- I felt love for my newborn, but not the bond everyone talks about having immediately after birth.
- Sometimes, the lack of bonding with my newborn made me feel numb.
- Your bond with your child develops slowly, and it is easy for them to forget that once they are older.
When I was pregnant with my first baby, I used to imagine what kind of mother I would be: fun and cultured — taking my baby everywhere, never ordering from the kids’ menu (I was a little naive). My baby would be loved easily.
Mothers with nostalgic eyes encouraged me. They talked of the wonderful bond we would have with our baby.
Finally, it was here. It was a girl. It was surreal. As I was laboring, a new face suddenly appeared in the room. Her face was both familiar and unfamiliar, beautiful and bizarre. She held onto me, searching for food, waiting in vain for me to assist her in this unfamiliar environment. I was in love with her, overwhelmed by her love, and oxytocin rushing through my body, overwhelming me with its sweetness.
It was a new kind of love — a scary, unreciprocated love. Bonding was a difficult, impossible task after my fourth night of sleepless nights. I felt resentful of my unkempt, disfigured body.
It could be forgetfulness or shame. But the bonding process can take time. But it would be helpful for other delirious and emotionally distraught new moms to occasionally hear, “In the beginning, I wasn’t really feeling it.”
Since support from family and friends has been shown to be a crucial factor in the mental health of postpartum mothers, a little vulnerability from other moms would help immeasurably. Although I was not diagnosed with postpartum depressive disorder, the lack of attachment that I felt at times made me feel numb and scared that I wouldn’t be able to enjoy being a mother as I had hoped.
It’s no surprise that I struggled
As a social person with childless friends, the degree to which my life changed overnight was shocking. I hadn’t known that I was responsible for caring. I did not expect the continual sacrifice of my body, my old life being erased, or the emotional consequences.
My freedom was taken hostage by a seven-pound, screaming-prone human. I was a fraud — a mother to a little stranger whom I cared for but didn’t know.
Studies have shown that bonding is crucial to a child’s long-term development. It felt like I was just going through the motions. Looking back, it’s clear that I should have been kind to myself. I should have accepted the fact that this was a significant change and would require some adjustment.
And studies have shown that many new parents, as much as one-third, struggle with bonding with their babies in those first few months.
Your brain will catch up with your body
I think the reason the early struggles with connecting sometimes go unacknowledged is because, frankly, they’re easy to forget.
The bond is formed slowly over time. It is formed by moments of awe, such as the way she clings tightly to you for comfort, when she smiles and locks eyes with your face, and when she reaches out for you when entering the room. The relationship becomes more complex and blurred as the years go by. In a flash, your relationship with your children and your identity as mother will transform your life in ways that you could not have imagined.
It’s easy not to think back to the time when you first started to get to know each other. Perhaps it’s because your baby is there to guide you, like an old wise soul, and helps you become the mother you want to be.