth of the emotion filled the whole room. Our recovery room, and hospital room for the next day was the most glorious place I had ever been. When I left the hospital the sun was brighter, clouds were more captivating and I even felt a stronger love for your dad and for my mom (who was there with me for a couple of weeks).
I spent minutes, hours and days just looking at you, holding you and reveling in your beauty and my change in attitude towards life.
The next emotion that came into my life was fear. After a week of our being home from the hospital your dad was traveling again. By the second week home, my mom had to leave and I was absolutely petrified to be alone with this small wonder. I was afraid that I wasn’t going to do things right. I had never babysat much as a kid and I didn’t hang around a lot of people that had babies yet.
After fear came pride and happiness. Pride for each new milestone: walking, talking, welcoming your brothers, your first day of kindergarten, becoming a brownie scout, resilience in trying times, making new friends, swimming, intelligence, graduation, self-sufficiency, etc… I feel sheer joy for the fact that you have gotten control of your life in Dayton, against many odds; and that you have made a well thought out and reasoned decision to become a parent makes me proud too. I have so much pride and happiness in celebration for all you have accomplished and all you have persevered.
Anger plays a role as a parent too: pushing your brother into a wall requiring our near-do-well au pair to maneuver our health care system for his stitches, minor infractions requiring grounding throughout middle-school and high-school, having a party at our new house before we moved in, etc…
Sadness rears its ugly head over time too. I was often sad to see your disappointment at your dad’s lack of involvement. I felt your sadness to the depth of my heart when you called me and subsequently left Dayton in your junior year.
In the end, becoming a parent elicits the full range of emotion, but nothing can take away that “to the core” feeling of love. Every moment I spend with you is such a blessing. I can still just sit and look at you with wonder, joy, pride and amazement. Just like childbirth, which obviously hurts like hell, the pain and negative emotion is completely and utterly outweighed by the joy of having you in my life. So no, Emma, the feeling never goes away. But it is important to take time to remember it – especially when your child is a toddler, a teen, a young adult and a parent herself. There is no greater love than what I have in my soul for you. Your entering the world changed me, my life and how I love – forever.