I love my son, and even as much as I love him I find it difficult at times to really relax into that love. It's hard to explain because I never experienced it before him, but it's something tenuous, like walking around your living room on tiptoes only or opening the car door and walking inside even though it's raining and you have no umbrella. It's uncomfortable and tense and vaguely irritating -- being so aware of the love -- even though there's no real reason for it to be.
A year or so after he was born my husband told me he thought it was an evolutionary thing, an easy out given to me by mother nature, since if he had been born in a cave instead of a scrubbed hospital with three different vending machines by the door of the maternity ward, it would have been "touch and go" with him -- that nature knew he was in danger and so gave me, as a kind mercy, a sort of space without even much air in it, a gap between myself and my love for him, so that motherly love was something I visited, in the same way I visited him in the ICU. Intensely, with great concern and anxiety and tenderness, but still in a temporary way, knowing I would be heading home later in the car.
Today I tried on purpose to relax into it, to carry on easy, flowing conversation and pay real attention to the wonderful person he is, and the result is mixed and unexpectedly painful, the same tearing-my-heart feeling I felt in his first few days. I am sure all parents feel this at times, but today it hit me, a backlog of tenderness, this love I have for him.
I have thought for as long as I have been thinking about it at all that perhaps I do not feel enough tenderness for him, or that he might feel me as a chilly and only vaguely affectionate person sometimes, when old memories try to crowd out the sunny baby days we have here in this messy house. But I realized tonight, as he sat up in bed, smiling into my eyes as he sang me his favorite song from preschool (Zippedee Doo Da, with arm motions!) that in fact my love is too much to think about, instead of too little. I let in little bits as I can, like a trickle from a garden hose slowly filling a water balloon stretched tight over the nozzle, and try to get used to having a heart so full it hurts.