From the minute he gushed out of my body and I held him against my chest, we were one. I felt his thoughts and emotions, I knew his needs. My love for him was fiercely animal. Where marriage was an emotional bond consummated in a physical one, my mother-love for my baby was gut-instinct, a giving of my very organs. I ached to hold him. I would never let him go. Motherhood was the greatest surprise of my life.
When he cried, it pierced me. His entire life had been in my womb, in warm water and darkness, listening to my heartbeat and the rush of blood in my veins, the creaking of my organs and the expansion of my breath, my feelings of love and fear, anxiety and joy. Then the birth that hurt him as it did me and out he comes into a cold, huge world, full of bright lights and strange noises and so many people. His only mainstay is me, my voice, my smell, my heartbeat.
I disregarded every parenting book about training and followed my instincts in a head-long tumble. If he cried, I answered him. If he needed me, I was there. It didn’t matter if it was a cry of physical need or emotional need, or if my swollen anemic postpartum body was exhausted. I had a purpose in life: to build a subconscience of security.
As my baby got older and we established a rhythm, I was surprised by how that simple mothering idea was so adamantly discouraged. All around me our culture pushed for the belief that anyone could replace me. I couldn’t see a movie or read a book that dealt with a mother dying or a baby being taken away from its mother without feeling severe trauma, yet half the time it was portrayed as if the baby had no awareness that he had lost his mother. In daycares and tv shows there prevailed the idea that all a baby needed is a rubber nipple and white noise and he wouldn’t know the difference.
People say, “Don’t worry, he won’t remember it.” But what is our subconscience built from? Things we don’t remember. Or, “He doesn’t even know what he’s crying about.” I am still flabbergasted by the arrogance of this concept. Just because my baby cannot speak or doesn't have a store of memories to shape his experiences doesn’t mean his feelings aren’t real.
So, as a new mother, my ideology began to take shape. My baby was a person, just like me, equal to me. I would try to treat him as I would like to be treated. And yes, this meant a way of sacrifice, sometimes of suffering, because he can’t return the favor. Yet that is the way of Christ.
All around us, mama seminars and child-rearing books press the need for parent dominance and self-service. “Me-time.” “My space.” “Your best life now.” Ambition. The American Dream. The elemental push for control and individuality. It’s in the lack of room for anyone that is different and doesn’t fit into society’s projections of success. It’s in the subtle press of family planning, big houses, and college funds. It grows into the monstrosities of abortion, the extinction of the undesirables, and now the euthanasia of sick toddlers.
It may be hard to recognize, but it’s the seed of the Arian ideologies that history has fought hard to stamp out. Survival of the fittest. Natural selection. The strong man’s army. It is the mantra:
I am more important than you.
I am stronger than you.
My wishes will prevail over yours.
Instead, Jesus says:
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
Love your neighbor as yourself.
Let the little children come unto me, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.
Follow the way of love.
To love is to sacrifice.
My baby may be weak and helpless. My baby may not be able to communicate like I do. But he is a human being just like me, and he deserves to be heard, answered, loved, and respected.
It may not be Hollywood perfection. It may mean that for years I’m running after toddlers and trying in vain to clean my house or have something nice to wear. Yet there’s a fierce beauty in the very mess of it. It’s the way of salvation. And within it is the indescribable feeling when you know your baby loves you more than anything else in the whole wide world.