When I was pregnant with my first child, I obsessively read everything I could get my hands on about new motherhood. I'd read that not all new moms bonded with their babies right away, and that mothers shouldn’t panic if they didn’t instantly feel deeply connected or in love with their new baby.
I thought this information was interesting, but I wasn’t really concerned that it would happen to me. I'd had four miscarriages before this pregnancy, and no one wanted a baby more than I did. There wasn’t a doubt in my mind that I would instantly feel connected to the little person who had been kicking inside me for the last few months.
Imagine my shock and disappointment when it turned out that when I held my son in my arms for the first time, I didn’t have the magical bonding experience I'd expected. It wasn’t until my son was around two months old that I understood the head-over-heels-in-love feeling that made my friends and family gush like fools whenever they spoke about their children.
My son was four weeks old when my fertility doctor called and congratulated me on the birth. “Kathy, aren’t you just completely in love? Isn’t motherhood the most amazing thing in the world?," she said. The sentimental woman on the phone sharing her feelings about maternal love was a far cry from the business-like doctor who'd talked to me about my husband’s sperm count or how thick my endometrial lining was while she was examining me. Her joy should've been contagious, but it somehow eluded me.
I wanted to confess that this motherhood gig wasn’t living up to the hype. But I didn’t. I mustered up the happiest new mom voice I could and said, “Yes, it’s great.”
I wasn’t quite sure how to respond to her. I knew I loved my sweet, beautiful boy. But I was exhausted from nursing him around the clock, and I was still a little sore from my emergency C-section. It didn’t help that I was reeling from all of the changes in my life. I had given up my Manhattan office job with daily interaction from coworkers and work. Now I was a stay-at-home-mom in the — gulp — suburbs.
My days were long and lonely. I couldn’t wait for my husband to come home from work. Diapering my son without getting peed on was my only daily goal. Plus, I still hadn’t totally figured out how to use my baby carriage or baby carrier. Everything was new and unfamiliar.
I wanted to say all of this to my doctor. I wanted to confess that this motherhood gig wasn’t living up to the hype. But I didn’t. I mustered up the happiest new mom voice I could and said, “Yes, it’s great.”
I confided in my mom, husband, and a few trusted girlfriends that although I loved my son, I wasn't feeling the flowery feelings everyone seemed to assume I did. I was even nervous that this could be a symptom of postpartum depression.
I was relieved to learn that I wasn't the only one who didn't feel my heart expand and the birds sing the minute I saw my son. My mom even told me that she felt similar feelings when I was born. She knew she loved me, but it wasn't until I was a bit older and started to smile and interact with her that she really fell in love with me.
It also helped to have a session with my old therapist. She reassured me that I likely didn't have PPD, and that it was totally normal to feel this way. It felt good to take care of myself and know that if I needed medical help, I could get it. Once I knew my feelings were normal, I started to relax a bit. Little did I know that each time I picked my son up, or fed or burped him, we were forming our bond.
I knew right then that he had me wrapped around his tiny little finger. I was deeply and profoundly in love with this little boy.
Eventually, I became more comfortable with my new role as mother. I learned how to unfold the stroller and use the baby carrier. I became adept at diapering and caring for my baby, and he started to fall into a reasonable nursing schedule that allowed me a moment or two to rest or at least throw a load of laundry in.
One day, I went in my room to put some newly washed clothes away while my son napped in his cradle. I sat on my bed and just watched him. He was about two months old and breathtakingly beautiful.
He suddenly awoke and saw me. He looked at me as if I was his whole world and smiled. I knew right then that he had me wrapped around his tiny little finger. I was deeply and profoundly in love with this little boy.
It might have taken me longer than I expected to feel the deep maternal bond I'd heard my friends and family talk about, but once it hit, I fell for this guy like a ton of bricks, and the feeling has never left.
If you are reading this with your sleeping baby beside yo,u thinking I must be nuts because you feel as connected to your baby as you possibly can, that's great and I'm thrilled for you. But also know that if you don't feel that deep bond yet, it's OK. It'll come. And when it does, you'll never be the same.