How do we learn to love our children? When does it begin? Where does it grow from? Is the love just there all of a sudden or does it bloom over time?
This last fall was one of tragedy. I watched a Mama lose her baby. This Mama waited a near-eight months to meet her child and spent a mere 12 hours with her. Then this Mama lost her baby. In seconds, that tiny, beating heart slowed to a stop. And just as quickly as she was there, she was gone. Yet the longing, the seed of adoration was planted. And now this Mama will spend the rest of her life longing for a different ending. A do-over she will never get.
As a Mama with three children, these last couple months have been humbling. And it makes me wonder where the love comes from. That feeling that washed over me when I took in my new babies and cried because the love so violently gripped my heart. I have that same feeling even now, when I lay next to a sleeping child, whether he is nine, six or four, as I watch him sleep. Peacefully, trusting and innocent in my arms. Where does it come from?
I watched as this new Mama grew that love. Witnessed as it rose in her like a building wave, crashing into her heart, breaking into her soul. The love seemed to scare her, feeling foreign and unexplainable, yet coursed through her like nothing she had felt before. And then the being for whom this crushing emotion was felt, was gone, leaving her raw and starved. So what is the Mama to do with all the love that was left over? That love that wasn’t there the day before seems so familiar now. That love collides with a loss so profound it cannot be explained, for the word grief seems painfully pathetic in comparison to the feelings this loss actually illicits. But the woman is now a Mama. She is changed.
I have learned that children do not make the Mama. The devotion to a life other than your own is what makes the Mama. It’s a love with which we are all familiar whether we make the same decisions about bedtimes, school, discipline or vaccines we all share that unfathomable adoration for our children. And to hold all that love in your heart for a child who is not in your arms, at your breast, in your sight, forces one to conjure a strength so powerful that it almost seems impossible to trudge on. But even without the child, she is still a Mama. The Mama is in her now. And she will never again be the same.
And after witnessing this, I will never be the same either. I’ve come to recognize that the love of a Mama is the most basic of our actions. An unlearned emotion which all of a sudden and uncontrollably just exists. The love of a Mama is only known to another Mama. The love of a Mama is Primal.