They put her on my belly and I waited. I waited for the rush of love and peace and joy and the willingness to throw myself in front of a bus for her that they'd said would come. I watched her, held her, examined the place on her skull where she beat her head against my pelvic bone for an hour, and waited.
It didn't come.
I passed her around that night and the next day, watched family, friends holding her and treasuring her. I held her when she cried and did my best to feed her and help her sleep.
It didn't come.
I took her home, bundled in the precious fuzzy suit with bear ears we'd reserved for the day. I saw her, so small, in her car seat, and adjusted the straps so maybe it would hold her in if we hit something. I watched her sleep, changed her diapers, tried to convince her to eat like the doctors said she should. I bounced and rocked and sung, and felt nothing.
That's not entirely true. I felt more than enough anxiety. She was so small, so needful, so helpless, and I realized in waves of quiet panic that I didn't know what was best for her. I read and talked and tried but books couldn't tell me and neither could anyone else.
Afraid I'd make the wrong choice, I didn't want to be left alone with her. I was afraid I'd miss her cries, that she wouldn't eat, that something awful would happen and she'd get hurt and it'd be all my fault.
I sat with her in the hospital through her kidney infection, watched her learn to smile and laugh and coo, taught her to bat her toys and introduced her to books. I wrote her letters and kept her baby book and dreaded going back to work because I was afraid of what it would do to her, not because I couldn't get enough of her.
I couldn't talk about it, couldn't even find a voice for the waves inside. I kept waking up, walking, going, made it through the days and the weeks. I reached out, reached in, reached up, but the best I could do was tread water. I don't think I knew how hard it was until I'd started to come out. Until I remembered normal, I couldn't see how not-normal I'd been living.
The worst part: I knew I loved her. I could locate love in my soul, I just couldn't feel it. All I could feel was anxiety and dread and fear, and they loomed like an ocean between me and my mama-love.
Then it broke. I don't know how or why, just that. Maybe hormones stabilized, maybe I found perspective, maybe I learned she wouldn't break as easy as all that. But I prefer to think that He stepped in, that he intervened and held the waters back so I could cross over and find my love, like Israel crossed the Jordan.
**Find more Imperfect Prose here, on Emily's beautiful blog.**