I’m not sure when or how this idea formed itself in my head, but I’d always thought that being a mother was a natural right of passage that would lead to an organic bonding experience with her baby. As a newlywed trying to figure out what it meant for me to be someone’s wife, I now had this overwhelming feeling of guilt and confusion as I stared down at the two little lines that determined my future — Will I love my baby? Because I don’t feel anything.
After a very stressful pregnancy for too many reasons to name, along with four-days of induced-labor, I finally made the decision to have a c-section. Waddling down the hall to the surgery room with my husband, Joseph by my side, I knew our life together was going to change forever. Moments after childbirth, I looked at my baby boy, waiting for a lump to form in my throat, for tears to fill my eyes, but neither of those things happened. What did a mother’s love for her child feel like? When was that supposed to kick in? Was something wrong with me?
Following an exhausting seven-day stint at the hospital, finally discharged, then hours later, to be readmitted for postpartum preeclampsia for another three days, and dealing with our baby going to the NICU for some complications, there hadn’t been much time for me to bond with my newborn. Breastfeeding became unbearable, and when I decided to formula-feed, felt like a failure. (Side note: as long as your baby is getting the nutrients he or she needs to survive, you being a failure is just not possible.)
By now, I was two months postpartum and still didn’t know if I actually loved my baby. Sure, I went through the motions of instinctually protecting him from emotional and physical harm; I fed him, changed him, bathed him, clothed him, took as many photos and videos of him as I possibly could, but again, the thought crept into my mind — Will I love my baby?
And then it happened, suddenly. There was nothing particularly amazing about the scenario; it had been an ordinary day in my new, ordinary life, changing Ezra’s diaper. I recall saying to him, “Listen, dude, I’m not so thrilled to be doing this, but I will because I’m your mama.” He stared at me with these big, blue eyes that melted my heart, when a urine stream hit me in the arm; I could do nothing but laugh hysterically as I tried cleaning up yet another mess. When I looked back at him, I swear he wore a smirk on his little face that read, ‘Okay, mama. I feel you. Sorry for the poop…oh, and the pee.’ That was the moment. It wasn’t glamorous or romantic by any means, but it was comical and it was ours.
So my message to the women out there struggling with this feeling of disconnection — take a deep breath and understand that your pregnancy and bond with your own baby can never compare to anyone else’s experience. And if you’re lucky, the moment you realize what true love is you’ll be knee-deep in poopy diapers.
Guaranteed, you’ll never look at one the same again.
To Inform: If you’re having thoughts of harming your baby or yourself, please see your physician as these may be signs of postpartum depression.