It’s easy to love a baby. There are as many tales of first-rush-love as there are mothers in this world, but once love has made an entrance, it settles in our hearts and stays. When I first held my daughter in my arms, I was confused, tired, in pain, astounded that both of us had made it through to the other side. For the first 24 hours I believe I was in shock, wondering why I didn’t feel that onslaught of motherly love I had expected. What could possibly be wrong with me? Was I not a human being? Was I not suited as a mother?
Love came slowly for me, not marking its entrance, but creeping up on me until it had permeated by entire being. I loved this child, this baby, with an intensity and strength that frightened even myself. For her first year, I guarded her like a hawk, spent most of my time by her side, not wanting or feeling the need to be without her. Everything that I had previously been or felt paled in comparison.
But love, like everything in this universe, is meant to change, to expand, to grow. Over the course of our children’s lives, us mothers need to embrace their full qualities as they are revealed. Views don’t always match. Tempers differ. Personalities can be miles apart. Our motherly hearts need to have the capacity to make room for outbursts, they need to be patient enough to wait out a raging fire, and they need to be kind enough to forgive grievances. This thorny, winding path calls us to walk it barefoot and naked, because if we cover ourselves, we will miss the opportunity to grow. Unless we reveal our full selves, with all our flaws and shortcomings, we cannot lead our children.
At the end of the path is a grown person, one that is as much in need of love as the tiny, slippery, helpless baby that landed in our arms so many years ago. I want to imagine her standing there in all her full, grown-up weirdness with all her quirks and flaws, and I want to imagine me not wanting to do anything else but hold her close and envelop her in my love.