Essays About

Loving Before Knowing

Though I loved my daughter before she was born and very soon afterward, surprise, not love, was my chief emotion as the doctor pulled her from the birth canal. She entered life a rough-looking creature: her skin was covered with a white film, her wet black hair was matted to her head, and her right ear, the first feature I saw, was so crumpled from delivery that I briefly thought she had cauliflower ear. Looking past her disheveled condition at her face, I saw no resemblance to my wife or me. Though I had no real expectation of what she would look like, her unfamiliar appearance startled me by reminding me that I did not know her yet. I had loved my mental idea of her, talking to her through my wife's skin during pregnancy, but now her reality and particularity said to me, slow down with your love, I am not made in your mental image. How could this be my daughter, my dearest, the flesh of my flesh, when I could not have told her apart from a total stranger?

I've sometimes felt a milder version of this estrangement from expectation when arriving at a vacation rental that I had visualized incorrectly based on photographs. Imagine, too, the soul's alienation when, the veil of mortality lifted, it beholds God and discovers that the God it loved in life was only a fantasy, and it must now learn to love all over again.