The Instagram captions are beautiful, if not generic, “We are overjoyed to introduce you to our little lady/sweet guy SoAndSo. Our hearts have never known a love like this.” “We couldn’t be more in love.” “This is the world’s greatest love.” They are lovely sentiments shared out of one of the, if not THE, most profound experiences in human nature. But, at least for me, those words weren’t wholly true.
When my girls were placed on my chest, in all of their warm, squishy, gorgeous, sort of slimy glory, I can honestly say that I had never felt anything like that before. But was it love? Certainly, yet also, I don’t know. I don’t think it would be fair to say that I was instantaneously overcome by this almighty love. I certainly didn’t NOT love them, but frankly, as they laid on me and squeaked and snuffed and wiggled, I didn’t KNOW them.
During our 9+ months together during pregnancy, I got to know my girls so intimately… both in preferences and in my dreamed visions of them. I came to know that Nora Beth loved to kick and squirm when I played Katy Perry against my belly, but made no movements at all when I tried to switch to worship. I knew she hated peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I knew that Annablair wasn’t much into kicking but would lazily roll about and was just as happy when I ate spicy pad Thai as when I offered her Bear Claw ice cream. I knew that both girls loved to snuggle up against my placenta and not venture away from it for months on end… never quite letting us see their faces.
But the living, breathing daughters that lay on my chest? I suddenly didn’t know them. As much as they were a part of me, they were also separated from me. I suddenly didn’t know what they would like, wouldn’t like, would do, would be. Did I love them? OH YES. But not in the capsule caption type of way. That thing I had never felt before? It was the feeling of my own insides on top of me. It was awe in its most raw form. In those early hours, days, and even weeks with them, that awe was no less profound than love, but it certainly outshone it in many ways.
When I was in 4th grade, my science textbook featured a chapter on kudzu. I was new to North Carolina, but I quickly learned that kudzu had become a problem for the state because it was unmanageable. Kudzu was planted along state highways to grow quickly and lend some ground cover after construction projects to protect top soil. But the initial plans failed to understand the complexities of plant itself. It isn’t just an unassuming trailing vine. It’s more predatory than that.
As kudzu grows, its tendrils wrap around any and every thing in its path, covering it completely, until what had been there literally becomes the kudzu. It’s nearly impossible to untangle or eradicate, and its spread is uncontrollable.
That’s the love that I have for my joy-planting girls. The awe is still there, of course. Every mundane detail of their lives feels like something to watch incredulously. But now, it’s buried under leaves of a kudzu kind of love. The love that began innocently enough… its first shoots peaking out of my heart in the earliest days of life with my babies. As I began to know them… more intimately now than I ever could have based on movements or heartburn or ligament pain… those trailing vines were wrapping themselves around my very soul, supplanting my doubts or hesitations or selfish limitations and shading them with that uncontrollable emotion. Its further spread is inevitable, remarkable, and boundless.
A mother’s love isn’t captionable. It’s undefinable… always… but maybe most in the minutes after birth. It doesn’t plateau. It just keeps climbing, creeping, growing, invading and conquering. I wanted to do justice to the first breaths of their lives, announcing their arrivals in a mighty way, but at times I felt “less than,” that maybe I wasn’t experiencing the level of unadulterated love I was “supposed” to be. It wasn’t that I wasn’t feeling it. It’s that my very marrow was being overgrown and didn’t even realize or understand it. Don’t be discouraged if the love feels tame at first blush. Yours is, simply and complexly, the kudzu kind of love… natural, wild and untethered.
That’s what I would have posted. But it’s a pretty long caption.