When it comes to babies, it’s not always love at first sight. But somewhere between the sore nipples and the psychological onslaught, there’s some magic in motherhood…
There’s a first time for everything, and it’s usually the best. Or the worst. Certainly always the most memorable. We spend most of our lives unwittingly chasing after the fleeting pleasure or pain, the fascination or fear, the surprise and suspense, inherent in all those “firsts.” The magic, the drama, the sweetly exhausting emotion of the first kiss, the first dance, the first breakup, the first job, the first promotion, the first time you set your eyes on a piece of art that takes your breath away, the first time you visit a new country, the first time you get it right, the first time you fall - the rest is just filler. Until, of course, you have kids, and with that comes the revelation that the highlight of parenthood is the opportunity it affords to you relive many firsts in a way that is so incredibly visceral, despite its vicariousness. And, of course, with it, a whole new set of firsts - ones that teach you so much more about yourself than the sum of all your previous experiences.
I recently stumbled across the Pampers Firsts commercial, and, aside from the fact that it made me unnecessarily emotional in the way that an unreasonable number of ads featuring babies have made me since I had kids, it got me thinking about the all the crazy, intense, and irresistible firsts I’ve been privileged enough to experience over the last few years.
The First Cut is the Deepest
Little Miss Maya sashayed into life via C-section. People always assume I am of the ‘too posh to push’ school of thought, but it was an emergency and out of my hands. When I tell her the story of her birth - which she loves and has heard countless dramatised versions of - I like to say she knocked on my tummy and announced she simply must be let out immediately. She’s a little #GirlBoss in the making, and she loves the idea that she started out life as a diva. And while the procedure was – thank God – smooth and serene, and I was all sewn up in less than 15 minutes, the lack of physical dramatics that usually accompany childbirth (the tangible nature of having to push a human into the existence) makes it harder for the reality of this creature belonging to you, and of you, to kick in. There’s a detachment to the Cesarean; your tummy numb – literally – and your mind in a sort of drug-induced awake-but-a-little-loopy state, like when you’re half asleep at a massage table and are dreamily aware of someone kneading at you. For the rest of the day, I went through perfunctory motions; I ohhed and ahhed along with the stream of guests, I tried to be totally cool about the fact that a conveyer belt of women - from the nurses to my mum and various aunts - were pulling and prodding at my breasts with gusto in an attempt to get the baby to feed, as if by virtue of giving birth I ceased to have any ownership of my own body. But even as the anesthesia wore off, I remained numb to any emotions, to any sense of connection with the little wriggly creature that was handed to me sporadically, with no clear brief as to how I was supposed to proceed.
At 2 AM, in the silence of that first night, as my mother slept smugly on the couch and I was left to fend for myself, staring at the ceiling, a sense of impending panic gathering and with it the realisation that I would possibly be the worst mother ever in existence, I reached over into her little glass hospital crib. Without even opening her eyes, for the first time, she curled her five tiny fingers around my finger. And exactly 14 hours after she came into the world, I fell in love for the first time.
Exactly two years later, when baby Momo came along in much the same manner, emergency 10 AM C-section and all, as if he and his older sister had made some sort of pact to mess with me - in that ethereal world where I have always suspected babies who are yet to be born exist - I was better prepared. Except, that night, the rush of emotion never came. For weeks afterward, I waited again, panic-stricken, emotionally and physically exhausted with the responsibility and practical realities of two small children and, this time, also the added burden of a business that had grown from 10 to nearly 100 people in the intervening time. My worst suspicions were confirmed; it is absolutely impossible to love more than one child properly. I grilled my parents incessantly, for now I knew the truth - they did not love my siblings and I equally, it was all just a ruse, and I needed to know how they had spent their entire lives pretending so well. Who was their favourite and how did they live with this horrible secret for so long? They both thought it hilarious and assured me it was just in my mind. But it wasn’t, goddamit. This little man was intruding on this wonderful thing Maya and I had going. We had an entire two years of life lived together for God’s sake. She called out to me by name (my actual name, not ‘mummy’, which made me love her even more), and wore little hairbands with oversized bows on them. How could that compete with someone who was just making my nipples really sore?
And then, one night, as I lay in my own bed staring at the ceiling, both of them curled up between Mr Y and I, Momo reached over to his older sister and curled his five tiny fingers around her own chubby little finger. And I fell in love, for the first time.
Follow more #YaMama adventures on Amy’s Instagram and Snapchat @amymowafi.