You were born at 5:37 p.m., and I held you from my bed in the labor and delivery room for a length of time that is impossible for me to remember.
I cannot be sure at what moment they took you out of my room and into the nursery. I cannot be sure at what point they gave you formula because I was unavailable to feed you. I cannot be sure at what time they took me into surgery because nothing else had stopped the hemorrhage.
When I woke up, I was in the same bed from the morning, but the bed was now in the ICU.
I did not get to hold you that night or the next morning.
In the weeks following your birth, my physical weakness saddened me. I wanted to walk you around the house when you cried. I wanted to bathe you by myself and lift your car seat out of the car when we took you to your first check-up. But my body was still desperately weak. I had lost half the blood in my body during the hemorrhage, and I needed your dad and my mom to do almost everything.
I worried if my physical limitations would translate into an emotional chasm between us. I knew about attachment theory, and I wondered if this would prevent you from feeling secure, if this would make you question my love because I had not been there for you the first night you were alive, if you would always pine to be close to me but that the closeness you craved would always be unattainable.
You were three weeks old the first time I took you in a car by myself.
I drove us to a large grocery store in central Austin to meet my old college roommate, Emily, for coffee. I cried as I told her about the hemorrhage, and she cried, too. As we finished our conversation, I checked the time on my phone and knew you were going to wake up and be hungry soon. I wondered if I should try to feed you in the car in the parking lot before we drove back to my parents’ house, but you were still sleeping, so I decided to try to make it home first. We were only 15 minutes from home.
But nearly as soon as I backed out of our parking spot, you started to scream.
I started to talk to you, telling you it was OK, that we would be home soon, and I would feed you just as soon as we got there. Five minutes into the drive and you were, as the saying goes, screaming at the top of your lungs. I felt helpless, but it also seemed ridiculous to pull over, get you out of your car seat, feed you, and then get you back in your car seat to drive you home.
What I did, when it became obvious that my voice was doing nothing to soothe you, was reach back my hand.
Immediately you wrapped your whole, tiny hand around my pointer finger, and also immediately, you stopped crying. My eyes widened in surprise.
My arm went numb from the weird angle, and I tried not to worry about the hazards of driving with only one arm for the duration of the drive. I let you keep your tiny hand wrapped around my pointer finger for the rest of the ride home.
That day assured me that you trusted me because the time I had already cared for you, both while you were inside my stomach and since you had been outside of it, was much longer than the night and morning in the hospital that I could not.
That day gave me hope for the bond I could build with you, day by day.
Next month, you turn five. You need me less than before, but you still need me. When you fall down, your eyes search for mine and no one else’s. When I walk from my car to pick you up outside of your school every afternoon, you spot me from a long way away, always further than I think you would be able to see. I am the only one who knows that when you ask for me to do your hair in a “down braid,” you actually mean you want a low ponytail.
As I type this, you are sitting beside me on the couch, eating oatmeal and watching your favorite show about princesses. I am not a perfect mom, but I am a present one.
I love you, and I am always going to love you, no matter what you do or how far you move away.
I am always going to reach back my hand.