I saw my son for the first time via digital photo. My husband held the camera in front of me and I felt nothing. Worse than that, I felt nothing that I felt nothing. He didn’t look familiar; my first thought was that he wasn’t mine. Blame it on me waking up to an empty room and deflated belly. Blame it on the morphine drip. Blame it on the nurse that ruined our long-awaited “It’s a boy!” surprise. It all felt ruined and I felt nothing. Blame me.
While pregnant, I monitored my son’s every move. I knew his elbow from his knee and I reveled in tracing the outline and conversing through belly rubs and song. It was our way of creating and strengthening an unbreakable, extraordinary attachment. A way of communicating, “Mama’s here.”
After all of the months of anticipation and preparation, I didn’t want to meet my son. There wasn’t tugging at my heart and longing to hold him in my arms. There wasn’t demanding or pleading. I used to count down the days and want life to hurry up; now I wanted the clock to stop. I sat in my hospital room with dread and wishing for the bed to fold up so I could disappear.
The day arrived when I would meet my son for the first time. My son had had his first bath, his first cries, his first diaper change and his first feeding. All without me. I was wheeled in a chair that screamed helpless and mounted onto the powerlessness I had felt since his birth. If shame could drip, it would have flooded the entire hallway.
When I entered my son’s room I felt it. The “it” that struck me to my core and brought me calmly and beautifully present. The monitors were crazily beeping and there were wires and tubes journeying in and out of my son’s body. I saw only him. I heard only him. The shame dissipated and I experienced a softening throughout my entire body. I had this felt sense that he was mine and that our attachment was the same as it had been for the last nine months.
My husband and the medical team were watching, but I saw only him. My eyes finally met my son and this moment mattered more than any other. The little nubs of knees I’ve patted and the elbows I rubbed – they were right there in front of me. We were picking up where we left off.
I extended my arms to hold him again. “Mama’s here.”