This is my last lesson in humility to share about the very animalistic process of becoming a parent. Despite my smugness at being super prepared for having a baby, I was completely kicked in the butt right from the beginning with a pregnancy that gave me 17 kilos, ‘morning’ sickness, sinus issues and dizzy spells, going on to a birth plan that did not go exactly according to plan with a 26-hour drug-free labour that was as fun as it sounds and finally a weeks-long recovery that was much tougher than I could have anticipated. None of this makes me special, in fact it makes me very lucky in the grand scheme of things. But it’s still been a good lesson in how amazing our bodies are, how not in control we are, and how it doesn’t matter how many yoga classes we go to or books we read, nothing can ever prepare us for this process. This final lesson is the biggest, the most important, and the only one that I will never forget because it will be a part of me until the day I die.
Within minutes of Emma being born, while she was still writhing around on my chest, all naked and slippery and screamy while Toby tried to clean up poo with paper towels and the doctor was still busy at the other end of the bed, I had a stark realisation that kept hitting me over and over again, and still does.
This is how mum and dad feel about me.
That realisation was probably the most humbling of the whole experience of becoming a parent. I’m not one of those people who thinks having children is the only way to truly understand life, or the world, or even love, I’m really not. But I’m not sure one could ever fathom a parent’s love without being a parent yourself.
I loved her immediately, not in a lightning bolt kind of way but in an entirely natural, this-is-how-it-was-meant-to-be way. There was nothing she could do or say that would change that. Whether I was gagging at a messy nappy, begging her to stop crying, cursing her for having too short a nap, wishing for time to myself, envying friends’ nights out or overseas trips, I loved her. I missed her immensely when we weren’t in physical contact, even if she was just asleep in the pram while we were shopping. Now she’s older the sounds of her laugh and babbling are pretty much the best things I’ve ever heard. Every day I watch her do something, or even do nothing, and marvel at how utterly perfect she is. When she’s asleep she’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. When she’s awake she makes me laugh like nothing else, and my heart leaps now she’s able to recognise me from a distance and her face breaks into a grin and her legs kick in excitement and I still can’t believe she’s ours.
And all the while, I am completely overwhelmed by the knowledge that there are two people who feel exactly the same way about me.
I am lucky, because I know not everyone is in the same boat as me. I’m lucky to feel this way about my baby, and lucky to know, to have always known deep down – even when they were disappointed or angry or tired or busy – that mum and dad loved us to pieces. I’ve always known that, in the way you know the sun will rise and the sky is blue and all those other things you take for granted because that’s the way the world is. But I’ve never understood, not really, even though I love them to pieces as well. But it’s different. Suddenly I understand how they must feel when we move out of home, or miss curfew, or travel around Europe on a motorbike, or have our hearts broken. I get why they tell their friends when we win awards or get new jobs or graduate uni. Even with all our flaws and quirks, they think we’re perfect. And that is a humbling thought.
Because this is how I feel about Emma, I also know now that I don’t have to worry about making anything up to them – they don’t need anything from us, because they would do anything, have done everything, for us. But just in case, I gave them a granddaughter.