A double dose of unconditional love

By Dr. Heather Bozant Witcher, Clarion Herald

Clarion Herald columnist Heather Bozant Witcher: I wasn’t prepared ‘for the hold that my children would have on me.’

There are many things I was told during my pregnancy that were meant to prepare me for motherhood.

I had heard about the sleepless nights, the resulting sleep deprivation and the seemingly insatiable feedings. I was told to sleep while my twin boys were sleeping, to neglect household chores, to recruit help when and where I could get it.

But, there were a number of things that I wasn’t prepared for in the immediate transition into motherhood.

No one, for instance, told me how suddenly that transition occurs.

No one mentioned how quickly a woman goes from having a sense of autonomy to the realization that these tiny individuals are solely dependent upon her for survival.

And, though it’s taken some time during postpartum to sort through these emotions, no one prepared me for the fact that I would be OK with that shift from independence to dependency.

I was prepared to breathe in the sweetness of the newborn scent – that smell that makes you want to hold them tight and never let go. But I wasn’t prepared for the immediacy of the hold that my children would have on me.

After we returned to the hospital room, from across the room, I watched as a hoard of nurses circled my boys, my husband rushing from them to me. From my hospital bed – shaking uncontrollably from the shock of the C-section – I waited for someone to bring my babies to me.

As one began struggling with breathing, he was laid on my chest for skin-to-skin contact. And, in that moment, I knew I couldn’t let go. Nothing can prepare you for that sudden attachment. Nor can anyone prepare you for that first smile – the milk-drunk smile of your child, half awake, half asleep, turned up toward you after nursing or feeding from the bottle, mouth slightly gaping.

Only second to that smile is their next smile, the smile that occurs a bit later, when their eyes have begun to focus and they can see and recognize you. The coo and giggle that accompany the wide grin, with arms outstretched, as they seem to grasp toward the recognized face and listen to the voice that has been with them all along, from inside the womb.

No one told me about the state of wonder (and disillusionment, despair and soul-searching in the initial postpartum months) that would occur as I watched my children seemingly grow overnight.

I was told about the clothes – that they would outgrow them quickly and constantly need to be laundered – but no one told me how attached I would get to those itty-bitty onesies and maintain a sense of denial as we moved from preemie to newborn to 0-3 months.

No one told me, when they grasped my finger and held it tightly with their tiny hands, just how difficult it would be to imagine what my life would look like without those tiny hands (or feet or nose).

Everyone said how quickly the first few months and moments would fly by, but no one prepared me for my sudden desire to bask in the beauty and awe of these moments, knowing that in, just a few more years, those tiny hands won’t always search for mine and those currently dependent little bodies will soon become strong, autonomous bodies of their own.

Dr. Heather Bozant Witcher can be reached at hbozantwitcher@clarionherald.org.

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