I loved my children from the moment I found out they were growing inside me. Of course I did. Isn't that the expected response? But now that they are here, and we have experienced life together, I do realize there are moments where I knew without a doubt I am truly in love with them. Deep, soul crushing, heart exploding, crazy kind of love.
I will admit, the day my first son arrived into this world I was a little traumatized. It was no doubt the worst pain I had ever endured, and the greatest joy I have ever experienced within only nine and a half hours of my 28 years on the earth. I did everything I was told during my pregnancy with him. I was active but stayed well rested. I ate the right foods, and read all the books about what to expect being that I was expecting. The truth is that nothing could have prepared me for what was to come. A statement I'm sure any mother would agree with.
A tiny human. My very own son. He was breathtaking and I loved him. I held him against me and rubbed his entire body, every part of him over and over again. There is no feeling ever as spectacular as rubbing the skin of a newborn right after they breathe air for the first time. He was smooth and warm, and his heartbeat was rapid, perfectly in sync with mine. Then in an instant, after they took him from my arms, I suddenly felt the weight of the world on top of me. An unexpected sinking in my soul. Surprisingly, I had never felt so alone.
In a tear-filled delirium I tried in frustration to breastfeed him. It didn't go well. I was terrified. I stared at him as he slept in the hospital room with me. Content in his bassinet, swaddled by a nurse because, through more tears, I couldn't bundle him the way they could. Everything was hard. Or perhaps I had not yet accepted that I was worthy of such a perfect gift. I was more afraid of him, fearful that I was not giving him precisely what he needed. I was unsure of my abilities, and he was just simply too amazing for me to comprehend.
The first time I remember knowing that I was in love with my son he was about six months old. His reflux was so bad, he could projectile vomit across a room. The doctor thought there might have been something wrong with his stomach so I was referred to have him looked at closer. In order for him to be X-rayed I had to give him barium in a bottle. As I watched that small boy being placed on the table, there it was. Obviously I loved him, but that crushing feeling stopped me in time. For the first moment in my life, I knew I was capable of sacrificing my own life to save another. Although his condition was not thought to be serious, and it wasn't, just the mere possibility that he would have to suffer had overtaken me.
I have fallen in love with my son over and over again throughout his only five years on this earth. The same holds true with his younger brother. Although, of course I loved them from the beginning, it's the most difficult times with them that I know I am in the midst of experiencing true love. There have been falls, sicknesses, and worse. It became clear that at around age three, my firstborn was facing a tremendous battle within himself. He had emotional episodes that would last for hours. My angel, who once loved to be held, wouldn't allow me to touch him. He would cry in the corner and hit himself or look right through me like I wasn't within reach. And there it was again. The purest, deepest love I've ever known. I would do anything to take away his pain. When he was diagnosed on the Autism Spectrum, true love bolted through my soul once again. An automatic instinct that you cannot be taught. A response only to be felt in your core, "I will love him through this."
It's easy to love another human when life is good, but it truly is the hardest times that bring out true love. In a marriage, there is only so much you can take before you let go. In a friendship, the same thing applies. I used to think that when I heard people say, "I love them, I'm just not in love with them," that it was ridiculous. But now I get it. I can guarantee there is nothing either of my children can do that will break my love for them. I can take anything when it comes to those two. I can heal from a breakup or a friendship that's ended. But the kind of love I feel for my boys, it's unbreakable and unfading. But just like any love, how do I really know? How can I be sure I have experienced true love?
The answer comes to me easily. It's because I'd bet my life on it.