Exactly two years ago, we met for the first time. We were total strangers. You’d think after nine months of carrying you inside my body, I’d have felt some sense of connection to you from the beginning, but quite frankly, I didn’t. See, I was one of the unlucky ones who fell headfirst into a deep postpartum depression the minute that (ridiculously inept) placenta you’d been (barely) surviving on exited my body. We shared a few beautiful moments right when I delivered you, but soon thereafter, I lost all ability to think straight.
Don’t get me wrong, my beautiful boy. I loved you from the start. I truly did. I thought you were gorgeous and amazing and all those things mothers are supposed to feel for their children… but it was like staring at a spectacular painting, or a beautiful fish in an aquarium. I was in awe, but your presence, your creation, had nothing to do with me. I knew I was supposedly responsible for your survival, but that seemed insane. Who the hell was I to be put in charge of such a creature?
I fed you directly from my body for a week. Or tried to. Each day our feedings got worse and worse, and the divide grew between us. All my fears that I wasn’t fit to be your mom were exacerbated by your apparent disgust with my breasts. You didn’t want anything to do with them, and as expert after expert tried to force your screaming mouth to latch, it seemed you didn’t want anything to do with me, either. And who could blame you? I symbolized pain, frustration, hunger. Your dad was comfort. I was a shitty source of food. Just like in the womb. No wonder you cried at the sight of my naked chest.
And later, even when we figured out that separating my milk from my body would allow you to eat properly, we just couldn’t click. How could we, when I was constantly hooked up to a pump in order to provide you with food? You would cry, and I couldn’t pick you up, because if I left my tubes and suction cups for even a minute to comfort you, you’d have no lunch.
It wasn’t until a few months in, once we figured out the source of your misery, and the source of mine, that we became us. Bottles and formula gave us our ability to not only love, but be in love. They gave us our friendship. They allowed us to see each other for the first time, to fall in love not just because we were made of similar genetic material, but because when we met, we really met. We may have connected far later than most mother-child pairs do, but when we did…baby, it was magical. We’d been through a war together. Bonded for life like soldiers in a particularly nasty battle, we forged ahead, knowing the worst of each other, knowing that we could endure pain and bullets and attacks and it would all be okay, as long as we had each others’ backs.
Now, two years later, I can hardly believe there was ever a time when we weren’t deeply, madly in love; deeply, madly in sync. But I know that there was, and weird as it sounds, I am glad that there was. You taught me so much about myself – how to fail, how to be flexible, how to sacrifice, and how to forgive. You knew what you needed and wanted from the first moments of your time on this earth, and you weren’t afraid to express it. I’m still in awe of that. I’m still in awe of you.
Part of me knows I should regret how awful those first months were. But I can’t, sweetie, because if things hadn’t gone down the way they did, I don’t know that we would have the incredible connection we have. I don’t know if you’d be as strong as you are, or as healthy, or as brilliant or empathetic or stubborn. I do know that I wouldn’t have evolved to be the mother I am now, if it had all been easy, if it had all gone as expected. Still, I hate thinking that there was even a short time where you might have been sad, or in pain, or frustrated, or hungry. I wish one scenario didn’t have to mean the other, you know?
So, happy birthday, my little Bug, my little Chicken. And I’m sorry. And thank you.
And most of all…I love you.