I felt like an impostor.
No one had ever called me “mom” before, and I had no swollen belly, no stretch marks, and no attempts at breastfeeding to prove that I was a new mom. But the hospital attendant insisted that I sit in the wheelchair with this stranger-baby while he pushed the two of us through the hospital corridors from maternity ward to exit. “Hospital policy, ma’am,” he said. “Moms and babies ride in the chair.” My husband jogged ahead to retrieve our car, awkwardly balancing the new car seat in one arm and a diaper bag full of diapers and formula in the other. This new practice of carrying baby gear must have felt as strange to him as my effortless trip through the halls of the hospital.
I cried the whole way. Maybe the orderly thought it was some kind of post-partum hormonal bout of tears. Maybe he thought it was new-mom exhaustion or fear of taking care of a baby for the first time. It was neither. It was guilt. I felt like I had stolen someone else’s child and had requisitioned the title of “mother” without earning it.