“I wonder… What’s the chemical composition of live? Human babies are ugly even when they’re normal, but we love them. If we didn’t, the species would die…” Clay’s Ark
When I read this quote, I remember thinking, “human babies aren’t all ugly. My daughters were beautiful from the moment they came out.” But then I remember my husband’s descriptions of the girls upon their debut into the world, and I wonder if the beauty I saw was really me seeing it, or was it the oxytocin speaking… like oxytocin goggles instead of beer goggles. Now, don’t misunderstand, my husband loves his girls and was amazed and humbled by bearing witness to their births, but, he said the girls looked like “little aliens.” Which logically, I can understand. Their little heads are all mashed up from their journey down the birth canal. They’re covered in blood and discharge and countless other body fluids and excretions. Their eyes are usually tightly shut or so open it seems unnatural. Their little arms strike at the air as if wondering where all the water has gone. And that first cry is like nothing you’ve ever heard before. Yes, logically I can see the alien. But my mother memory remembers how both girls were born with their eyes wide open, like they were looking for me. I remember how small they were and how I instantly wanted to protect them. I remember loving them, fiercely. But when I compare my memories to my husband’s description I realize my memory is an emotional one, a recollection of feelings, not facts. But something in me still fights against the idea that I am hard-wired to love my children. My love being chemical makes it something that I have to do, and I want that love to be a choice. I want my girls to know that the way I feel about them has nothing to do with me riding some hormonal high, and in reality, even if we accept that oxytocin, or some other human hormonal cocktail is what kick-starts the love, at some point that hormone induced honeymoon is over and the way you feel about your children either becomes based on a memory of how you think you’re supposed to feel, or it’s based in the here and now of who you and your children are and the relationship that has developed. Even if the love is given to us by way of biology, it becomes our choice to nurture it and allow it to grow beyond something chemical.