Sometimes I try to look inward and analyze my feelings for R. My love for him is so intense it is almost painful at times- the kind of pain that is an echo of the fear of losing him, knowing it would rend me completely. This intensity of feeling is ever present when I think about R, but it’s not that way when I think of my other two children. This has bothered me every time I get to that point in the inward analysis. I try to dissect it, to understand it. I think about my feelings for each of my children very carefully, and, I hope, objectively. I always come to the conclusion that I love them each the same amount, I just love them each differently. but never less. So why the difference in that sense of intensity when I think of R compared to my other two children?
When I sit down and really think of that overwhelming, intense feeling my love has for R, I realize I have felt it about my other children, during discrete periods of high stress when they were in some type of danger or distress. I felt it for weeks when Mohammad was a newborn. He had pyloric stenosis and was so sick, literally starving and shrinking before my eyes for his first weeks of life. He was initially misdiagnosed and by the time they finally hospitalized him and figured out what was wrong he was so sick and dehydrated that they delayed surgery for 3 days to stabilize him because he wouldn’t have survived the stress of surgery otherwise.
For those tumultuous first two months of my older son’s life, my feelings of love had that same painful, overwhelming intensity that I associate with R. In fact, when my second child, my daughter, was born 18 months after her older brother, I had a hard time bonding with her. When I got pregnant with R a few years later I opened up to my midwife about the trouble I had bonding with my daughter when she was first born. I remember telling her that I didn’t understand it- everything was so easy with my daughter compared to what happened with her older brother. She was perfectly healthy, never even lost an ounce of her birth weight. Everything went perfectly. So why had it taken 6 weeks for me to bond with her? Why had I felt so confused and apathetic? My midwife suggested that that was just it. My only association with a new baby was one of extremely high stress and intense emotion. My normal meter for what it was like to have a newborn was very off, and it probably impacted me when I had my daughter.
I think the midwife was right. And while it took a few weeks, one day, just overnight, something clicked and that solid mama bond formed with my daughter.
I’ve had those intense love feelings with my daughter too- times when she was in the ER after a bad fall or after having been very sick with one thing or another. The same goes for my oldest son over the years. But that intense-emotion thing is not my day-to-day feeling for them. But it is for me with R. And I am realizing that for years we’ve existed in that high-stakes, high stress, intense, overwhelming please-don’t let-him-be-hurt-please-don’t-take-him-from-us place with R. He is vulnerable in so many ways that my other children aren’t. I am constantly, yet often subconsciously, on alert for him. He’s four and a half and I still wake in the middle of the night in that irrational half-asleep panic where I have to check his breathing to make sure he didn’t somehow stop breathing in his sleep. This is something I did with all my kids when they were newborn babies. One of those weird irrational new mom panic things. But with R it never went away. And it still hasn’t.
And I think it all just reflects where we are at with R. That primal “mama bear” protective emotion is always going full throttle. My feelings are so intense for him, so much I’m bursting at times and it hurts. But I don’t love him more than my other children. It’s just that place, that parent “mode” we go to to protect our young when we feel that they are threatened. Only with most kids that mode is temporary, like using the 4 wheel drive to get out of the mud or drive through snow. It’s not a mode you use all the time for most parents or with most kids. But with R we are always there.
That’s how I see it anyway. I wonder if it will lessen as he gets older and I don’t know. I do know that I don’t see it as a bad thing. It’s intense, but it also makes the good moments of each day (of which there are many!) shine so much brighter. I hope as my other children grow up they see it for what it is and know without doubts that we love them just as much as their brother. I think they do understand it right now, and I often see the same fierce, protective love in their own interactions with their brother. Isn’t it funny how small children can understand effortlessly things that become a lot harder to understand when you’re older? I hope this is an understanding they are able to hold on to. I love them so much. I am so proud of them. Every single day. Even when I’m grumpy and snappy. Maybe especially then. I don’t know if I would have been as gracious and sweet and thoughtful if I were in their shoes. They amaze me, and maybe one day they will read this, in fact I hope they do. I love you guys!