Love (in theory)
When my husband and I were in the foggy wilderness of our son's first couple months (a cruel landscape!), a friend of mine came to visit. Her son is now 14 years old, but she was able to recall vividly how she felt when he was first born.
"I think in the first three months," she said, "I only loved him in theory. I was too tired to feel the love I knew was there."
This made so much sense to me that I felt guilty for how powerfully I resonated with it. Limp with fatigue and glazed from hormonally induced dementia and anxiety, what I felt for my son was fiercely protective, overwhelmingly dedicated, but something as sharp and known as love hadn't quite crystallized yet. (Loving a newborn is a little bit like loving a meat grinder or a bread maker: you put something in, and something comes out and that's about all). It was as though my body loved him, but my mind hadn't yet had a chance to tap in.
I know that some other parents out there will read this in horror (except for those who had similar experiences). But since I emerged from that dim and strange time of the first few months, it was clear that I loved him. Loved him not just because I was supposed to, but for who he is. Once a baby begins to smile and laugh and pick up objects, you get the glimmers of a personality, though it's still too formless a thing to really be called personality. And in seeing who your baby is, for me, at least, love comes gusting up like the Santa Ana winds--hot and overpowering and all consuming.
Over these months--he is now almost 8 months old--there is no other word for how I feel about him. I love him. Fiercely. Miraculously. It is, as my mother always told me, a totally different, unique kind of love from any other you'll ever feel. Though feedback is nice--when he reaches for me, or laughs with me--it isn't required. He won't have to buy me flowers or write me pretty cards or make an effort to earn my love. He gets a free pass to be loved. Of course, he'll piss me off and try my patience and sometimes we'll feel like we don't love each other, but I always will.