This week I made an announcement that startled even me. I declared, ‘Friends don’t let friends have babies.’ I posited that the reason other parents are so happy when they hear a previous non-procreater is with child is so that there will be more folks as unhappy as they. Misery loves company and all that. ‘It’s awful,’ I stated. I was kidding, of course. Or I was mostly kidding.
It’s not as if I went into this whole thing with blinders on, or even rose-colored glasses. I knew it was going to be hard and challenging and maddening. I knew I was going to lose out on a lot of sleep. I knew I would have to change my life dramatically — no more just heading out to the movies or dinner or Chicago. Not that I was a particularly spontaneous person before, but everything now requires more planning and thought. I knew pregnancy would be uncomfortable, labor would be painful and the postpartum period would be a little gross. I knew that babies were difficult and demanding; needy, you could say. I knew, also, that babies don’t really do too much — they cry, they pee, they poop, they sleep, they flail. That’s really about it. What I didn’t know, and what I couldn’t know, is how all of this would affect me.
I don’t have postpartum depression and I feel very lucky to be able to say that. I do feel, though, pretty unsatisfied. It goes without saying (though I will) that I deeply love my daughter. It’s a beautiful, wondrous love that is completely new. I look at her and I ache. It is, though, one-sided. People may say, ‘Oh no, she loves you,’ but I don’t buy it. I don’t blame her, or me. I just don’t think she’s capable of love yet. And that’s the thing: my intense love and devotion is completely unrequited. And that’s hard to handle day in and day out, largely alone. Unrequited love is painful enough when you’re not required to change diapers, bathe and feed the object of your unreturned devotion. Add in that this love is furlongs deeper and stronger than that previously known and the object not only doesn’t love me back, but she often screams at me and I think you can begin to understand where I’m coming from on this.
Molly has just started to do some social smiling, as they say, but it’s too inconsistent to rely on or thrive on. Yesterday, though, when she smiled at me for a good minute, I started to cry. It was so amazing. People often tell me that being home alone with a newborn made them thirst for adult conversation, but I haven’t had too much of that yearning. Instead I have hungered for eye contact, smiles and, quite simply, some recognition that I am here.
I know that those things will come with time and I appreciate the ways in which Molly is already significantly different than she was seven weeks ago when she flew out of me and into the world. For now, though, the hardest thing for me is the unrequited love.