What I learned about love from my son who I couldn’t love. At first.
I was going through my son’s baptism pictures from seven years ago when he was a squealing little infant, wracked by pain of being lactose intolerant and us not knowing it. He looks bright and shiny, understandably confused and disapproving of all the noise and mess around him. In the pictures, there’s also me: all of 30, already with second baby while my first was barely 14 months old. I have the bright glow of postpartum. My hair shines and my skin is bright with health. I am smiling in the pictures, carrying the baby but all around me is the distance of someone who is in a situation she doesn’t want to be in. I am distant from my baby, from my surroundings: a couple of pictures look like I care about the pictures being decent but most of them look like I want to leave the place and run.
The time my son was baptised was a difficult time for me: I hadn’t wanted a second baby that soon, my marriage was on the verge of falling apart and I had severe postpartum depression. Add to that a baby who constantly cried because his stomach hurt (from lactose intolerance, which we didn’t know till later) I was pretty deeply miserable. But when my son turned about six months old, something happened. We had switched him to lactose free milk once we found out at four months, and he was now a bonny, smiley intolerably cute baby boy. My parents were his primary caregivers because I had gone back to work by then. In the day time, my mother took care of him and in the evening, for a time before I got home, my father looked after him. One day, I walked in and watched his big, beautiful eyes follow me around as I paid attention to my older one and something in my heart tugged.
It’s been seven years since then and this summer of a boy has grown like a flower watered by abundant rained and touched by enough sun. A delight to behold, full of hugs, kisses and cosmic wisdom in athletic little body, my son, I realise, has taught me the most valuable lesson I have learnt in possibly my entire life: that love is not a feeling. Love, in fact, is diligent care. Love is day after day of submitting yourself to something bigger (or smaller, as is the case with babies) than you and doing things with patient care. Love is action. Love is putting yourself aside in the interest of someone or something who cannot and does not have the ability to do anything for oneself. I don’t mean love is erasing yourself. The opposite, in fact. You gather all the resources you’ve got within you and you say this has got to be done and you do it. And soon, after days, months, and even years of care, what you have grown in yourself is a garden of love.
Now, when I realise this, I also realise that for me it is now possible to love anyone. That it is a choice. It is not because the other person is loveable or talented or great or funny. It is because of me, it is because I have the capacity to love that I can love anyone if I choose to do so. And that is something most parents find out after the birth of their children, especially mothers. Maternal love is rarely at first sight, as soon as the baby is born. It is days of painstaking care, it’s nights of feeding even if it is tiring and painful, it is months and years of nurturing before it becomes love so strong, so unconditional that nothing matches it. And the love of a mother is like no other, truly. Even science says so: research shows that the love of a mother helps with higher IQ, better health, and better quality of life once the child grows up.
Speaking of love, how to ignite the spark after you’ve just had a baby? Postpartum sex is as emotionally challenging as it is physically. Women’s bodies change as does their own image of their bodies. There are new inhibitions, physical restrictions. If you’re a man whose wife has just had a baby, Black Lace has the perfect advice for postpartum sex. We guarantee things will get hot again. As hot as the summer that’s looming, or already here in some places around the country. Which is why you need to know the science-backed tips that will help you take your child through summer. Further in our round up this week, you need to check out the story we did with one of our partners Teddyy’s Diapers on how you can save money on your regular diaper budget. And finally, if your child is out of diapers and has started to argue back, this is the story you absolutely need to read. We don’t guarantee your child will stop the backchat but you most certainly will be able to handle it better.
Let this be a summer of love, for yourself and the ones you choose to love.
Until next week.