Having a baby is hard; feeling like you’re doing it wrong makes it harder.
When I gave birth to my son, I was exhausted.
Yeah, I know what you were expecting. You were expecting me to say I was in love, overjoyed, overcome with emotion… something like that, right? I could say that, but I’d be lying. A more accurate description would be exhausted, relieved, or shocked, but that’s not what you generally hear when a new mom is talking about the birth of her child. You hear nothing but the positives. Nothing but love and joy. Nothing but the good stuff.
I was expecting the good stuff. I was expecting an immediate bond that brought me to tears and made my life feel complete. I was expecting his birth to live up to the images I had swirling around in my head from the moment the test read “pregnant” and when none of that happened, I was confused.
Sure, you can blame it on the 38 hours of labor. You could blame it on the fact that I was giving birth in a foreign country and felt completely out of my element. You could blame it on the fact that my husband an I weren’t in the best place when we were leaving for the hospital, the cold weather, the full moon, hell, blame it on Donald Trump or the bad tacos I must have eaten the day before. Blame it on whatever you want, but I was not bonded with my child and that was terrifying. So, I did what all first time mothers do, I blamed it on myself.
Something had to be wrong with me. I just knew it. How could I not be madly in love with the life I literally grew inside of my body for 42 weeks straight? I was a bad mom and I had only just started.
Things did not get better with breastfeeding… you know, the “natural thing” that all mammals can do. Nursing my child was excruciating and, yet again, exhausting. Spending 8 hours straight with a baby nursing on your raw nipples is awful; a lip-tie doesn’t help and all the nipple cream in the world will never be enough, but that’s for another post. It’s sufficient to say, things just got worse and they kept getting worse.
I was sore, tired, and overwhelmed. Neither my husband nor I had any idea as to what we were doing; baby books didn’t help with this part so we anxiously waited for the bond to form while muddling through postpartum hormones, sleeplessness, and pain.
The pain wasn’t just physical, it was emotional too. We thought we were awful parents. We couldn’t calm our screaming baby down and the moments we did were few and far between. I constantly asked my husband what I was doing wrong. Why wasn’t I able to cherish these moments everyone talks about? What was wrong with me?
We both just needed to know if and when things would get better. After weeks of suffering through and barely surviving, I can say things do get better. They’re still not easy. We’re still struggling every day, but I get it now when people tell you to cherish this time. I get it because I’ve finally started to bond with my son. Seeing his face light up with excitement while my husband taps on his hands, hearing his first happy coos and exclamations, watching him grow… those moments are the ones to cherish but it’s okay if you’re stuck in the thick of it and feel like you’re missing something.
Not everyone bonds with their baby immediately.
I wish someone had warned me and told me that it doesn’t make you a bad parent. The bond will come. Things will get easier. One day, you’ll get a little more sleep. One day, you’ll look at your baby and just feel it. One day, you’ll just know.
Hold on, momma. You’re doing great.