How do you measure the love you feel for your children? I remember always hearing my Grandmother say that she loved all 3 of her children equally, but differently. I thought she was just saying this to be fair, not hurt anyone's feelings, not create any unnecessary squabbling amongst my mom, aunt and uncle. Now I know that it wasn't just a way of keeping the peace, she really means it, from the bottom of her heart.
Before I had kids to call my own, I don't think that I had a clue what "love" really was. I knew what butterflies felt like, what elation, happiness, tenderness, warmth, caring, trust, and friendship felt like. I knew that I "loved" my parents and spouse. But honestly, "love" did not become "real" until I became a mother.
It wasn't until that moment, that I looked in his gooey eyes and heard his strong wail for the first time, that I knew how my parents, my mother, felt about me. It wasn't until I saw the protective look of concern on my husband's face as he peered into the bassinet at our newborn son that I knew for sure that we were ready for this step in our lives. It wasn't until late into my son's 3rd month of life, when I'd finally gotten the hang of the whole "mommy" thing, and I danced with him in the quiteness of the am hours to put him back to sleep, that I felt like he really loved me back, in his innocent, fresh and forgiving baby way.
We were navigating our place in each other's lives with the great care, we were learning how to be, we were becomming parent and child, for the very first time. For the first time in my life, I knew why my parents worried about me so much, why they took the time to check my stories as a teenager and ask questions, why they wanted me to succeed and do my best, why they taught me to be optomistic, why they wanted me to eat my vegetables. I knew how my own mother must have felt when I was born, because although she'd shared my birth with me at least every year on my birthday ("on the day you were born . . ."), I too, had the birth of my son as a reference point for the beginning of motherdom. I was a mother, like her. Brett was a father, like him. We were a family for the first time.
He smelled like graham crackers. His fuzzy hair was like the fine down covering of a ripe peach. He felt like "new". I knew every inch if his tiny body, every sound that came from his hungry lips, every gassy smile that curled the corners of his mouth while he slept. He taught me how to be a mom. He taught us how to be parents. I finally knew that "love" is not a big enough word to describe how I feel about him and his brother and his sister, equally.
I remember keeping myself awake at night while pregnant for the 2nd time turning it over and over again in my head "how can I possibly love this baby as much as my 1st?". I would tell myself what my Grandmother always said to me, that you love them all and your heart is big enough to love all of your children. And I'd push those thoughts aside as I readied myself for Wyatt's birth, which was fast approaching. I was terrified about McRae, about who would watch over him while I was having the baby, what he'd have for dinner, how he would sleep. I worried so much about him that I felt guilty about not worrying about the new life on the way. Wyatt came into my life and my heart expanded, exploded and adjusted happily to the love that came along with him. His presence in our lives was just as new and fresh as his older brother's had been 18 months earlier. He molded a permanent space for himself upon my shoulder and we all fell in love with him instantly.
Although different in so many ways from his brother, Wyatt showed me that what my Grandmother had been saying was true. You could love them all, and you would have room in your heart. So it is no surprise that Katie's arrival into our family taught us even more about that little word "love". Because of the 5-year gap between her and her next oldest sibling, things were a little easier in the "worry" department on my end. I had been watching the brother bond strengthen between my boys for a while now, and I knew that I didn't need to worry about them so much, they had each other. And so on day she was born, although I was caught off guard and completely surprised by the circmstances surrounding her birth, I was not worried about the boys. I also had the advantage of knowing her gender before she was born (although since I hadn't found out with the boys, I wasn't 100% convinced until I saw for myself) and the expectation of a girl was overwhelming. So when my red, wrinkled, screaming daughter was introduced to me for the first time, and she grasped my finger in her tiny grip, I knew the feeling that was coursing through my body, the enormity of it, the tenderness and worry that would accompany it forever. I knew that I could handle it, hang on to it and hold fast to it for as long as they will let me.
And that's the thing about "love", it can't be defined in a dictionary just like it is impossible to define the smell of a newborn baby, you just have to experience it for yourself. And each time you do, your heart will be able to handle it because if it couldn't, than you wouldn't be given the opportunity. Embrace it, don't be afraid of it, smell it, feel it, remember it.