As I sit here holding my son, rocking him back and forth trying to put him to sleep, I look at him and he stares back with eyes wide open. I can tell that sleep is nowhere near and we'll just pass the hours in a comfortable silence looking at each other.
I breathe in his freshly applied baby lotion. I know he is content because he is not fidgeting like he normally does when I try to put him to bed. Usually, I rush through the process of putting him to sleep because I am tired after a long day but tonight I hug him a little closer to feel his warmth and take a moment to enjoy just rocking him back and forth.
It is in this moment that I marvel at how, in a little over a year, this tiny creature has become the most important thing in my life. I wonder how I went from feeling like a stranger to him to becoming his mother.
I have slowly fallen in love with this child, but while I was pregnant, I wasn't sure if that would ever happen. It was a mix of emotions: A strange anxiety on meeting a new person and the fear of not being able to love and care for him the way I thought a mother should.
Even though our pregnancy was planned, I didn't feel mentally ready to become a mom.
During our first doctor's appointment, when the doctor pointed to our ultrasound on the computer screen, my husband's eyes almost immediately became moist from excitement whereas I was not sure how to react to a black pea-sized looking object on the computer.
I felt like Rachel from Friends, the only difference being that at the end of that scene, she actually cries on seeing that pea-sized object while I just continued to stare at it dumbly.
Appointment after appointment, as my bump grew I perfected my "excited grin" because I did not want the doctor or my husband to think that something was wrong was me. I slowly began to enjoy my pregnancy because I enjoyed the fact that I could eat anything and not feel guilty about it. I could stop working out and no one would bat an eyelash. I could no longer fit in my regular clothes so I could buy new clothes!
My husband swooned over me and became extra attentive, people were suddenly concerned if I ate on time and I did not have to worry about having a seat on the train (most of the time). All this attention and care was exciting but somewhere in the back of my mind, I knew something was amiss.
I was excited about the things I would buy for my baby but not the actual baby itself. I loved my newly protruding baby bump but could not, for the life of me, connect to the living being inside it.
My pregnancy was quite uneventful, to the point where the first time I felt our son kick was the most exciting part. Things were pretty boring until I went into premature labor four weeks before my due date. After an excruciating 24-hours of induced labor, I went through an emergency C-section).
When he was finally handed to me that night, I cried. I felt joy like I had never felt upon seeing my husband hold our baby lovingly for the first time. Someone did rightly say: Labor is the only blind date where you will meet the love of your life.
I missed him when they took him away from me for tests. All the emotions that had somehow remained hidden all this time gushed out like a hurricane the minute that baby came out.
He was sent to the NICU on the night he was born after the pediatrician discovered he had distressed lungs and I nearly collapsed on seeing my frail 5.5 lb baby covered in wires lying in an incubator. I kicked myself for missing the chance to breastfeed him before he was sent off.
I slowly began to feel like this little creature belonged to me and I had to protect him. My tiny baby had more wires going into his body than hours he had been alive. I did not get my milk supply immediately so he was given formula, which he could barely digest so I began the painful journey of pumping every 2.5 to 3 hours to increase my supply as well as his chances of leaving the NICU sooner.
When we finally brought him home, we began to get to know each other. We worked together through the long sleepless nights, brought on by colic, that pushed me towards the brink of my sanity and survived.
I went from feeling terror when he started crying to becoming an expert in calming him down and putting him to sleep. From being clueless about what is upsetting him to being the only one who understands his babble.
I learned which song made him smile the most and his different "types" of cries. I felt comfort when he fell asleep on my chest. I enjoyed holding him, singing to him and even changing his diapers.
I did not suddenly become a mom who knew everything about her baby but now when it came to him, I felt a sense of calm rather than discomfort.
My life did not suddenly become all about him, but he became the most important part of it. It took time for us to build that connection but it happened.
And now I cannot remember the time when that connection was missing.