birth, babies, bodies, breastfeeding, words / Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

First words are a difficult subject for me, and I don’t mean the first words said by Spider-boy (for the record it was ‘baby’, he’s such a glorious narcissist) or his brother. I mean the first words I said to my children. The first words they heard from me. I really believed, before I had children, that I would be able to say ‘I love you’ to my babies, that they would hear, from me, how I felt before they heard anything else.

In reality, just like the movie birth I hoped for, that didn’t happen. It took me several months to remember what I said to Spider-boy. In the blur of the photographic intense memory of labour and birth, of the blood and the tears, of the panics and the screams, the drugs and confusion, I forgot. I just forgot. It was only when I wrote him a letter, trying to explain that I loved him and how much he meant to me that I remembered. The word I said was ‘Hello’. A year of therapy and antidepressants and endless help, to recall on meeting someone so important to me I’d said ‘Hello’. I’m like the anti-Jerry Maguire.
The second time birth happened so fast, 0-10cm in under an hour no less, that I suspect the first words the newbie heard were ‘will somebody please sort me out, I don’t understand what’s happening to me’. But as for the first words I said to him? Again I can’t remember, or couldn’t until tonight. Which teaches me that birth, whether actually traumatic in a PTSD way, like my first, or speedy and wrongfooting, like my second, is a mindfuck. A strange, time telescoping, life altering, frenzied, boring, bloody mess. And even when it is okay-ish, something we feel positive about even, it isn’t something that goes to plan. I didn’t say ‘I love you’ the second time. I said ‘Hi little one’. I’m nothing if not original.
When I wrote the letter to Spider-boy I was distraught that I couldn’t remember, and desolate that I forgot to say I loved him. This time, well, I’m older if not wiser and sufficiently untraumatised to kind of forgive myself, for forgetting the movie style ‘ending’ to my birth and remembering birth is actually the beginning. If anything I’m closer to seeing my instinctive introductions as okay.
But for the record, and so both of them will always know, I did and do love them. But I always have and always will and that fact, that truth, seems very simple if I think about it. The love I have for them is white cold and solid, it connects me to the earth and blinds me in the dark. I loved them when I saw them, I love them now, I loved them when I pissed on a stick, I loved them when I saw their perfect, fragile, formed, beautiful faces flickering on an ultrasound screen, shit I’ll love them when I’m dead. The timeline is irrelevant. I loved them before they were born, when dinosaurs ruled the earth and I’ll still love them when the world has forgotten all of us.

5 Replies to “Introductions”

  1. A very moving post – what you say at the end about the timeless nature of love is so true. I just checked with my husband and he says the first words i said to either of our boys(after 'it's a baby' in shocked awe after Jonah was born)was'hello'. We think maybe Alexander got 'hello gorgeous boy' but still, it's just variations on a theme. I actually think it's the perfect thing to say – just a simple greeting. I don't think I could possibly hope to communicate everything i was feeling in those moments in words so a simple 'hello' to the remarkable new life in your arms seems right to me. like you say, it's just the beginning. x

  2. Glad to read of another 'hello', I beat myself up for a long time about it but now realise, as you say, it is a fine way to make your introduction.

  3. Hey ThatWoman – Your post made me cry – especially the definition of your love for your children, which put so perfectly what I feel for mine. I, too, welcomed my daughter with 'hello', and was glad to manage that much after a day and night of labour! But what I remember more than the words is falling into the dark pools of her age-old eyes as our gaze first met when she lay on my stomach. Words fell away, but I felt she knew precisely how I felt – and still feel, 23 years on x

  4. Aw thanks Heidi. I think I remember you saying once how she loved to hear that story – I know so what you mean about their eyes. Mine had the same huge dark pools, manga-wide and alert to being alive. It is such an extraordinary gift, to see someone see the world for the first time, for that alone I will always be grateful I think. Astonishing.

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