You’ll never be so in love as when you have a baby. Raising your children will be your life’s most fulfilling and joyous undertaking. At least, that’s what people say. But what happens when it doesn’t feel like that in the beginning? Even though it happens to many moms, not having that instant connection with my baby made me feel some kind of way (that over a decade later) is still hard to admit. Yes, in the beginning, parenthood didn’t feel like everything they said it would be. I was not in love with my baby right away.
I was excited and elated to meet this little person who had already changed my life. And even after she was born, I swore I had never been so in love and that I’d never been happier. Until I wasn’t. You see, immediately after she was first placed on my chest, I could only cry. I was happy; I was overjoyed. But I was also exhausted, and my adrenaline coursed out of control. There was the realization that I didn’t have that instant connection overnight.
The Overwhelming Guilt and Feelings of Failure
Those first few days with my little girl (whom I had hoped and wished for) were blissful, beautiful, and sleep-deprived. But when we got home from the hospital and were alone, the reality started to sink in that I was not in love with my baby yet.
Part of the reason I felt so joyful at first was that in the back of my mind, I thought, If I’m not totally in love with this little one from the first moment, I’m doing something wrong. I don’t want anyone else to see that I’m already failing. So, if I pretend hard enough, eventually, the feelings will come. But they didn’t. At least not right away.
I was afraid to hold her wrong. She was so tiny and precious (as all newborns are), and I was so scared I’d accidentally forget to support her neck enough or do something that would harm her somehow. The overwhelming anxiety was paralyzing and convinced me that I most certainly would get this wrong. As a result, I stopped holding her as often as I should have. Not being in love with my baby yet impacted our bonding time.
Mostly, I’d snuggle her when she nursed. But not long after that began, I realized breastfeeding didn’t work out for us. This inability didn’t just feel like a shortcoming; it felt catastrophic then. I’m not exaggerating. Feeling like the worst mom in the world, unable to do the one thing I wanted most, making it difficult to bond. Mostly because I convinced myself I was a failure, and my daughter deserved better.
Postpartum Depression Is Real
In hindsight, part of those feelings was just the norm of being a new mom. But when they continued to intensify, completely ruining my day and causing interference in bonding with my baby, it was a sign of a deeper issue. Yes, I’m talking about postpartum depression (PPD).
That’s the thing about new motherhood that all the baby commercials and rom-coms get wrong. People don’t want to talk about the difficult times of having a baby, even though they are normal. All that does is cover those feelings with shame, guilt, and fear that you’re doing something terribly wrong and it’s all just going to go downhill from here.
One in seven women, about 15%, experience PPD. So, between you, your mom, your sister, and your mom friends, at least one of you has experienced PPD. It’s worth saying again that there’s nothing wrong with that. But it’s essential to get support and professional help.1
That voice in your head tells you that not being in love with your baby is because you aren’t strong enough, you’re doing something wrong, or you’re a bad mom. It isn’t true. I know it doesn’t feel like that could be true in the moment, but I promise it is. Slowly but surely, society is talking more about PPD and perinatal depression. Maternal health, especially postpartum maternal health, isn’t something we talk about enough. Which is why I want to share my struggle. Keeping conversations like this in the dark is where shame and guilt are allowed to thrive.2
I Promise You Are Doing an Incredible Job, Mama
You love your baby. Even though you might not instantly connect, it doesn’t mean you don’t love this little one with all your heart.
The worst part of what is happening is being robbed of all the joy of being a new mom. Even if it feels like there are only a handful of good moments to outweigh weeks of hard feelings, you should still bask in the glory, and the love and elation, that comes with those good times.
This past month, the baby I had such a hard time falling in love with turned 10. And let me tell you, even though things didn’t start off the way pop culture and every well-meaning piece of advice told me they should, I fall more and more in love with her every day. To the moms who didn’t fall in love with their baby right away, even though it feels hard and confusing, I promise this season will pass.