Of course, this is a wonderful thing.
But what if you don’t feel instantly in love with this little screaming, squirming bundle of energy the second you lay eyes on him? Is there something wrong with you? Why don’t you feel this instant love that everyone else is talking about?
And why does no one tell you that this is actually completely normal?
For some people the love at first sight they feel for their child comes naturally. Some women may even feel an intense love after seeing that flickering heartbeat on the ultrasound screen for the first time. For others, they know that is how they are supposed to feel when that little bundle they have been excitedly awaiting for the last 9 months is finally handed to them for the first time, but it doesn’t always happen that way.
When I had my first son I thought I would feel an overwhelming sense of love when he was born. I thought I would cry with the joy of the moment, the intense emotion of finally having him here with me. But it wasn’t the instant intense love you might imagine it to be. I felt relief that he was here safely at long last, excitement to finally see what he would look like (would he have my eyes or my husbands, dark hair or light hair or no hair at all?) and sure, I felt protective of him and nurturing but overwhelming love? No. And I’m not the only one.
“With baby #1 it was a rough attachment journey. When he was born and first placed in my arms I felt nothing, I was somewhat emotionless and empty. He didn’t feel like mine and I was so overwhelmed and scared by the fact I felt nothing toward him. It wasn’t until about 4 weeks later when I first tried him in the Moby wrap that something clicked and I was like “My god I love you”. It was such a rush. Baby #2 was such a contrast. As he was born I lifted him up to my chest and I was overcome by such strong emotions, I was deeply in love with him and crying tears of joy. Baby #3 I stupidly expected to get the same rush of love that I got with #2 and I was disheartened when I didn’t. It wasn’t as bad as the first but it was missing the rush, the swelling kind of love. Due to PND and feeding issues I had a very rough newborn time with this baby. It wasn’t until he was 8 weeks old and getting his tongue tie snipped that his pain cries triggered something in me and I was rushed with emotions of love and protection and I never looked back.”
It took me a good 6 weeks to look at my first son and really feel my heart swell with love. And for some it takes even longer than that.
I think it was especially hard after infertility for me to admit that that love took time to build up because I felt so much pressure to be the perfect mother to this child that I had battled for so long to hold. I felt so guilty at times that I was finding this motherhood gig harder than I felt I should be. You don’t want to admit that after 3 years of trying and countless medical procedures and IVF cycles to get this precious wee baby, that you aren’t always enjoying the experience of first time motherhood. That it is actually hard work and overwhelming and nothing like you had imagined.
I just didn’t feel that instant love. I waited, and I wanted to, but I just didn’t.
Those first few days were a battle of recovering from a c-section, the stress of trying to breastfeed a child who did not want a bar of it and really just trying to survive the transition from only having to worry about myself to having this delicate little baby who relied on me for everything.
Trouble breastfeeding was definitely one of the delay factors that came up during discussions with other mums about this issue, along with c-section recovery, a traumatic or unexpected birth experience, post natal depression and baby being taken away to the special care nursery due to health issues. Too much interference by well meaning family and/or friends and a baby who is particularly fussy or unsettled were other influential factors.
By the time C was 6 weeks old, I finally had that moment. He was snuggled against my chest sleeping while I watched TV and I just felt this wash of love come over me and I knew then what it feels like to truly be in love and awe of your child.
After admitting to my own experience in my online mothers groups, I found that many first time mums were going through a hard time in silence because they felt they couldn’t admit that they found motherhood to be harder than they thought. They also put a lot of pressure on themselves to be the perfect mother and then when things don’t go according to plan, they feel like a failure. Or they have their baby and then feel like they’re a bad mother for not falling instantly head over heels in love like they expected they would.
And no one wants to talk about it. I think I would have coped a lot better had I been aware of it before and that is why I have written this.
Sometimes it takes time to get to know this little person who you have just welcomed into the world. You’re not always going to be the perfect mother. And eventually you will look at your child and feel the way you always imagined you would feel when they were born.
I asked for some quotes from other mums to add to this post and was completely overwhelmed by responses. So much so that there was no way I could use them all, but here are just some of the things other mums had to say.
“When I had my son I didn’t love him instantly. I liked him and wanted to care for him and look after him, but not in that huge protective way. He was about 2 weeks old when it just hit me so hard I burst into tears from how much love I felt, it was scary.”
“I felt completely underwhelmed when I had my first daughter. There was no rush of love like I’d expected, she looked nothing like I imagined. In fact, every other baby on the ward looked like the baby I had imagined was in my tummy but mine. She didn’t cry for me, I didn’t feel any bond through breast feeding and I was happy for my husband to have her all the time and do all the first things like baths etc.
My parents arrived from England to stay with us and everything was just so normal. Nothing changed. No sleepless nights, no baby spew, no witching hour. We went to the beach, we went for dinner, we went on long walks. I cooked a huge Christmas dinner, played the perfect hostess and kept the house immaculate. She just slotted in perfectly to our lives and I was left feeling empty and missing the feeling of being pregnant and special. I just wanted to be pregnant again and feel that anticipation.
I feared I didn’t love her. My husband seemed to be besotted and I felt irritated by that.
By the time she turned 2 weeks old, my parents left and I was so nervous to be left alone with her as my husband had returned to work. But magically, once it was just the two of us, everything felt perfect. She became my best friend, an extension of me and my love was multiplying each day.”
“I was very young, overwhelmed and had no control over anything, others told me when and how I was going to have her so I did feel disconnected, and scared, and allowed others to step in way too much. With my 2nd I knew him right away, recognized him and bonded right away.”
“When I was pregnant I spent a lot of time talking, singing and bonding with my son. He was constantly kicking me, but would instantly stop when others would put their hand on my belly. I loved listening to the “galloping horses” and seeing his ultrasounds. I felt that was when I bonded with him most. I was induced 10 days after my due date, as there was less that 3% fluid around him. He screamed for hours after he was born, he didn’t look like me as a baby. He had red hair, very little of it. He was thin, he was not the chubby, head full of hair baby that I was. My Mum could see the look on my face, she knew what I was thinking. I was shocked that I had a screaming, red headed baby! I was put in a room by ourselves at the very end of the ward. He just cried and cried. I had no idea how to feed him, I hid a dummy in my bag and tried to put it in his mouth to keep him quiet. I kept thinking “what have I done? I have to keep this baby, he is mine!”… He was so placid in the womb, he was so upset in the world.
The next 4 months were very challenging. He had reflux, jaundice, and a million visitors! He wasn’t a good feeder, I wasn’t good at breastfeeding & we were only just surviving on very limited sleep.
So I showered him with love! I kissed him constantly, I held him so much and I whispered to him that “everyone loves you, but I love you the most!”… We bonded and I made it my goal to kiss him more than he cried”
It can take time to get to know one another and to bond. And that is OK.
- It is OK to not fall instantly head over heels in love with your baby.
- It is OK if it takes time, after all, you have only just met!
- It is OK if you are feeling completely overwhelmed.
But don’t add guilt on top of that. Don’t feel like there is something wrong with you and put immense pressure on yourself to be the perfect mother to make up for how you think you should be feeling but aren’t.
Go easy on yourself as those first few weeks of parenting (and months and years!) can be downright terrifying. Concentrate on just getting through it and getting to know this new little human you have brought into the world. Because speaking from experience, I promise you that you will eventually feel that overwhelming butterflies in the tummy ‘I couldn’t imagine my life without you’ love that you have been yearning for when you least expect it.
And you will remember that moment forever.