The first months of your child's life are a master-class in physical and emotional fortitude. You're learning to care for another person who can't speak, can't understand you, and can only communicate in screams, farts, and poops. New moms need regular and enthusiastic pep talks and affirmative consolations, because we get none of those from our babies. It can be easy for us to think, "OMG does this baby hate me?" In short, no. In fact, there are a slew of things that definitely don't make your baby hate you, despite that large number two they left in their newly-changed diaper that you can't help but think was intentional.
For starters, there are so many ways that babies have basically evolved to love their mothers. So, you know, thanks, evolution! I don't care what anyone says: you're real and you're awesome. (Thanks also for the opposable thumbs!) For another thing — and this sounds mean but I don't mean it to be — babies are more or less completely clueless. It's not their fault, but they have no clue what the hell is going on more than half the time they're awake. So if you screw up something, chances are you're still good and your precious babe is none the wiser.
Still, mom guilt is strong (thanks Patriarchy, you bastard) and there are lots of very common new parent moments that will make us doubt our children's ability to love us. Let me assure you that your baby will not hate you for any of the following reasons:
How They Were Born
Born is born is born, and you care a lot more about how you give birth to your child than your child does. They don't know what's going and they don't remember a single part of the overall experience (no matter what that one friend of yours claims about having memories from the womb). Babies don't dwell on the past. As far as we can tell they are constitutionally incapable of that. They're basically living ids, focused entirely on the here and now. Once they're out they're preoccupied with thoughts like "feed me," "burp me," "cuddle me," and, "I'm tired, leave me alone and let me sleep."
They give their no substantive thought to their birth after the fact, much less hate you for anything that did or didn't go down.
How You Feed Them
Your baby doesn't cognitively know that they have any options at all. They're really just operating off instinct: something nipple-like goes into their mouth and they start to suckle. They are delighted, I imagine, that food comes out. Whatever that food is, barring some sort of allergic reaction or intolerance, so long as it enables them to grow and develop they're going to be pleased as punch.
Loving Another Child
When I was pregnant with my second child, the most profound mom guilt I felt was the feeling that I was cheating both my children by not having enough of me for them both. I knew I had enough love, but I was worried about my ability to adequately express that love with enough energy, affection, and time with two children. I was afraid my oldest would hate me because I (and my partner) would have less to give him. I was afraid my youngest would resent me for never giving her as much as I had been able to give her brother.
Turns out that all of this worry was pointless (you find enough, somehow) and neither of my kids have ever hated me. (In fact, I've even been gently told, "That's enough kisses, mommy.")
Encouraging Them To Love Another Parent
Just because your child loves another parent (or step-parent) doesn't mean they hate you! Even when they've been crying in your arms for an hour and immediately settle down when their other parent takes them. It's not a contest and, when it comes to babies, it's not personal. It's no indication that they don't love you or even that they love the other person more. They're just babies being babies, and babies are weird AF.
Being Annoyed By Them
Because in addition to being weird AF, babies can be annoying AF. Even if they're not really doing anything aside from the usual baby stuff, caring for them can be annoying, too. It can be simultaneously mindless and absolutely draining all at once. It's OK to be annoyed by that (or, in their surlier, saltier moments, by them). It doesn't mean you hate them, and it certainly doesn't mean they are going to hate you in retaliation.
Going To Work
I know from experience, and from talking to other moms, that this is a huge source of guilt after maternity leave (for those fortunate enough to have maternity leave) ends. Certainly this can be an adjustment for moms and babies, but your choice to go back to work (if it is a choice at all, as it sometimes isn't for a great many mothers) does not cause your baby to hate you at all. If you don't believe me, talk to a working mom about the hug she gets when she comes home or gets to daycare pick-up. (Seriously, they're the best.)
Not Knowing What They Want
They don't hate you for this because, truthfully, they probably don't know what they want. I mean, if they really wanted you to know what they needed, they would accelerate their language development and learn to speak English ASAP, am I right?
Somewhere deep in their souls, I feel like babies get that you're not a mindreader, and your inability to interpret their precise cries or babbles of gibberish is not going to lead to any long-term resentment.
Not Knowing How To Comfort Them
They won't hate you for this because not only will you learn to comfort them eventually, but they will learn how to be comforted by you. There's a learning curve on both ends here, and it takes time to get a handle on it. It will come and no one is going to be bitter about that.
Going Out For Fun
"But I can't go out with my friends/on a date/on a vacation! My baby will be so sad and then they'll hate me."
Nah. As long as your baby is cared for, they're not going to suffer any lasting damage for you practicing some self-care for a few hours, days, or weeks. In fact, if you're showing yourself some love, you're going to be better equipped to love your baby, because you'll be loving them on a full-charge, so to speak.
Not Giving In To Their Every Whim
You can't spoil an infant, that's true, but there gets to be a point where you can spoil a kid and sometimes you have to go with your gut and make that call. And in cases like this, your child may very likely be pissed at you (oh yeah: babies can get pissed) but they aren't going to hate you for it. To the contrary, little ones actually thrive with clear rules and boundaries in place.
Letting Them Cry Sometimes
Whether or not "cry-it-out" is right for your family is your choice, to be sure, but rest-assured letting your baby cry from time to time is not going to do any lasting damage or build up stores of loathing and resentment.
Using Your Cell Phone Around Them
There is so much pearl clutching about using phones around children. Sure, you don't want to live with your phone up against your face and ignore your baby, but if you want to go on Facebook while you're breastfeeding, or check your email while they're busying themselves with their mobile, then go for it guilt-free and without worrying whether your child hates you for not giving them all of your undivided attention all the time.
A wise pediatrician once told me (as I fretted as to whether or not I was providing enough stimulation for my newborn), "Sometimes babies just want to chill." It's true. Don't you sometimes just want to chill. Don't worry about letting them do that while you do the same.
That Time(s) You Lost It & Yelled
Not our finest moments, to be sure, but sometimes parenthood is a lot and it all lands on you at once and you can't help but cry out in frustration/anger/sadness/all-of-those-feelings-put-together. It's OK. It's one moment (or a few moments) in a never-ending parade of moments. Your baby will take you as a whole: they're not going to judge you on your worst moment and hate you for it.
Not Loving Motherhood
You guys, sometimes motherhood just sucks. From recovering from childbirth to sleepless nights to so many body fluids coming at you at once, it's sometimes a wonder we ever have anything nice to say about it. Anyone who says they love every aspect of motherhood is subconsciously or intentionally forgetting an awful lot of sh*t mothers have to go through to earn the title. Your baby isn't going to hate you for not moving through life with rose-tinted glasses. Not loving all of motherhood doesn't mean you're a bad mother or deserving of your child's spite. It means you're a human who can recognize a tough gig when they see one.
Not Being Perfect
Because if that were the case no baby would ever love any parent. Ever.