She didn't split my heart open right away. I knew I should love her the second my obstetrician flopped her onto my stomach, but I didn't know if I did, didn't feel the deep, ancient sense of recognition people talk about. Still, I stroked her face and whispered, "Hi, Theory. I'm your mom," because really, what else do you say to someone you've just carried inside of your abdominal cavity for 41 weeks and pushed through your vagina in a room full of people?
Less than five minutes later, after her cord had been cut and clamped, after she curled her tiny, so impossibly tiny, fingers around my index for the first time, after she clocked an impressive 9.9 Apgar score and began rooting around, inching her tiny pink body towards my nipple..was it then? I felt fear in that moment- would she be a Good Eater or a Bad Eater (spoiler alert: she's really, really good)?- but did I feel that maternal love? The all-encompassing, heart-imploding, Mom brand of agape love?
I'm not sure when it happened, at some point during that first sleepless night in the dimly lit hospital room. Every time I put her down in the acrylic bassinet, she screamed and I swooped back in to pick her up. Sam and I giggled during what seemed like the 5,000th diaper change that night, and belly laughed until my episiotomy ached as a stream of meconium gushed out mid-change. Was I in love yet, then? I don't know.
The first moment I was truly aware of the depth of my love for this squishy, raw little human she wasn't even around. The first morning we woke up at home, her grandma had taken her for a few hours so that Sam and I could get a bit more sleep. I startled awake, my first thoughts filled with her. It had been three hours since I had seen her, nursed her, held her in my arms, watched her tiny chest rise and fall so I could know for myself that she was okay. My body screamed for her, this wriggling, shitting reincarnation of me; my brain was fuzzy and angry, hammering itself against my skull like I was drunk, impelling me to find her, touch her, absorb her back into myself where I would know for certain that she was safe.
That moment, that instant of pure, unadulterated pain, of unquenchable need for her, that was the first moment I knew the depth of my love for her, the first moment I felt scared by how intensely I needed her, the first moment occurred to me that I had somehow muddled through 25 years of life without her and my brain damn near exploded from the seeming impossibility of that thought. I flew to her, the whole fifty feet from my bed to the living room, stroked her downy face and squeezed her chubby little hands in mine. This tiny person, this fluffy, terrifying, squeaky little person, had soaked into my bones and penetrated my soul. As unsure as her dad and I were at first, I knew that I had been waiting my whole life to meet her and to love her- intensely, completely love her.