In the delivery room back in 2005, I remember that blissful hour after our son was born when the doctors and nurses left the room to allow my husband and me to bond with our newborn baby boy. I was exhausted, but not in pain, thanks to my epidural. We’d wanted him so much, waited for him for so long, and now he was here. I’d already loved him before he was born, and I loved him even more now that I could see him as a tiny human being. We couldn’t stop touching his little face, his hands, his little baby toes…it was amazing.
A few weeks later, I knew I still loved my son. I was his mother, and he was my child. But I was really grasping at that feeling of overwhelming bliss that I’d felt when he was first born. My love felt more dutiful than anything else. I would have done anything to protect him, but there was a disconnect between my head and my heart. Everything told me I was supposed to be so happy and excited to spend all my time with my new baby – movies, books, even TV commercials were filled with happy new moms who were so in love with their babies. And I could see that in the faces of the other new moms from my Lamaze class that one time we met for lunch with our infant carriers in tow.
I just wasn’t feeling it.
And I was tortured because of it. I wasn’t sleeping. Breastfeeding hadn’t worked out, and no matter how much fenugreek I consumed or how often I tried, I wasn’t pumping enough milk. I cried all the time. On top of that, I had the shame and guilt on my conscience that I didn’t love my son enough, not the way a mother is supposed to love her son. I would pray for him to just fall asleep – he had colic – and dread those piercing cries that meant he was awake again. The constant cycle of feeding, bathing, diapering, and trying to soothe him back to sleep felt like a chore. It wasn’t supposed to be like this.
Maybe it would have been different if someone had caught on that I had postpartum depression, PPD, if I had been diagnosed while it was happening instead of after the fact. Medication would have helped; I know this, because I’ve been on antidepressants now since 2008, and I am more of a functional human being than I was before. But more than that, knowing that I wasn’t the only mother in the world having these feelings, that I shouldn’t blame myself for the nasty tricks my brain was pulling on me – that would have changed everything.
I’m happy to report that, once I freed myself from trying to force breastmilk when my body clearly wasn’t going to produce it, once the colic phase was over, those loving feelings from the first day he was born rushed back. I was still depressed – no question about that – but the constant state of “crisis” that marked his first few months of life were gone, and I had more physical and mental energy available to me. And with that, I was able to start enjoying my relationship with my baby.
If you’re struggling with feeling like you don’t love your baby “enough,” or if it feels impossible to form that connection or bond with your baby, try not to blame yourself. Remember that “depression lies.” It lies to you and tells you you’re not good enough. It makes you feel ashamed and guilty of not living up to some imaginary standard of how things should be. If you haven’t already talked to a medical professional about how you’re feeling, I strongly encourage you to do so. (And don’t be ashamed about taking medication or going to therapy! They work for so many people!) More than that, know that you’re not alone, that countless other moms have been right where you are now – and we’ve come out the other side. You can find that connection with your baby , even if it takes a little longer than you thought it should. How do I know this? Because you’re concerned enough that you looked for and found this post, that you do care about your relationship with your baby and want to improve it. And because, nine years later, I have a great relationship with my son, who tells me every day that he loves me. You can get there. You just need the support to get you through this hard time – and you’re not alone.