There is nothing quite like the shock to the maternal psyche that is meeting your brand new baby to discover that your first ‘baby’ has overnight become enormous. We don’t notice them grow – I think that is a kindness nature grants us to stop us mourning the loss of the baby stage. We know that they’ve changed but we aren’t ever actually aware of the changes taking place. I think, in our heads, they are still our tiny babies. That is until you find yourself face-to-face with a newborn and the illusion is unceremoniously shattered.
Just before I left for hospital to have the youngest of my boys, I went into my first-born’s room and stroked his sleeping head. I silently promised him that no matter what the next few weeks and months might bring, nothing would change my utter devotion to him.
And on the first day in hospital, I pined. Despite the fact that I’d struggle to tell newborn pictures of them apart now, the little baby in my arms seemed foreign and unfamiliar. I wanted my baby, the one I’d spent 19 months nurturing. I took me by surprise that it wasn’t the 19 month old I was pining for, it was his newborn self. Seeing my new son made me realise what I’d lost and could never, ever, get back.
That first day was slightly hellish. I was exhausted, uncomfortable and in the grip of some very powerful hormones. The elation I felt after my first birth was conspicuously missing and I was consumed by feelings of guilt and a very real sense of loss. In the midst of all that, there was this tiny new being who desperately needed me. I suspect he was hoping there’d been a mistake and at any moment this slightly hysterical, constantly sobbing woman would be ushered from the room allowing his real mother to take over.
I couldn’t tell you when or how the tide turned but at some point in that first 24 hours, it all changed. I’d been going through the motions of feeding, nappy changing and putting him down to sleep, mostly while tears dripped off me onto him. And all the while, he’d been slowly and without warning wriggling his way into my heart.
The moment that I realised for the first time that it was all going to be alright was when he was being returned to me after a couple of hours in the nursery. I heard him crying all the way along the corridor and I knew he was crying for me. I couldn’t get to him fast enough. It was done, I was in love. Still am.