During my pregnancy I scoured the internet for first hand accounts, and thereby deduced that the 12 week scan was the big moment when you feel a connection with your baby – a rush of love. I was specifically interested in unplanned pregnancies, women who had perhaps gone through similar emotions to myself. The day came, I lay on the bed and watched my tiny lizard-like baby jumping around on the screen, bemused by the seemingly generic blobs pointed out by the sonographer as organs. I could make out a head and limbs, and was relieved that everything was OK with the little sprout (save for a hole in his heart which had remedied itself by the next scan), but I did not become instantly maternal, and I still felt as shit-scared as ever.
After my scan experience, I was prepared that it could also be the case that I would not feel that rush of love at Arlo’s birth. When Arlo was born and placed on my chest, I was quite matter of fact about it all. My very first distinctive thoughts after ‘Thank god that’s finally over, I’ve done it’, were ‘He’s so…alive’, ‘He’s a lot less gunky than I thought he’d be’, and ‘His cry is different to how I’d imagined’. When the midwife asked if I wanted more skin to skin time or a shower, I opted for the latter. Arlo and I had a few cuddles that evening, but then I was happy to put him in his crib and sleep. I was so shattered, I felt I needed to concentrate on resting my body because I knew this little boy would need me soon.
Visitors would ask me about the birth and the instant love thing, and I felt bad that I couldn’t give them the answers they were hoping to get. In the weeks after Arlo’s birth, I cuddled him, I rocked him to sleep, I kissed him. I cared for him in the exact way that he needed me, and I didn’t worry about the absence of a rush of emotions. Looking back, I think I needed to be very practical in my caring for him to make sure I was doing it right. Figuratively speaking, if you were to push past my top layer of survival mode thinking, you would find an undercurrent of love running deep underneath the surface. I knew this and was confident that it would appear in the near future, but uncontrollable emotions could wait until I had found my feet.
I’m glad I didn’t wait for that one big rush of love, because I never got it. Somehow, at some point over the first few days and weeks, it slowly crept up on me in short bursts. One moment in particular stands out. Arlo’s umbilical cord stump fell off after five days and I found myself apologising to Sam for my tears at such a silly little thing. But to me it marked a significant event. The evidence of Arlo’s last physical tie to me was no more, he was already growing up.
I’m constantly experiencing new ways in which I love Arlo. It’s a trigger that fires at random. The moments catch me by surprise, a moment of love and pride for him that almost takes my breath away. My chest swells as if it could spill over. Maybe this is what people feel at the birth, maybe it’s just a hint of it? I don’t wonder about it because this is how I love my son and I couldn’t imagine a better way.