I was instantly awestruck when the nurse in the OR first handed my son to me. I think I was still reeling from the crazy emergency that became his birth and too doped up on medication to recognize the feelings washing over me at first. But as things settled down (and I came down) I started to notice the heart-wrenching love that I felt for him. It’s hard to describe. It was new and different but at the same time it felt familiar, like it had been there all along. I just didn’t realize that I could feel that way about someone.
When I first saw him, it was like everything slowed to a complete stop for just an instant, but an instant that seemed to stretch on forever. Everything that I understood about life and time and love ended. And when the earth started spinning again a few milliseconds later it was in a new direction or had switched tracks. Even in the next few weeks, when things got really dark inside my head, that feeling was my touchstone.
I know that not everyone has that same experience. I know that for some people, for whatever reason, that love takes time to make itself known and for others it never really materializes or it takes on a different form. That’s just how things go.
Occasionally, I wonder what it would take for that feeling to end. What would be the one thing that my son could do that would damage or destroy the love that I have for him. I’ve come up blank so far, even when I’ve imagined some really horrible things. It’s just not possible for me to excise something that has been a part of me as long as I’ve been ME.
But apparently for some, that love, or the sheen of it anyway, is something tacked on. Perhaps clicked into place like a Lego piece, relatively easy to remove, or perhaps a brick set in place with chewing gum.
I don’t understand it. I don’t understand how a person gets to such a lonely place. I don’t understand how a person can witness true love and the desire to extend that love and be so fucking terrified of being judged by some outside group of people that can’t possibly know your relationship with your child that they’ll push it away.
The ugly words that those parents said to their child sound like giant pickaxes hacking away at their very essence. The tears that they cried while saying it…I don’t think they’re the tears of martyrs doing what must be done in the name of their hateful god. I think they’re the tears of someone being ripped apart. But to admit that to their child and to themselves would be weak, unfaithful. And suddenly what they’ve been told to believe over what they know of themselves and of love doesn’t make any sense at all. And how frightening must that be.
I’m not a better mother because I can’t imagine ever having that conversation with my child. I’m not a better mother than anyone. I don’t know what it would take, but I would certainly know if I was selling myself out.