Motherhood is, without a doubt, amazing. Mothers spend months of enduring pregnancy, regardless of whether it went smoothly or not, leading to the ultimate reward. New life created by your body, that YOU brought into this world. You magical thing, you. And there is nothing like seeing your precious newborn for the first time. That spontaneous moment where your eyes lay on that wondrous baby that you marvel at, falling head over heels in love without so much as a second thought.
But…What happens if you don’t have that feeling?
Many women are more and more alert to signs of Postpartum Depression thanks to increasing efforts to raise awareness. My husband warned me when he found out that I was pregnant that he was going to be keeping an eye out for any signs that I may be suffering from PPD, and he did a fantastic job. I was blessed to have an amazing support system, with my husband, family and friends. What no one thought to look out for was that lack of initial bond to my daughter. To be fair, I did an excellent job of keeping it hidden from everyone I knew. I never even admitted that I lacked that instant bond until our little one was well over a year old, he never even had a clue that I had felt that way. Or rather, didn’t feel that way.
When my daughter was born, I was exhausted and amazed that I had created that perfect little stranger. But that’s exactly what she was to me, a complete and total stranger. I was never one of those “I knew you before I met you” moms. She was a beautiful little acquaintance that I was expected to take home, care for and love immediately. Yet I was numb to the feeling, as everyone else fawned over my daughter all I could think about was ‘Why don’t I feel that way?’
Without a doubt I was protective over her, because that’s what moms do, right? The second the doctors whisked her away to test vitals and clean her up, I practically barked at my husband to follow her. I needed him to be with her since I couldn’t be thanks to needing a few stitches, and I knew that I was not my first priority anymore. I even sat with my baby girl in the backseat of the car on the way home from the hospital. And my Lord, did I love to watch her. To study her every move, every expression, learn every different cry and figure out her own baby language.
I wanted to know everything about her.
But in reality, I was desperately grasping for that bond. I simply did not feel that overwhelming love that everyone tells you happens instantly. I felt guilty and ashamed. “How could you not be attached to your baby?” It didn’t help that when I was pregnant, I had a dream that I had given birth to a puppy (weird, I know) and everyone questioned why I didn’t love the puppy.
And I was jealous of my husband, as I remember the day he was laying on the couch with her sleeping on his chest, swaddled up in an owl blanket. He was gently brushing her soft baby hair, looked up at me and said that he had never felt the love he felt when he first saw her. He was completely smitten, and I was hiding my own jealousy and guilt that I didn’t quite feel that way. I never wanted any harm to ever come to her, I did everything to do my best to care for her and had the best support a new mom could ask for. But I wasn’t attached, she could have been someone else’s kid at that point.
I started losing sleep, my whole routine thrown for a loop ever since having a baby. Any time I tried to rest, I would feel like I couldn’t breathe. It was like my heart was palpitating and my breathing would feel like it was becoming dangerously slow and shallow. I’d always jolt awake with a gasp for air, trying to catch my breath again. The last time I had felt like that was after I had come out of spinal surgery as a teenager, so it started to scare the shit out of me.
After about a week, I couldn’t handle the sensation of constantly losing my breath anymore. I had several nights of staying up all night, and bless my husband, he tried too. But after one morning, he was dead to the world asleep on the couch and I had tried to wrap his arms around me trying to fight back tears. I felt alone, tired, confused, guilty and like I just could not get my breathing right. My mom ended up taking me to the emergency room, because it was not getting any better. My husband stayed home with our daughter, and if I remember correctly my mother in law was still there as well.
While there, they asked typical questions that can be asked of a new mother. Did I want to harm myself? Nope. Did I want to harm my baby? Never. I wanted to BREATHE, I wanted to feel normal.
For the love of God, I wanted to SLEEP.
I never raised any flags with them for Postpartum Depression nor any post birth complications. After blood work and several hours of sitting in the emergency room being monitored, the doctors told me that they literally could not find anything wrong with me. All of my tests came back normal, there was no reason for me to be having trouble breathing except for the possibility of anxiety attacks. The thought had never really crossed my mind before, I never really felt anxious after all. Now I know better than that…Anxiety attacks can take many different forms for many different people, and apparently severe ones for me involve feeling like I can’t breathe right.
While I sat in that room, with my mom next to me trying to keep me calm since I hate hospitals, I started bawling uncontrollably. I missed my daughter, I missed my baby so incredibly much that it physically hurt me. All I wanted to do was go home and snuggle her. It was then that I suddenly realized that I finally felt that bond, and it hit me like a truck. I asked my mom to call my husband, to make sure everything was going well at home. He assured me that everything was going smoothly. He even texted a picture of her sleeping in his arms after feeding her to help me feel better. And I cried even more.
I couldn’t explain to mom why it affected me so much because I was embarrassed that it took me so long to feel that way. I had used that “fake it till you make it” motto. But I was so grateful that it had finally come for real. In fact, when I got home a few hours later, I snuggled our little Wiggles for a few minutes, then took the BEST NAP OF MY LIFE. From then on, I slept better every night, even on the nights where I was woken up every half hour. I still kept that original guilt to myself though.
It’s Not As Uncommon As You Think
It wasn’t until I grew curious that I looked up the lack of bond, and thanks to google I read that several other women had felt the same way. Some women didn’t bond with their children for a couple days and the more extreme cases didn’t feel a bond for a few years. As it turns out, that lack of bond is a sign of Postpartum Depression. Not an extremely common one, at least not a very talked about symptom.
Many women don’t talk about it because they are ashamed, the last thing they want to tell somebody is that they don’t really love their baby yet. After all, I didn’t even tell my own husband until Miss Wiggles was over a year old. Hell, the reason the topic even came up was because I was trying to explain one of the reasons why I didn’t want anymore kids. And a fear of mine is that lack of bond, I’m even afraid that if I were to have another kid, I’d bond with that one sooner than I did with my daughter. Even that makes me feel guilty to think about.
I shouldn’t feel guilty though, and if this feeling (or lack there of) ever happens to you, you shouldn’t feel guilty either. Now that I better understand what it means, and that it absolutely does NOT mean you are an awful mom, I’ve taken it upon myself to warn all my pregnant family members and friends. I don’t anyone to ever feel like I did about it.
So, what should you do if you don’t feel that initial bond?
DON’T FEEL GUILTY.
Or at least try not too. It’s nothing that could ever be your “fault” over. You may have carried your baby for months on end, but they are still new to you just as they are new to everyone else. Your friends don’t introduce you to someone and expect you to instantly love them, do they? No. You and your baby will need to take time to know each other, to learn about all your little quirks and vice versa. The more you get to know your baby, the closer you’ll become.
I know I’m a hypocrite for saying this, but I only say it because I know better. It wasn’t uncommon for me to just smile and nod when everyone asked “OMG don’t you just love her more than anything ever before?!” I would lie through my teeth when I was asked how amazing it felt to be a mother. Of course it feels amazing to me NOW. The fierce love I felt for my daughter after I felt that bond has been unlike anything I have ever felt before. But I wonder how different I would have felt if I had told someone. My husband, my mom, my doctor…So please, tell someone how you feel. Be it your doctor, your spouse, a friend, a family member…Hell, tell ME if you are afraid to let anyone else know. I’ve been there and I won’t judge. I am always open to talking to other moms who just want to vent.
KNOW IT WILL COME.
Be it a couple days, a few weeks or even years like some moms, know that the bond will come. It will take time for some, but it will happen. Don’t try and suffer through it alone though, your support system is there for YOU too, not just your baby. Remember that. And ultimately, just do your best. In reality, no new mom goes into parenthood knowing exactly what to do. We are literally all just winging it, and you’ll get the hang of it. Believe me though, when that bond does finally hit, there is nothing that could possibly sever it. It is truly amazing.
Have you ever had to wait for that bond to happen? Have you ever gone through other symptoms of PPD? Share your stories in the comments! And please, share this article with all new moms and moms-to-be that you know. This story has been very personal for me. I feel the best thing to do is to let other women know that this can happen to them. But it is not something for them to feel ashamed about.