I give him 110% (on a good day) and I get maybe 10% back (on a good day).
For me, being Nathan’s mother has meant I often and willingly assume the response of “of course.”
Of course I will feed you.
Of course I will change your diaper.
Of course I will hold you and kiss you.
Of course I will [try to] play with you.
Of course I will rock you.
Of course I will [try to] do your bazillion therapy exercises.
Of course I love you sweet child.
It is a different kind of new baby love. It is not at all like I’m head-over-heels in love. I am not constantly overcome with gushy emotions over my sweet boy. (Although I do talk all baby like to him and think he’s incredibly cute.) I simply can’t say that my heart always feels all love and joy when I look at him, because I also feel a twinge of pain mixed in.
My love for him is a love of action and advocacy. It’s a love of acting on his behalf, not simply enjoying him for who he is. To be honest, I don’t know who he is even still, and we’re almost 18 months in to his precious life.
I think those closest to me would agree that I love him very much. I think they would say that he’s bonded to me, but it is incredibly hard for me to feel that connection towards him on a consistent basis because he tends to have such a flat affect.
Until a couple of weeks ago. Nathan experienced the most strange sort of separation anxiety. My parents came to visit and while they were here, they babysat him while I ran errands. On two separate occasions after I came back home, walked through the door and said, “Hi, how’s everybody doing?” that he scrunched up his face so hard and started to cry. He would look toward my dad and scrunch up his face more. Then, he would look toward me and cry some more.
Most babies feel sad when their mommy leaves, mine feels sad once he realizes, hours later, that I’ve been the one he’s missing. It just demonstrates how differently his little brain works.
I know it was hard for my dad to not feel like he had upset him. My dad who spent hours upon hours holding him in the NICU, walking the halls of the hospital with him, and who had just then spent a couple of hours caring for him no problem. It really was a sad little cry.
It wasn’t until those moments, that he reached toward me rather than me reaching toward him. In his own way he indicated who he had a preference for, and it wasn’t anyone else. It was me. My heart truly went all mushy and eager to connect with him. It was the first time I felt like he was reciprocating in some way and moving toward me.
Reflecting on this reminds me of God’s love toward his children. Think of the Israelites and how they consistently disobeyed, complained, and became hard-hearted. God faithfully continued to provide for them, pursue them, and lead them. Same as me. I don’t consistently show Him how much I love Him and want to be connected to Him. I can go days barely acknowledging God, except through my rote mealtime prayers. I can fail to see what He’s showing me throughout the day and ignore His Word to me. Yet regardless of how I respond, or fail to respond, He loves me far greater.
I am beginning to see how He is modeling for me how to love Nathan. A love that loves regardless of what I get in return. A love that keeps giving even when it’s hard. A love that loves Nathan for who he is, not for every milestone he can meet.
So whether I get 110+% back, 3% back, or -20% back, of course. Of course, I love you child.
Instead of the scrunched up face cry, here are some scrunched up face smiles and other random expressions. I love seeing that crinkled up nose.
We love, because He first loved us.” – 1 John 4:19
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