Sometimes luck smiles on you and you're able to deliver your baby just as you imagined: at home, assisted by a dolphin doula, with seven vestal virgins dancing around you singing "Good As Hell." You pull your baby out of your body yourself and place them directly on your chest, initiating skin-to-skin right away while the virgins hum quietly, and thus bonding the very moment you meet your baby.
More often, it won't be like that. Not better, not worse, just different than expectations. From one mom to another, I urge you to soften your ideas about how this will look and feel, and open your mind to the possibility that...
It may not happen the way you thought it would. This may as well be the motto of parenting in general, but it's particularly true of everything that goes down in the delivery suite: there are no guarantees.
Maybe you imagined meeting your baby after a drug-free labor and delivery, but even your empowering birth coach couldn't have prepared you for 48 hours of intense contractions. Or maybe you needed a C-section and your heart broke, just a little, when you got to see your partner hold them first. Or you didn't get to meet them until the next day, for medical reasons. Something you should know about babies: they're tiny bundles of love and unpredictability, developmentally incapable worrying about whatever plans you had in mind. Some of them will teach you this lesson right out of the gate.
Even if it happens exactly as planned, it might not be what you expected.
But even when this first meeting goes exactly as you'd hoped, under circumstances as perfect as possible, there's no accounting for how you might feel about it all. Emotions are always complicated creatures, and that's especially true after you've just had a tiny human creature exit your uterus after a nine months of fiddling about with your hormones. You could feel as empowered and overjoyed as you imagined you would or you could be left feeling disappointed, conflicted, or even a bit traumatized.
You can talk about all of those feelings without judgment. As History's Greatest Human, Mr. Rogers, said, "feelings are mentionable and manageable." Your care provider has heard it all and can reassure you that not only is what you're feeling normal, but that you're not alone and, if you need help, there is help for you.
You're going to be madly in love with them; it's OK if that takes a little bit of time.
It might not be love at first sight. It's not unusual to feel a bond with your little one from the very first breath they take... it's also not unusual to look at your newborn and think "Who are you and what's your deal?" Of course, this less poetic sentiment doesn't get talked about quite so much as the very sweet and romantic notion of the former, but it happens... a lot.
If you find your experience more in line with the latter, don't be discouraged or think there's something wrong with your maternal instincts. Many of us aren't instantly connected to our babies. After all, you just met this person. Name any other instance where someone would guilty for not falling in love with someone the second they meet them. Trust me, you're going to be madly in love with them; it's OK if that takes a little bit of time.
The baby will unsquish. So don't worry if they have a cone-head or their ear is folded onto itself or they just generally look like a prize fighter after a few rounds. They're extremely malleable at this point, which helped them get out in the first place but, unfortunately, can also get them bent out of shape... literally. Nothing's wrong. They're fine. Unless your pediatrician is concerned about something please don't panic (and even if they are, still don't panic, because more often than that the source of concern is either nothing or nothing that can't be remedied).
A baby has the ability to instantly and spectacularly transform your vagina, but your sense of self? Not so much, it turns out.
You're still going to be you. Obviously, right? But I think a lot of us, not unreasonably, I'll add, feel like that first look into our baby's eyes will instantly transform us into "A Mom," ushering in a whole new understanding of ourselves and our purpose in life. But most likely you'll probably feel... well, basically like you did in the years, months, weeks, and minutes before you had a kid. A baby has the ability to instantly and spectacularly transform your vagina, but your sense of self? Not so much, it turns out.
It's one moment in a lifetime of moments. We put a lot of stock in the moment we meet our children. We've been waiting for so long and imagined it so vividly that, understandably, it holds a lot of emotional weight and historic significance. We worry, whether we recognize it or not, about it being just so. But think about the person you love most in the world. Is the moment you met them the most significant moment of your lives together? Or is it just one in a long history of wonderful experiences? Having a baby is like that. Firsts can be big, but they're just the beginning.
You have the rest of your life to know and love this child, to figure them out. When you think you've discovered everything you love about them they'll do something new and you'll fall even deeper. Whether your first moment is what you expected or wildly divergent from your wildest dreams, it's only the first. So sit back, buckle up and get ready: you've got a lot more to be excited for after this.