A Diary of Motherhood: Year One, Week Seven

This Diary of Motherhood is a series of weekly letters to my first baby, my little son who I call Baby Bird. I know not everyone wants to read about the highs and lows of motherhood so you can read non-baby related posts about travelwritingfreelancing or Amsterdam instead. Alternatively read one of my short stories or check out some book reviews and recommendations.

Dear Baby Bird,

A couple of days after you were born, in response to a photo of one-hour-old you that I sent to her, a friend replied, asking "Isn't it the most amazing kind of love?".

Amazing wouldn't have been my word. At the time, the pull I felt to you was a little shocking, and heavy, and hard to carry. I'm not sure I could even describe it as "love". An overwhelming sense of duty, responsibility, pressure, obligation, protection, oh yes, that's what I felt. But love, well, not as I knew it. Maybe that's what she meant. That it was amazing how instant that totally new and all consuming sensation was, so that must be love, right? But love's always felt good to me, in a reassuring, grounding and life-affirming kind of way. This "love" was nothing like that; it was the opposite, in fact. 

While whatever I felt back then eventually softened into a tender and very definite love, and it has certainly thickened in consistency and texture, it's only in recent months, maybe weeks, that I experience moments where there is nothing but love. No pressure, no duty, no responsibility, no obligation, no overriding need to protect you... Just love. And these moments happen when you look at me. You are in the middle of playing, eating, drinking, nursing, talking, singing and you stop what you're doing, look at me, grin widely and you don't blink or break eye contact for a second or two. You just look at me, and with a very clear and tangible joy squinting your eyes, I feel your love. My reaction is an uncontrollable one. It's like a deep inward sigh, like I'm surrendering to the most beautiful truth. That said, it's not like my breath or anything else leaves me. If anything it's actually the opposite sensation; I feel completely full, and satisfied. And each and every time it adds a little more fuel to the fire that is my unique love for you.

I suspect this year will be more full of these moments than any other year. As your emotions develop and your sense of relationships, affection and feelings all become sharper, you will exercise your new ability to convey and express your love and enjoyment, uninhibited by other needs that will develop a little later on; a need to exert your authority and independence, a new interest in other people other than those closest to you, and ultimately your unlimited ability to be painfully embarrassed by your parents.

But let's not think about that yet. Believe me, I want to have a lot of fun embarrassing you, but for now, I just want to float on top of all the little waves of love you're sending my way.

Because rightly or wrongly, they make me more aware of this special love I have for you. Dare I say it out loud, but it was the act of you showing something like joy to be around me - smiles, laughter, arms held up reaching for me - that really kick-started what I would call my love for you. In other words, while I'm confident my desire to protect, nurture and heal you is completely unconditional, I'm not sure my love is. I've always thought of all the bonds in the world, a mother's love would be an unconditional one, but there have been moments since you arrived that I've been surprised just how conditional what I feel for you has been. Is my love for you stronger now that you smile a million times more than you used to? Yes, I think it is. Do I feel more loving towards you since you started to sleep better? Yes, I'm afraid I do. Do I find it hard to cover you in kisses and hugs after you've thrown all your dinner on the floor for the fifth mealtime in a row? Yes I do. Impossible, never, but harder, yes.

There's a part of me that almost wants to be wrong or completely alone in feeling this way. Oh how I would love to think that a mother's love is the only unconditional sort of love in the world. It would make sense considering how much a mother gives a child. And I would love myself to feel full to the brim with love all the time. But I don't. My love for you is constant, but it's like the tide, sometimes it rushes in, and at other times it ebbs away gently, only for it to rush in again later, bigger and stronger.

I wish I could better describe this love. It's certainly something I was so eager to feel or if not that, to understand, before I became a mother, but sadly I'm not sure I know the words. However, I also suspect that if I spent the remainder of my writing career trying to find them, I'm not sure I would. Other writers have tried to describe it and one that came close was the expression "bone-deep". There was also a story about a young baby making her mother blush with his intense, loving stares. These resonate, but they don't really get close to encompassing what it's like when you hold your sleeping child in your arms, close your eyes and just let all the feelings in.

This is important, because I know I have had (and continue to have) moments when I don't let the feelings in. But now, with your lingering looks, unstoppable smiles and quickly-becoming-familiar sounds ("mamamamama..." "papapapapapa...") I can't ignore your love, which means I can't dismiss my love for you. Conditional, unconditional, ebbing, flowing, always too big to describe, too fierce to accept at times, this love is all those things and more, but most importantly, it is yours - forever yours - and I am utterly humbled by it.

Your blushing-feeling-it-in-my-bones, hoping-I-give-as-good-as-I-get, crazy-in-love mother x

Frances M. Thompson

Londoner turned wanderer, Frankie is an author, freelance writer and blogger. Currently based in Amsterdam, Frankie was nomadic for two years before starting a family with her Australian partner. Frankie is the author of three short story collections, and is a freelance writer for travel and creative brands. In 2017, she launched WriteNOW Cards, affirmation cards for writers that help build a productive and positive writing practice. When not writing contemporary fiction, Frankie shops for vintage clothes, dances to 70s disco music and chases her two young sons around Amsterdam.
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