Even as an adult I asked mothers why they loved their children. Their initial response was spiked with indignation. Why wouldn’t I? They hadn’t understood that my question was one of sincerity. Sure, a parent loves her child. But why? I loved (and still do) our deceased dog Pluto because of his innocent, tender face that did not complement his large paws or deep growls. The mother who raised me said that she loved me because I was dependable and reliable. Many of the parents to whom I posed my question, after several seconds, finally offered another explanation. Because she’s my child. There has got to be a better reason.
I would be dishonest if I said I loved Daffy when she was a mere embryo. I wanted her, of course. But love? I think that the love kicked in when I began to feel her flutters. They had started out like wisps of breaths. Then they turned into bubbles that a goldfish might produce. One night I felt her hiccups skip in a diagonal line: pop, pop, pop. At my desk at work, if I was successful at pushing my leg into my abdomen, I might have felt her. Once Danith rested his cheek to my belly to try to listen for her, and she kicked him. I saw her foot shot out against my skin at the same time her father felt it strike him in the face. His eyes popped.
I could not believe that Daffy was my child, thriving inside of me. I was in awe of life — a life growing within a life. I talked to Daffy at the grocery store, at Target, in the car. I rubbed my belly just so I could “feel” her. She and I showered together. She and I napped together, sometimes with just the sheets because it was so hot. I fed us red grapes and chocolate ice cream. My world was a playground with just her and me. I loved her because she offered me joy.
Looking back, Danith and I can objectively say that Daffy was born not in the best physical condition. Our daughter entered the world with no breath, some peeled skin, and an open mouth, as though she had been gasping for air while in the womb. We had not expected this. When the nurse carried her to me, I let out a scream and asked why our baby’s mouth was distorted. Our doctor gently asked if I would rather have them take Daffy away. I let out another scream. “She is beautiful! She is perfect!” I hadn’t thought it was possible to love her more than I already had, but I did. At the sight of her, I fell in complete love with her.
There exists an honesty about Kiri, too. A part of me was disappointed when early blood work revealed that he was a boy. Like most parents, we wished only that our child would be born healthy. But a nagging voice uttered that he was not the daughter I had lost. More than the love that I eventually felt for Kiri, though, I felt gratitude. I was grateful that he offered me another chance at mothering a living child. That his heart beat strongly at each doctor’s visit. That he measured ahead. That he began to kick much earlier than his sister and that his kicks were much more pronounced. I could rely on him to reassure me that he was doing well.
Danith and I had been prepared for Kiri to be born breathing, so I guarded myself from loving him even further. I did not want to expend any more emotion on this child who would lose his life because my body couldn’t keep him safe. I was afraid of the guilt, and of breaking the way I had after his sister. Kiri’s body didn’t possess one single blemish. People who witnessed his physical form could not believe how well proportioned and defined he was for his gestational age. His head was perfectly round, and his lips were a rosebud. From my bed, I could see the nurses measuring his length and weight. Between their arms, I glimpsed Kiri’s boyness, and it was then that I appreciated his perfection. Kiri was not his sister and did not need to be his sister. Our son was flawless just as he was.
I continue to ponder my question. There has to be an explanation for why most parents love their children without a good reason. I myself am not sure why I love our children. Maybe because they are beautiful. Or perfect. I savor the two moments when I was overcome with a parent’s love for her child. I don’t know how to explain the sensation, except to say that I feel it. So maybe the answer is what other parents have given all along. Because they’re my children! I’m not all convinced that that is the reason. But I’ll go with that magic for now.