“From the moment I laid eyes on my child, I was in love.”
This is said by many parents, and therefore is also the feeling most new parents expect. They will tell you how beautiful their child was, how amazed they were at the overwhelming feeling of love they never knew they could have for someone, and how they felt as though they could never love someone so much as they did their child. Sadly, this was not my experience after giving birth to my daughter.
The minute the doctor laid my daughter on my chest, I felt… different. I knew she was mine. I was excited to finally meet the person who was growing inside me for the past nine months, but that overwhelming feeling of love that is supposed to come so naturally to a new parent did not hit me right away. I knew I needed to take care of her and protect her and nurture her, but “love” was a word I was not ready to use when referring to her.
I thought something was wrong with me. Don’t all moms love their babies the moment they see them? Am I supposed to be crying with overwhelming joy? (No doubt, I did cry, but more so because I could not believe I just gave birth to another human being).
For the couple of days while we were still in the hospital, I would barely say her name. It felt like my brain was telling me not to get too close or invest too much emotion into my daughter in case something devastating happened. Also, this baby, who was half of me, felt like a stranger. She is truly mine? I created this? It seemed so surreal. I felt like I was living a dream and would eventually wake up with nothing.
Family members came to visit and cried while they held her. They told me how beautiful she was and how amazing I was going to be as a mother. I heard them, but it was hard to believe the words they were saying. I was also confused as to how someone could shed tears over my child when I hadn’t even shed tears over her myself.
Once we got released from the hospital, I thought it would get better. It was finally becoming real, and I was coming around to the thought that it was OK to show her more affection than just trying to meet her needs. But sadly, it took a little bit longer. I had not done any research on these feelings, but thought that if I faked it, eventually it would become a reality. I slowly started to say her name and attempted to talk to her. We spent almost all of our time together, and slowly I started to connect with her. I was recognizing when she was tired or hungry, and was able to let my feelings for her grow.
One day when my husband was at work and my daughter was napping on my chest an overwhelming feeling of emotions hit me. I wish I could say she smiled at me, or we had a moment together, but that was not the case. It was just us two, snuggling on the couch together when I realized she was mine. This was my life. She meant everything to me, and I felt like I knew her. I started to imagine her future and who she would be. I began looking forward to family events and all her milestones she would accomplish. The natural feeling of loving your child was finally something I understood.
My story is something many other new parents go through, but the stigma that it is love at first sight when you see your child is what has been told to us over and over. If this is something you went through, know that it does not make you a bad mother. Having a baby is a major life change and can give women many emotions that range from joy to anxiousness to fear.
It takes time to form relationships and gain the feelings we have for one another. The same holds true with our children.