This is the first time I truly understood what it felt like to love my daughter. And it didn’t occur when you think.
This month at thirteen months old, my beautiful and happy child came down with some sort of viral infection, a cold really, that gave her a fever. Now, this wasn’t just any fever. This bastard was up and down and all around and I had no idea when the hell it was going to stop. I had never experienced this before and I had no idea how to make her feel better, comfortable, happy again. The second day in I was at the doctor’s office at 8am. The bastard fever shot up to 105.3. All the Infant Tylenol in the world was NOT going to make her comfortable. Maybe bring the temperature down, but not bring my baby back to her usual self.
There was no point of infection, nothing they could go on to give me any more information, medication, etcetera. “Sorry Mrs. Adamson, Scarlett will just have to wait this one out. Call us if it worsens.” I was confused. I was afraid. I wanted to smack the doctor. My husband tells me later that the doctor was very nice and I just didn’t like what she had to say. I didn’t. She left me with no expectations, nothing to go on, and a piece of paper with dosages for over-the-counter liver-eaters that I would have to keep pumping into Scarlett as she squirmed around on my lap, screaming. And that is exactly how the day played out.
The fever went up again, down again. She was okay with her television show one minute. She was throwing a tantrum the next. I cuddled with her on the couch, then I had to get down on the floor because the couch wasn’t comfortable anymore. And when my husband got home I had to peel myself off of the floor and drive to Rite Aid to re-up our Tylenol/Motrin supply. Twelve hours and we were sitting pretty at 103.3. My husband said it was an improvement. My mother said it was an improvement. I said, “Screw that shit, my kid is miserable.” And then as I looked down at her, now standing over her play pen, she looked up at me with this pain in her face. I can’t describe it as anything except that she was truly showing me with her facial expressions that she had had it, too. The look was followed by a whine. And she threw her arms up. I was instantly 100% in love. I grabbed her and held her tightly for a moment. I wiped her tears and let her get it all out. She wiped her nose on my hair and pulled off my glasses. Suddenly she was feeling a little better. And so was I.
Now, this is not to say I didn’t love her to begin with. I absolutely did. That cliche, “from the minute I saw her” moment happened for me too on December 5, 2012. But there is something deeper that I think women should understand. That “minute” is the turning on of your maternal instincts. A button is pressed and you are officially bound to this human being until the day that you are buried. And of course it is real love, but it comes more from that instinct. In my daughter’s first year, there was a lot of transition, a lot of learning and growing as both a mother and individual, that I had to endure to become the mother I am today, almost fourteen months later. And the key word there is “individual”. It has to become clear to the individual and not just the mother that there is unconditional love that exists between you both. Your brain and your heart already know that you love your child. But your soul needs to truly recognize the importance of your role in that child’s life and the impact of your beautiful and growing relationship on you both. And my soul is now officially bound to Scarlett’s, no doubts, no fears, no hesitations, just pure and full love for the rest of our days together.
I feel that in cases where mothers commit horrible atrocities on their children it is because the individual never gets the memo. And that could be for a number of reasons, extreme mental illness, like schizophrenia or split personality disorder, being a huge one. Those women say they loved their children. Hell, some say they did the horrible things because of their love for their children. Andrea Yates thought she was saving their souls. Someone needed to tell her what I am about to tell you.
I can’t stress enough the importance of loving and wanting good things for yourself besides obviously loving and wanting good things for your child. If you allow the bad to take over the good, if you put aside your dreams completely and just settle for whatever comes down the pike, if you don’t seek the help and the answers you need out of pride, and if you succumb to regret and look backward instead of forward, you are not fully capable of understanding what it truly means to love someone else wholly. That goes for a lot of different relationships, but most certainly the relationship between mother and child. How can you teach a child the importance of loving him or herself if you don’t know how to love yourself? Like I always tell my friends who are mothers: On an airplane, they tell you to put the mask on first, before putting the mask on the child. Because, what good are you to them if you can’t breathe?