I wasn’t one of them.
Of all the tales that surround early motherhood, the one that says a woman is so naturally suited for motherhood and so instinctually ready for it that she forms an immediate earth-shattering bond with her child may have been the one that affected me most. Because it didn’t happen to me. And because it didn’t — it added to the stress and depression I felt after giving birth to my first child.
The birth of my first did not go as I thought it would. I expected to deliver in a birthing center. I expected to not be in a hospital. I expected to be able to weather the pain of labor and go home in a few hours with my new bundle of joy. I did not expect for my child to go into distress, to be rushed to the hospital, to have an emergency c-section, and to lay in a hospital bed for three days — shell-shocked.
I was very aware how lucky I was to have a healthy child and be in recovery — both because I realized it and also because everyone was constantly reminding me — but that gratitude didn’t ease the transition into my first days of motherhood. I remember looking at my child, realizing he was beautiful and mine, but also feeling like he was this little entity that I had no idea about and could not seem to make happy. I was hit with great relief when I heard his first cries – but overwhelming love? No, I wouldn’t describe it like that. I cried for three weeks straight, mostly because I felt that my “failure” to experience this immediate bond surely meant something was wrong with me.
No one ever told me this was normal. The only tales I had ever heard from mothers or in general was the ones I’m sure you’ve all heard, too:
Labor is intense, but then you see your baby and it’s all worth it!
You can’t even fathom the depth of the love you will feel!
Laying eyes on your baby for the first time is the most amazing thing you’ll ever experience!
No one ever said, Look. You’re going to look at this baby and feel relieved yet also utterly shocked that you are actually responsible for keeping this thing alive. Or, You’re going to be recovering from something major, yourself, and it may take you awhile to bond. The fact that I didn’t immediately love everything about motherhood made me feel like shit.
The whole “baby love at first sight” thing happens just like it happens in relationships — there are tales of it but it doesn’t mean that’s how everyone falls in love. If you don’t feel the thunderbolt, don’t worry. Doesn’t mean you’re a bad mom, or that you won’t grow to love your child with the intensity everyone speaks about.
(photo: Getty Images)