When Matteo was born, an avalanche of emotions, feelings, and incoherent thoughts swept down my already unsteady psyche.
If I think back to the first weeks as a new mother, I relive images of love and immense happiness scattered among blurred and distorted shadows.
One thing I can remember well, though. The clear realization of how “huge” Mr. Brambilla was compared to Matteo.
You’ll say: “Wow, what a revelation! Of course he’s huge compared to a newborn!” Very true, but that is a rational statement which doesn’t describe in the least how I felt every night, when Mr. Brambilla came home from work.
I remember watching him for at least half an hour amazed by his huge proportions, by his walking upright, and by his being totally independent in his use of the toilet.
He was even able to articulate sounds and connect them into meaningful sentences! Mr. Brambilla must have certainly attributed my amazed expression as a sign of complete neuronal blackout, due to the fact that I was spending my entire days interacting with a cute little dwarf wearing diapers.
Slowly this feeling of disorientation dissolved. Although I was aware that Matteo was actually small, the difference in size between him and his dad wasn’t bothering me so much anymore.
Then it happened again. Just before popping out Davide, Matteo went from being the little one in the house to looking like a giant, once I had his little brother.
And this estrangement sensation I felt looking at Matteo’s huge feet and his big head the size of a watermelon, didn’t stop at the overall size of his appearance. I felt the same way about him. While I would coo and babble with the little one, on the other hand I would address Matteo as I was talking with Carlo Rubbia (Nobel prize) himself. It was as if all of a sudden Matteo had grown up enough to take care of himself, and yet he was only three.
Since I took for granted that post partum depression and sleepless nights had given my brain the same texture as mashed peas, I attributed all this to my mental imbalance.
As it turns out though, it wasn’t me going nuts, or actually, yes I was a little, but my disorientation had an explanation. Some call it baby illusion, and it happens to many moms, especially with their second child. So if you recognize yourself in my story, don’t worry, you’re not crazy.
The explanation can be found in what the ethologist Konrad Lorenz defined as “baby schema”, a set of body features typical of the babes of every species (including ours) that induce adults to care for them, to protect them and feed them.
In an article that I read some time ago, a study conducted on a sample of moms with two kids shows that the moms were able to estimate rather precisely the height of their first child by marking a wall with a notch. When the same moms were asked to do the same for their second child, their accuracy rate dropped significantly and they tended to see their children as much smaller than they actually were.
This distorted perception of reality, according to scientists, is to be included among those complex dynamic relationships between parents and their children, by which the survival of the youngest is guaranteed.
Small size, round heads, big eyes, clumsy movements are nothing but the arsenal of a newborn, only apparently defenseless and harmless, which he uses to win over and besot the responsible adults around him who turn into idiots in love, capable of anything to defend their offspring.
It’s true, trust me! If my little Davide wasn’t so cute and sweet, I would have already disassembled him piece by piece like an IKEA table.