I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read or heard parents announce their new addition, accompanied by language to the effect of “we’re so in love already.” To those parents I say this: you are so lucky.
I didn’t fall in love with my son right away. Since he was born so early, I barely had the chance to enjoy him in the womb, and his traumatic birth story didn’t end at his birth.
My first feelings were shock, confusion, and fear. The most overwhelming feeling I had was guilt. Guilt for not keeping him in the womb, guilt for going home at night and leaving him behind for the nurses to tend to, guilt for not producing enough milk to sustain him. I’d sit by his isolete helpless every night, apologizing over and over again with tears in my eyes staring at his frail body covered in tubes and wires and machines.
I walked on egg shells for those first few months, unable to even speak about his birth, only sharing with those who needed to know, and even then it was limited as their questions and check ins came stumbling in. I put up walls to protect myself from hurting and loving too much, I tried to be strong and just get through the days.
Even after bringing him home I couldn’t relax. Beyond the expected new parent woes and adjustments I had follow up calls and appointments with every specialist you could think of, all concerned with his development. Was he going to be “normal?” Were there any issues with hearing, breathing, seeing, eating, sleeping, communicating? How was his tone? Would he need any services? How was his weight gain? Would there be developmental delays? Because of his low birth weight, he automatically qualified for early intervention services if he needed them. What did he need? What would he need? Because of his early birth, he would develop on a timeline different than his age making it complicated to measure his progress.
After all the evaluations, the only recommendation we got so far was physical therapy. The pediatrician says he doesn’t really even need it, but it can’t hurt. Early intervention will continue to evaluate him for the next few years.
So as the assessments and appointments slowed and he began coming into his own, I started to relax. He was going to be okay. It was okay for me to love him. And now, as he becomes this beautiful, funny, happy, smart, friendly baby who loves to explore, play with the dog, and be tickled, I fall in love with him more and more every day.