I took a nap on a Sunday afternoon. And when I woke up, I felt bereft. And hungry, but that’s pretty normal for me these days. But the sense that something was wrong was strong. Not wrong exactly, but different.
Maybe it was the rainy drizzle outside. Or because I had just picked up another lovingly donated load of baby things from my friends. Or because I got a few looks from women at the grocery store that morning. Perhaps it even had to do with the vision that passed through my mind as I left the grocery store and pushed my cart into the parking lot, that someday soon I will be pushing a cart with a baby strapped into the little chair.
And as I push that cart with my son in it, I will remind him how we have to look both ways as we cross the parking lot. Because there are crazy drivers out there who are not looking out for you. You can’t just look once and then stop looking. You have to look constantly, Gibson.
I’m not sure if I had a dream during my nap or not. All I know is that I woke up feeling off. That something was changed. And the only words I could summon up when trying to explain this feeling to my husband were: involuntary love.
Yes, I’ve read the quote from Elizabeth Stone: “Making the decision to have a child– it’s momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” And I felt it on some level before we got pregnant. But I do not think I understood.
Oh please don’t let me become one of those parents. At dinner parties with my child-free friends declaring that you do not know love until you have a child of your own. Or that you cannot understand another parent’s fear until you are also a parent.
That would be terrible. I would never be invited to dinner parties anymore, that’s for sure.
I guess part of what has me feeling this way is that with every kick and squirm that Gibson makes, I fall more in love with this kid. I know when he’s sleeping. And I know what foods make him move a lot (he loves apples!) I am starting to know his sleeping and waking patterns. He likes it when I eat raisin bran in the morning, but not so much if I eat grits. He usually goes to sleep when I’m driving. Or at least he’s not moving much then. Hell, I even know that he likes it when we go swimming.
And I’m sure my hormones are playing a huge part in this feeling. It’s a type of love mixed with sadness. Maybe I am sad to know that the life I had before Gibson is gone. He’s going to change EVERYTHING. He’s not even born yet, and he has his own furniture and clothes and just physical space in my home already.
On the previous Saturday, before this epic nap, we rearranged my dance studio so it could do double duty as a play room and studio. We threw out three trash bags full of my old stuff. Just my stuff, no one else’s. And it was mostly papers that needed to be shredded or little cheap mementos from times and places past. Old make up and nail polish. Craft projects half-finished, never to be attempted again. All of it things I didn’t need and hadn’t bothered with since we moved into the house. And yet, it felt less like a much needed purge and more like I was throwing away the past.
Even as excited about the future as I am, I guess that affected me too. And I think the part of me that remembers what it was like before pregnancy is losing its shit. What are you doing? Are you giving up who you are? And why are you going along with this so willing? Who are you anymore?
Because I want these changes to happen. Have wanted them for years. It’s probably normal to have these mixed feelings on the subject, right? I expect all parents feel this way. All people who face an identity change must feel this way. As much as you want the change, you have to take a moment to mourn what was before and never will be again. Right?
Once Gibson is born, I will no longer just be Kristin. A daughter, a wife, a fundraiser, a belly dancer, a writer and hopefully mostly good person. I will add mother to that list. And in some ways, maybe in every way, that will be the title that looms larger over any other title I’ve ever held before. I will be Gibson’s mother. I’ll be called Mommy by someone I’m still in the process of creating. And I will cherish it. But I wouldn’t want to forget my other titles or the identity I spent 31 years creating before Gibson existed. I wouldn’t want to think those other abilities I spent years developing suddenly no longer matter.
This is no ordinary love. It’s something I’ve never experienced before. In a way, it’s involuntary because I love this boy even though I’ve never truly met him. But I want to love him, so it’s not involuntary either. It’s hard to label, but it is definitely not ordinary.
This was the song that went through my head when I said to my husband that it was like involuntary love. It seems appropriate.