Dear New Mom,
Congratulations on your new bundle of joy! I know these days are chock full of emotions. Seeing that precious face that you’ve been trying to imagine for 9 months, counting those fingers and toes one more time, witnessing your family members meeting your sweet one for the first time. There are so many joyful moments in those first few days. But there can also be a lot of frustration. Hormones are fluctuating, your body is recovering, you’re losing sleep, and your body is healing while trying to care for a human being. The last thing you want is a setback to what should be the happiest time of your life and yet there it is…that thing no one warned you might happen. You don’t feel any sort of immediate bond with the tiny adorable baby you just gave birth to. I know, because I have been there too.
Maybe you had a traumatic birth experience, maybe your baby had to stay in the NICU, maybe the effects of post partum depression are settling in, there are many reasons (or quite possibly no reason at all) a new mom may not feel connected to her newborn child, but that does not mean that bond won’t grow and develop over time. Try not to let it get you down and don’t talk to yourself negatively about how these first few days “should be.” There is no one set pattern for how motherhood and relationships should look.
I know when my first daughter was born all my friends who had just had babies oohed and ahhed and gushed about this maternal instinct that just came to them and the love they immediately felt for their child. So of course I felt nothing but shame and guilt when I didn’t feel those same feelings my friends did. I was amazed by my daughter, I couldn’t take my eyes off of her, I didn’t neglect her or have any thoughts of harming her. But she was a stranger that I didn’t know and I was spending hours daily nursing her, soothing her, holding her, and waiting for that feeling to come. No one told me that the bond might just develop over time.
I think it’s okay and normal to be confused emotionally in those early days of parenthood. It is a MAJOR life change! I do want to pause and say that talking to your doctor or a mental health professional is absolutely a must if you or your spouse are concerned about your well being. I do know I felt much better when I finally told someone that I thought I loved my daughter, but I just didn’t feel any kind of bond or connection to her. They encouraged me to keep nursing, keep snuggling, keep talking to her, take breaks when I needed and keep talking about it. So I did. And it’s true.
One day, a few weeks into the whole motherhood gig, I just looked at her in the rocking chair during one of those late night feeding sessions, and I cried tears of joy over how beautiful she was and how much love I had for her and how connected I felt to her! At that point I was getting the hang of the motherhood thing. My daughter and I had stories and a past and shared experiences and a relationship was blooming and I felt that bond as strong as ever.
I’m happy to say in the seven years since then our bond has only grown more. I do still feel guilt about those first few weeks of our relationship, but I’m so glad that I had encouragement to keep on nurturing and trying and nursing because although I have guilt about the lack of bond, I know that I still cared and took care of her. That fear also followed me into my next pregnancy but I knew it would be okay, I knew the bond would develop eventually and that all relationships take time to grow. My second experience was completely different than the first though, and I don’t say that to brag, I say that in case you too are fearful that one rough start will predict all of your future birth experiences.
Whatever stage you are in right now, you are enough and your newborn won’t know the inner workings of your brain. He/she WILL recognize your voice, be comforted by your touch, soothed by your song, and nourished by your hands if only you will keep doing what you’re doing as you wait for that bond to grow. It will come!
A mom who’s been there before