This morning as he was walking down the stairs, my son said, "I love you." I think my heart jumped out of my chest for a second.
That got me thinking about reciprocation, and how important it was for my growth and balance as a mother. For the first few months, I felt as if I was giving emotion and energy from a nearly empty well, with nothing in return. Rationally, I knew that I was providing my baby with the love and soothing he needed. I would talk and sing to him, read him stories, and begin building the roots of communication. But as humans, we need bits of confirmation. Am I doing this right? Does he know me? Are we bonding? For months I felt unsure on a very basic level.
Then suddenly, one day there was a smile. A real, honest-to-goodness, not-just-gas smile. I remember that moment being a huge turning point for my mental stability as a mother. This was the hint of positive reinforcement that I needed, a little taste of what was to come. From that day on, our communication began to grow, and I began to feel more confident in my relationship with my child.
Some mothers describe a sense of instant bonding at birth that is often strengthened through breastfeeding. I remember only feeling anxious during feedings - detached and uncomfortable, as if my body was a foreign object I didn't understand. While breastfeeding didn't hold that magic for me, communication did. A look of recognition, a laugh, and eventually, language. Those were the building blocks that led to my comfort and confidence as a parent.