This time last year, I was pouring my heart and soul into my role as a new mom. Though I had been giving my daughter endless cuddles for almost two months, I knew that a baby showing affection doesn't happen until a little later. I remember thinking that the act of being a mother in the beginning — those interrupted nights and odd sleeping hours, the whirlwind of emotions going on inside, and the adjustment from thinking of myself to almost solely thinking about my baby — was honestly ironic. I was giving so much and realizing how deeply I loved this little person without getting anything back in return. And by that, I mean other than our gazing into each other eyes, my daughter literally couldn't reciprocate her love for me in a tangible way yet.
But that's the thing. I almost couldn't wrap my mind around the fact that this love was so unconditional that I didn't need to be shown affection from her. I just loved her anyway. So about a month later, when she was 3 months old — and I wasn't expecting it — we were sitting on the couch as I held her facing me. We were at my parents' house, my husband sitting next to me, all of us in the living room together watching TV on a Sunday afternoon. Suddenly, I saw her reaching up, and I felt her tiny hand on my face. “She just reached for me!” I gasped with so much delight that I barely finished the sentence before I burst into tears as I held her close to my chest. I think everyone else just paused and savored the moment with me.
It was the first time she made herself known to me. All I could hear in my heart was, “It's me, the one you waited for.” And in that instant, the rush of my pride for her as a human being with value and worth and independence soared. With that touch, even more so than her actual birth, the idea of her as a person, which had been in my mind since I found out I was pregnant, switched from being merely a concept I thought about to a reality.
I know I am a sensitive person in general, but my reaction took me by surprise. I'd anticipated that level of emotion for when she might give me a kiss for the first time or say, “I love you,” but to know that just the slightest brush of her soft, warm hands on the place between the corner of my mouth and my cheek evoked such a deep response in me was a ultimate new-mom moment for me.
With that touch, it felt like she knew me. Or, more like she knew herself. It was as if to say, “I'm here.” The only way I know how to describe it is that it was the first time she made herself known to me. All I could hear in my heart was, “It's me, the one you waited for.” And in that instant, the rush of my pride for her as a human being with value and worth and independence soared. With that touch, even more so than her actual birth, the idea of her as a person, which had been in my mind since I found out I was pregnant, switched from being merely a concept I thought about to a reality, which I realize is a bit of a paradox considering at only 3 months old (and to this day), she's very much dependent on me to exist.
There was something, though, in seeing her lift her arm out of her own volition for both acknowledgement and connection that profoundly established that thought for me, and to know that she would raise her hand to touch my face first gave me an even deeper sense of the responsibility and honor it is to cultivate a space for her to become who she is.
Honestly, in the very instant it happened, I had no idea that the sob of a reaction I had that day meant what it did. But in the months since then, I've come to understand what happened in my heart. Almost a year later, when my daughter is now doing all the reaching for all the things and dramatically displaying either delight or protest when she can or can't have the thing she's after is a wonderful reminder to cherish every single time she reaches for me or anything else, because in those gestures, she's communicating to me what she wants and needs, who she loves, what she favors, and who she really is. And that is one of the most powerful things she can do as a person.