It wasn’t instant love.
It was instant awe that escalated each time I realized I had given birth to this amazing, apple-cheeked naked little thing, who was so healthy her mouth was already seeking milk and comfort, just seconds after entering the universe. I didn’t know how to hold her or make sure her head didn’t dangle. I had never in my life changed a diaper or seen an umbilical cord (which was harder and more transparent than I’d thought it would be). And now, here I was, solely in charge of this little bird’s existence and happiness. Okay, my husband was also a major part of the equation, of course, but if you want to breastfeed, you are going to be number one for a little while.
The first night the nurse brought K into my room so I could feed her, I was terrified. As they wheeled her in, all I could see was a chirping, gaping bird mouth that gobbled up 75 percent of her adorable little face. I attempted to breastfeed for an hour and a half, alternating between correctly and incorrectly guiding her to latch on. As a result, my poor nipples came out sore, red, and cracked. There were bruises all over my left breast and both nipples burned like hell.
But after experiencing childbirth, the pain of breastfeeding wasn’t as dreadful as the fear that my little one would never feel sated. At about 4 a.m., after two hours of feeding, I called the nurse into my room and asked her why my baby was still crying and wouldn’t settle down to sleep. She took one look at her.
“This baby is still hungry,” she said.
I shook my head. “But I fed her for two hours!” Then, desperate for advice, help, an extra set of breasts – something – “How long am I supposed to feed her?”
Like several nurses who fielded my inane concerns and questions that week, this one looked as though she might collapse on the floor from laughter. “When you’re breastfeeding, you just keep going!”
And that was that. She left me alone in my dark little hospital room, with a screaming newborn, mutilated breasts, and – from what I could tell – not nearly enough milk to nourish her.
It wasn’t instant love, but from the moment she was born, I wanted nothing else than to let her gnaw at my boobs if it would make her happy.
Which I guess, in its own way, is instant love?