When I think about about a mom seeing her baby for the first time, I picture a doctor handing her a slimy, squirming, naked newborn just moments after it joined the world. As an adoptive mom, I got to bypass slimy and head straight to, "OMG look at how perfect she is!" But even though I wasn't in the room when my daughter took her first cries, the first thoughts that went through my mind when I met her are the same things every mom thinks when she sees her baby for the first time: that she's utterly perfect, complete disbelief that she's mine, and that she looks familiar already.
I dreamed for years about the moment I would meet my son or daughter. When I was trying to fall asleep at night, I would think about what that moment would be like; about walking into the hospital to meet our baby for the first time. In reality, it was even better and more special than I could have imagined. Even though I didn't grow my daughter in my belly or give birth to her, it somehow feels like I did. It feels like I've always known her, and that she was always ours.
We have the NICU nurses to thank, in part, for that seamless transformation into parenthood. The moment we walked into the room to meet our daughter, they called us "mommy" and "daddy." I figured out later that's what they call all the parents so they don't have to remember everyone's names, but they chose to use those terms with us and we instantly felt like her parents. They deferred to us with decisions for her (even when we didn't have a clue what we were being asked), and they helped to create for us a universal "first parent" experience that we will cherish forever.
My first words when we met our daughter were, "But can we have her?" I meant can I pick her up from her bassinet, where she was sleeping so soundly all bundled in her tight little burrito blanket. But I also meant "Is she really mine forever?" I still cry thinking about that moment of disbelief. For a long time I thought that was a particularly adoption-oriented reaction, but I now realize that it's a normal addition to the list of things moms think about when they see their baby for the very first time.
No matter how squished or gooey or alien your baby might look, the first time you lay eyes on him or her you know in your soul they're utterly perfect.
"They're So Tiny!"
Even when they're not that tiny, they feel tiny and so vulnerable. All the more so if they're placed naked on top of you, I would imagine.
For the first several hours we were with our daughter she was wrapped up tight in her flannel burrito like a suit of armor. She was so protected we could stand her up on our knee to feed her. And thank goodness! Once we took her out of her swaddle she was so floppy and itty bitty that I couldn't wait to wrap her up again.
"They're Really Mine?"
I imagine it's an even stranger sensation to meet a baby that not only came out of you, and therefore must be yours, but also looks a little like you or your partner. But that disbelief that he or she is here and out in the world and really yours to take home and care for is universal.
"It's Nice To Meet You"
It feels a little like you're the welcoming committee, the first to greet a stranger upon arrival into this world. In those first moments I couldn't believe I was meeting a human I was going to get to know so well over hopefully many, many years and I just thought, "It's so nice to meet you!"
"I Feel Like I Know You Already"
When our agency sent us a photo of our daughter the morning we found out about her and met her, I thought, "Of course you're our daughter." She felt familiar already, like we'd known her forever. She didn't look a thing like us, so I imagine if a baby looks just like you or your partner, that feeling must be even more eerie.
"Are They OK? Count The Fingers And Toes!"
As soon as the disbelief wears off, the brief panic sets in. Are they OK? Does my baby have all the necessary parts? Ten fingers, ten toes? Breathing OK? Everyone else think my baby is absolutely perfect, too?
"I'm Totally Going To Break You"
That tight, armor-like burrito that only the NICU nurses could manage to swaddle was the only thing stopping me from a complete and total meltdown about how tiny and fragile and breakable she was.
"It's A Good Thing Someone Else Is In Charge Right Now"
Even if you have a home birth, someone else is sort of in charge for a little while, making it a little less terrifying to have this tiny new life all to yourself.
"You're Kinda Gross, Kid"
I can't quite imagine processing all of these initial thoughts while also thinking, "Oh, she's really slippery!" From what I understand, a newborn straight out of your body can be pretty squished-looking at the beginning, too. I happen to get a kick out of tiny alien baby faces, but I've never looked at my own child covered in slime before!
"There's Not A Thing About You I Would Change"
That overarching feeling when you meet your son or daughter for the first time is of your new child being completely and totally perfect, whether they're gooey or squished, all cleaned up and wrapped in a burrito, or flailing tiny limbs around. Honestly, there's no time when he or she will be more perfect to you than in those first few moments.