The one with love.
I’ve been in love a lot in my almost thirty-one years on this planet. I’ve enjoyed the unconditional love of my parents and brothers day in and day out for my whole life, and theirs. A few times that love was romantic - a highschool boyfriend I still care for deeply, a uni boyfriend who smoked a bit too much pot but is now changing the world. I’ve loved more dogs than I’ve owned, but a little Titian haired rescue now owns me. I’ve had soul mates who were platonic friends - soul mates in so much as I felt the need for them in the very root of my being. And I love my husband beyond any reason - he is, quite literally, my leaning post through life.
Having been lucky enough to know so much constant love has taught me a thing or two. Most notably, and increasingly so these days, I’ve learnt that love isn’t actually a single feeling. It’s not like hunger, that you can feel and pinpoint and understand in an instant. It’s a collection of other, smaller feelings, a grouping together of individual moments and experiences that all collide to create an umbrella feeling. And we call it love because it’s easier just to have one word for it than to try and untangle all the individual components. Because it’s messy.
They say there’s no love like that between a mother and her child. That it’s the kind of love that changes a person, that defines them as they grow and that cannot be replicated under any other circumstances, regardless of how hard we try. Now that I am a mother, and because I have a mother of my own, I think that the reason for the uniqueness of this love is precisely it’s messiness. It is still, after all, a love between two human beings.
Every now and then, a very bold and brave and wonderful woman voices her ‘but’ - the 'i love my baby but’ comment that has the trolls polishing off their pitchforks. But it is in the but that the real love lies. We forget that people, and especially mothers, are dichotomous, multidimensional beings designed to feel and inspire in others emotions that often beggar belief. It would be doing our entire race a disservice to suggest we can only feel one way at one time - that good emotions cannot be experienced at the same time as their ugly cousins.
Love is no different - the greatest, deepest and truest love comes from acknowledging the contradiction. I love my brother even though he is a nightmare to share a hot water tank with. I love my husband even though he drives like a blind lunatic. I love my best friend even though she’s a terrible communicator who can’t reply to a text to save herself. And I love my baby even though she sometimes makes me want to scream.
I wasn’t one of the women who experienced an instant rush of love when my daughter was placed on my chest. I was too busy trying to remain conscious to feel much of anything - plus I had one hell of an epidural. I knew I loved her before I felt anything - the actual feeling of love built slowly over the minutes and hours that followed. The first time I smelt her sweet milky breath, the first time I heard her mewling cry, the first time I saw her tiny naked bottom. My love for her grew together like a chintzy patchwork quilt - messy and a bit musty smelling but beautiful and perfect for keeping you warm.
Love is moments and feelings stitched together - it’s joy and guilt, adoration and shame, a milky, toothless smile and sleepless nights, it’s quiet cooing and shrill crying. It’s loving my baby even though she terrifies me. It’s loving your life even if you sometimes want to escape it for five minutes. As they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder - and drinking a Coke alone in the maccas car park will do wonders for your sanity.