Even though I knew it was a bit of naive cliche, I did expect to be completely head over heels in love with my daughter from the moment I saw her. In reality, I was just relieved; so very relieved and so very tired. I hadn’t slept in almost 60 hours by the time she was born, and although the labour had gone well,I was deliriously tired.
The first few weeks were such a blur; an intense, beautiful, challenging blur. We brought a little bundle home, and were immediately hit with the all consuming nature of life with a newborn. My mum came up to support us in those early weeks. It took three adults just to keep the wheels of our lives turning, just to keep clean clothes and a basic hot meal for the three of us once a day. I was consumed with trying to learn to breastfeed, and the associated pain and frustration, combined with sleep deprivation. We seemed to live in a constant state of anxiety, lurching from one worry to the next, barely having time to catch our breath in between.
My daughter had been born with quite a bit of mucus on her lungs. She was fine, but for the first few nights and weeks we would lie awake and listen to her rasping and rattling breathing. Many times, we flung our covers off in panicked unison, one of us grabbing our baby out of her cot, one of us switching on the lights, both of us looking worried.
The permanent fight or flight state seemed to gobble up any time for staring at our daughter in wonder, as I’d imagined we would. I remember saying to friends when they visited that my daughter “really could have been any baby for the first few weeks.” I heard the suck of their breath through their teeth as they registered my comment. What I meant was that I was so consumed by caring for ‘a baby’, our daughter, that I just did not have time to get to know her in the way I had imagined I would. But even in my sleep-deprived fog, I could hear the comment as they had heard it.
One morning, after a really long long night, as the minutes ticked over from deep night to early morning, I looked down at my daughter in the front pack. I saw her doing something she had previously never done, gripping on to my top with her tiny fingers. Holding on to me, like the lifeboat that I am to her.Finally asleep, she was clinging on to me, her mama, in her slumber.The rush of love and connection I felt with my daughter as I saw her little hand gripping on to me was a feeling like no other.That tiny first grip was more powerful than the first smile, the first laugh. They don’t make little milestone cards that say ‘First time I gripped my mother’s top’, but they should. It’s magical. Sometimes the deepest bonds grow slower than we think they should.