Learning to Love, One Moment at a TimeOver dinner my friend Jane makes an offhand comment: “I couldn’t stand my husband when I first met him.” Immediately, I’m intrigued. They’ve been married eight years and she’s head over heels in love with him.

She continues, “He was the most obnoxious, pompous know-it-all I’d ever met.”

“What finally changed your mind?” I ask, expecting some big gesture on his part.

Babies make me want to run in the opposite direction. Since Levi was born, I’ve secretly worried about how I’m going to meaningfully connect with one of these tiny human forms I’ve spent my adult life avoiding.

“It was just after college and we had mutual friends―everyone decided to rent a house together. Living with him, I discovered this whole other side he didn’t show in public: kindness, compassion, loyalty, love. He is a know-it-all! But around him I noticed myself becoming more confident, as if his confidence challenged me to believe in myself. For five months I developed a big crush and then, one day, blurted out, ‘I love you!’ A year later we got married. You just never know when something you hate will turn out to be something you love.”

Jane’s words are still fresh when my brother and sister-in-law, in a pinch, ask me to baby-sit my three-month-old nephew, Levi.

The problem: I hate babies. I know that’s an awful thing to say, but there it is. Babies make me want to run in the opposite direction. Since Levi was born, I’ve secretly worried about how I’m going to meaningfully connect with one of these tiny human forms I’ve spent my adult life avoiding. With trepidation, I agree to watch him for the one requested hour, fully expecting to hate every minute of it.

My brother hands me Levi and goes over the basics of diaper changing, pacifiers, and all the tricks they’ve discovered to stop his crying. I am instructed not to put him down but to hold him at all times. They leave, and we’re on our own.

On the couch with Levi tucked into my arm, I begin to read. In a few moments Levi’s head lolls. I shift his position and he falls asleep with his head on my shoulder. Well, I think to myself, this isn’t so bad….

We settle into a chaise longue, where Levi curls into a tiny ball on my chest and falls asleep. While I’ve been certain I would hate this kind of moment, I’m amazed by how tranquil it feels…I can be still; I can love him. We have made a connection.

Thirty minutes later, Levi wakes squalling. I pace around the condo talking and soothing; I sing the favorites my mom used to sing me. When all that fails, we go outside on the veranda, which overlooks the Atlantic Ocean. The wailing ends as I bob and pace up and down the 50-foot-long space. Together, we look out at the waving palm fronds, the cars driving past, and the beach just beyond the street. Blinking his big, purple-blue eyes at the sunlight, he extends his tiny hand on my arm, lifting his head to have a better look at me. We stare at each other, suspended in the moment of this peaceful afternoon, then he lays his head in the crook of my neck.

We settle into a chaise longue, where Levi curls into a tiny ball on my chest and falls asleep. While I’ve been certain I would hate this kind of moment, I’m amazed by how tranquil it feels. I hold still and realize with surprise: I don’t feel the urge to run from this little being nestled on my heart. I can be still; I can love him. We have made a connection.

I think of Jane and her husband: how experiencing another person can look like one thing from the outside and be completely different when you circumvent your own preconception. Unexpectedly, over time (or in an hour) you discover there’s more to yourself, and someone else, than you thought.

I’m reading when my brother and sister-in-law return. They’re ready to relieve me of baby duty, but shockingly, I’m not ready for it to end.“You go on inside and relax,” I tell them. “Levi and I are at a fascinating part of this book.”

Click here to see Rose’s tips for healthy and happy relationships

2 Comments

  • Ed Decker
    Posted January 20, 2014 12:01 pm 0Likes

    Beautiful piece! It will resonate with many people who have experienced transitions between hate and love in surprising ways. Love the ending!

  • Michele Rosenthal
    Posted January 22, 2014 5:45 pm 0Likes

    @Ed, thanks! That was a very strange experience and not one I expected. Just reinforces the idea “never say never.” 🙂

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