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.