I knew I loved you the day you bit me

Until then I wanted to love you, but I wasn’t sure I could. 

You grew inside me, expanding my belly to an impossible mound. From within me you dictated my hunger, interrupted my sleep, and turned my body into something I no longer recognized.

I planned for you. 

I read all the right books and bought every item on the lists. There were white noise machines and hypoallergenic wipes and organic diapers and educational toys. Bouncers and swaddles and hammocks. I learned to make my grandmother’s porridge recipe for augmenting breast milk and placed water bottles throughout the house to stay hydrated. I was ready.

I didn’t have a clue.

When the doctor pulled you out, your screech was so loud that I covered my ears. I hated myself for that. The nurse laughed and said, “Oh sweetie, you better get used to it. Babies cry and yours is a loud one!”

She was right. You cried and screamed and fussed. I couldn’t seem to do anything right. You wailed when I placed you in your room and neither the white noise nor the mobile calmed you. You always wanted to feed, but your little fist pushed my breast away even as you took it into your hungry mouth. Not even sleep brought contentment. Your little brow was always furrowed, and you whimpered in your dreams.

I had thought you would slip out of me and into my arms where you would recognize my voice, my gaze, my breast. And you would love me. And I would love you.

But you sucked me dry. I was hollow. Exhausted. Invisible. Unwanted. Nothing was enough. For months all I could do was go through the motions of changing you and feeding you, waiting for motherly love to fill my emptiness.

At three months, you fussed as your little gums grew red and swollen, and no matter what I tried, I couldn’t make it better. Finally, I pulled you into me and placed you on my breast. You suckled; I cried. 

Then you bit me. I was so startled, I pulled you off my breast. I pulled at your lower lip and there was: a tiny, perfect, serrated white line. Your first tooth.

You stared at me, wide-eyed. I had never pulled you off me before. 

You cried: in surprise, in demand, in hunger. In the certainty that I would have what you needed. You needed me. 

And as I pulled you back into me, I knew you recognized me: my voice, my breast, my arms.

And I knew I loved you. I always had.