The Power of LOVE

Five days of labor, and the moment I held my son for the first time, his tiny warm body on mine, a tsunami of humbling awe so overwhelmingly powerful swept through me it literally took my breath away.


My 9 yr olf son’s guitar teacher was freaking out the other day over the impending arrival of his first child. Beyond a healthy birth, he was consumed with anxiety over the care and feeding of an infant, all the way up through guiding his teen. So I told him the secret of parenting, what makes the sacrifice not only tolerable but wildly enjoyable, and he calmed, and smiled, allowed excitement to peek through.

It’s never talked about—that intense, profoundly magnificent feeling a parent gets the moment their child is born, and forever forward. It’s expected we love our kids, and therefore taken for granted, which is a shame, because the intensity of that feeling is so spectacular and unique.

I’d listen to my contemporaries talk about their children before I had kids. They spoke of the long nights with crying, colic infants, “the terrible two’s,” “the f***ing four’s,” surviving the teen years. Sometimes they’d comment their Kylie had made the honor role, or that Jordan had just got first chair for his violin, and their entire countenance would light up. But those moments were rare compared to the complaints.

Like most women, I simply assumed I’d have children. I planned to have two kids in my early to mid-30s after I’d established my career and proven my own greatness. But it wasn’t until I was almost 40 that I became pregnant with my son, my first baby to survive after six miscarriages.

Nine and a half months of pregnancy, connected to the infant growing inside, and everyday was fraught with wonder, and fear. Five days of labor, and the moment I held my son for the first time, minutes after delivery, his tiny warm body on mine, a tsunami of humbling awe so overwhelmingly powerful swept through me it literally took my breath away. And as I kissed his downy head, his hands, each finger, I realized the joyful contentment, the sense of energized completeness, that electric connection I felt to him, for him— was love.

Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine the intensity of love that could be attained until having children. I’ve been lucky and had loving parents, a few dear friends, the love I now feel for my husband, passionate and true. But it doesn’t touch the intensity of the love I feel for my kids. Virtually every time I am with my children, snuggle with them, kiss them goodnight, or just see them across a room, I feel that all encompassing love fill me up and consume me with tenderness, compassion and humility. Now 9 and 7, and they still takes my breath away. Everyday.

People who never have children, or don’t devote their life to raising them— as with adoption— will never know this level of love. In their lifetime, they will never understand the feeling that we call ‘love’ can be this intense. I’ve heard many of my contemporaries say with conviction that they’ve never wanted, and will never have kids, with rationalizations like “I’m just selfish, I guess.” But the truth is they’re only robbing themselves.

Life’s greatest gift is our ability to feel. We all experience pain and sorrow, happiness and joy to varying degrees. The unspoken gift of parenting is getting to feel the fulfillment and richness of that intense love integrated into every aspect of our lives, motivating us to be positive examples, and challenging us to consider others, and the future beyond ourselves.

The price of living with this intensity of love is the amorphic fear of losing it, which is why parents worry so much. Through the tantrums and the tears, the joy and the fears in sharing life with kids, the ultimate reward in parenting is the privilege of loving our children.

The Definition of LOVE

In a thousand lifetimes I can not repay my mom for her precious gift of love I now model to our children. But I can not buy into her belief [and society’s rhetoric] that family and love are synonymous anymore.

My sister is dead, I told the bank manager.

But she isn’t.

She lives in Washington with her husband, having moved from L.A. where we were both born and raised.

The bank manager expressed his condolences and accepted the paperwork from our lawyer to remove her name from our Trust and Wills as an executor to our estate and guardian to our children should my husband and I die before they’re of legal age to take care of themselves.

I told him she was dead to remove her from my psyche, distance myself from loving her. Five years ago she told my DH she didn’t want any contact with him, me, or our kids, her then 8 and 5 yr old niece and nephew, in a response to an email my husband sent her.

She’d missed our daughters birthday again, sent her a present with the one she sent for our son’s birthday three months later, and spelled her name wrong on the card. This wasn’t the first time. She’d disappointed our kids many times, missing birthdays and special events with a quick message left on our answering machine she couldn’t make it after promising to come.

Her sins were many, and mounted with the years without apology. My husband got tired of it, emailed her five sentences politely informing her the spelling of our daughter’s name, and asking her if she was going to send them birthday gifts to please do it on or around their birthdays.

My sister decided he was asking too much and emailed back that “though I am deeply in love with your kids, and it breaks my heart to do so,” she was withdrawing from their lives entirely. She informed my husband she would prefer no contact at all, with any of us, though she’d established what my children believed was a fairly close connection, email exchanges with my son, calling every few months to touch base with both kids.

She has, in fact, exited our lives almost completely. She sends the kids birthday cards when it strikes her fancy—two weeks late to our daughter last year, but managed to get a card to our son within days of his, professing her deep affection and love for him. It took all my will not to shed the card in a million tiny pieces, her sentiment to him for her self-image alone.

Love is an ACTION, what we do, not some abstract in our heads, my DH and I teach our children.

My kids relationship with my sister was important to them because they have no other on my side of the family. My mom died when our oldest was just 4, so she never really got to know our kids. She did love them though. Deeply. Profoundly. And they got that. How did they know?

  • She came to visit often.
  • She called them on the phone every couple days.
  • She mailed them presents on time, called to sing Happy Birthday on their special days.
  • She spelled their names right.
  • She stayed abreast of their lives through me, my DH, and through the kids, consistently showed interest in their interests and feelings, and shared her world with them.

My mother often extolled how much she loved the kids, to me, to them, to anyone who’d listen, but she also showed it, so my children knew it was real.

When my mom was diagnosed with cancer, I knew when she was gone my connection to my remaining family would fragment. She was the conduit, fervently believed people come and go but family is forever, the folks with which your love an loyalty should reside.

And there is no questioning my mother’s love. She showed it to me throughout my life as she did with my kids, worked at staying connected, even though it was often contentious between us.

In a thousand lifetimes I can not repay my mom for her precious gift of love I now model to our children. But I can not buy into her belief [and society’s rhetoric] that family and love are synonymous anymore. As if not to be bothered to fill in where my mom left off when she passed, my sister and father checked out of my life, and within a year or two exited the lives of our kids.

My father, like my sister, practice love more in the abstract. He never talks to his grandkids, never calls [even me], never asks to talk to them when I call him, rarely even asks about them. He doesn’t acknowledging their birthdays anymore. I got tired of reminding him with multiple calls and emails weekly the month before their special days, then daily the week before. (Her body ravaged by cancer, and near death, my mother insisted my father take her to Toys R Us, then bought each of our kids their next birthday gift and made him swear to mail them on time. She was hoping to establish a tradition (an action) for my father to adopt for his grandkids after she was gone.)

The rare occasions I call my dad, he always professes how much he loves my kids, how important they are to him. He reminds me to tell them that grandpa loves them, and misses them. But I don’t. I tell them, “Popi says hi.” I don’t want our children to ever get the impression it’s acceptable to say you love someone when you take virtually no action to show it.

Love, like potential, is meaningless unless put into ACTION.

Welcome to Earth, my Beautiful Son

I had 6 pregnancy loses between 36 and 40 years old. I was half way through my 40th year when my son was born. C-section, after 5 DAYS of labor. I was part of a Harvard study on Pitocin. It didn’t work on me. This blog post is my first journal entry to my new son.

Hi E,

First, I want you to know how much I love you. It’s the weirdest thing. I’ve only known you for five months but I love you more deeply and more profoundly than I’ve ever loved anyone or anything in my entire life.

I also want you to know that I will be the best mom I can be to you. I know that I will screw up a ton, and I apology for it up front, as I will again and again throughout our time together, whenever warranted. As your mother, I will be your primary teacher, as my mom was mine. I hope by the time you read this that you will understand that my guiding light is my love for you, and the choices and disciplines I imposed on you always were based on this love.

Your grandmother taught me how to see the world around me. She’d point out sunsets, or stop to admire the roses, point out their intricate pattern and vibrant colors. She turned me on to music, dance, song, laughter, loving life. And these magnificent gifts I hope to pass to you.

Your grandmother also taught me to feel bad about myself. She did not do this consciously. She had expectations of who she wanted me to be, and when I did not meet them, her vacuum of disappointed felt as if she were sucking away her love.

I hope to be a better parent, as most every parent does. I know that I too will have expectations of you. I know that at times I will impose my vision of who I want you to be, instead of seeing who you are. I blindly hope that you do not suffer too greatly for my humanity. I wish for you to grow proud of who you are. I love you E.M. My deepest desire is that you have a life filled with happiness and fulfillment, that the times you feel lonely are few and short lived, that you never know hopelessness, and that you embrace living with passion and purpose.

I promise you I’ll work hard all our time together to observe, listen, and plug in to you emotionally, to learn about who you are. In this journal, I will try and chronicle our times together as accurately as possible, but remember these words are my interpretation of our experiences, and should be read with this knowledge at the fore. Seek answers to questions of your history from as many sources as possible. Don’t blindly believe me. Don’t blindly believe anybody.

So far, you seem like a pretty happy kid. You smile a lot, and laugh, too. You seem to really like when I sing to you. You like being held and nuzzled, and that’s good for me because I love holding you, and snuggling, too. Sometimes at night when you wake crying, I bring you into bed with me and your dad, and you push your little body into mine and fall asleep. I really love having you there, feeling you breathe, knowing you’re safe. It’s a blast taking you out and about, turning you onto the world, and you seem to like it, too. Shopping with you is pure fun, showing you things in the stores, encouraging you crinkle the plastic chip bag or touch the cold ice cream container. I love watching you discover.

I hear you rustling around in the bassinet now, just waking from your afternoon nap. (Almost an hour today, but you’ll still be up at 3:00 a.m. looking for attention.) Anyway, got to sign off. Want to be there for you before you start crying. Alone is scary, for me, too. I’ll try and be here when you wake, at least initially, let you know you’re not on your own from the beginning, hopefully provide you some ground. I’ll write to you here when the muse strikes me. Depending on what gets written in here over the years will depend on when you actually get to read this. But I promise you, you will get to read it. After all, this is for you.

I love you, my beautiful son. Welcome to the world, and thank you for gifting me the opportunity to share this uniquely fantastic level of love.