Monday, January 19, 2015

When You Don't Love Your Baby (or feel that your baby isn't yours)

This post takes some guts. Oy.

As women become mothers, we are conditioned to the thought of "love at first sight" when our new bundle of joy arrives.  But for some moms, that isn't the case.  

I've thought of this post countless times for over two years but haven't written it yet because I wasn't ready.  This will probably come as a shock to my family, my friends, my blog readers and even strangers, but it's something that must be written ... and it can happen to anyone.

My son Mylo was born under near perfect conditions.  I had an amazing birth, breastfed with very little issues and am a champion for natural living and emotionally attentive parenting.  But yet, when my son was born, there were no warm feelings, no instantaneous attraction and very little connection.  I thought it would change.  Maybe I was just too tired or maybe it's just a second child thing.  

But a couple months into this two-child gig, nothing had changed.  Filled with embarrassment, I told my husband.  

I didn't feel like I loved my son as my own.

I felt like I was temporarily feeding and caring and changing and singing to someone else's child.  I didn't feel like Mylo belonged to me.  I loved him and had empathy for him as a human being, a helpless babe, but not the overwhelming, brings-tears-to-my-eyes type of love I had for my first child.  

I suppose I could say that things started when his pregnancy took more of a toll on my body.  Part of me blamed him.  It sounds stupid, but yeah, since I'm being honest here, I did blame him.  Things just weren't how they used to be.

We also had some name difficulties.  My husband didn't have time to talk names before the baby was born so when Mylo was born at 42 weeks (I know, we had MORE than enough time to discuss names), I felt rushed into naming him as everyone needed a name for this baby.  It took us two days to announce his name and I wish I could go back in time and take two weeks to consider names, rather than rush the process and throw more fuel onto the already detached relationship.  I couldn't think about his name without regret and am finally to the point of accepting his name.

And then there was the unexplained that went beyond my body or insecurity in a name.  Something bigger than those things.  Something biologically was off.   I just didn't feel much towards him.  I knew enough to feed him, change him, sing to him, hold him, cuddle him, smile at him, wear him in various wraps, slings and carriers, maintain skin-to-skin contact, attend to his needs, kiss him incessantly, rub his legs at diaper changes, talk to him and talk proudly about him.  I constantly called him Mylo My Love and referred to him as my son, my baby, my precious boy.  Outwardly, I knew these things were imperative for bonding - not just mine, but mostly his.  I faked it, hoping Mylo wouldn't notice. My greatest concern was his emotional attachment.  I didn't want to ruin him.  Inwardly, I wondered if the day would ever come where I loved him with all of my being.  

Searching for an explanation, I googled things like, "I don't feel like my baby is mine" and "I don't feel overwhelming love for my baby".  I read postpartum depression articles and checklists, which didn't seem to fit me at all!  I didn't want him gone, I didn't want to hurt him, I was functioning well, I had no anxiety, I was sleeping and eating just fine and had plenty of energy and interests in my everyday activities.   The only descriptor I accurately fit was something along the lines of "lack of feeling towards baby". 

So what the heck was wrong with me?  Why wasn't I head-over-heals for this adorable little baby, who practically came out of the womb smiling? 

It took seven months for me to start feeling crazy love for him.  I'm not sure how things changed but maybe God heard my desperate cries for connection with my boy.  Little by little, my heart started to beat a little faster when I'd catch a glimpse of him drooling, while chewing on a toy.  When I'd hear him chatter, my lips would curve into a smile, as a deep breath of pride filled my lungs.  When he'd catch me watching him and reach out for me, it was like everything else faded and I could hardly contain myself to rush to him and pick him up and kiss him. His big smile and the spark in his eyes, would bring tears of joy to mine.  When his cries could only be satisfied by me, the butterflies would dance in my tummy, signaling he was mine.  During diaper changes, his chubby fingers would grab mine, distracting me from my task and I'd feel those fat wrists, those tiny bones and those small fingernails, forcing me to take a break and enjoy this little gift.

It was my boy reaching out to me.

In retrospect, I should've talked with my midwife.  I knew she wouldn't judge me and would show me kindness and grace.  But could I do the same for myself?  I loathed myself as a mother because of my deficiencies.  Those first seven months are a bit of blur of motions and that still hurts my heart a bit.  I know I was doing the best I could but I still wish I would've reached out for help sooner.  What if it had gotten worse?  

Today, I have an amazing relationship and bond with my son!  He is affectionate, spunky, full of love and a TOTAL mama's boy!  He makes my heart skip beats and tears warm the corners of my eyes daily!
I feared sharing this because of judgment.  But I KNOW that I am not alone, as I've had friends sob when they share their stories of ache, betrayal at their perceived ideas of motherhood and confusion.  Maybe, when we as women begin throwing off our masks of perfection and sharing our struggles, we will know it's OK to seek help when things seem off because nearly every other mother around us has felt something similar.  And hopefully the next person who searches "I don't feel like my baby is my own" will find this post and not only learn from my mistakes but know there is hope.

My sweet boy, whom I love with ALL of my heart!
PS: For those of you wondering if Mylo will know all this or are concerned that this post may hurt him down the road ... Yes, Mylo will know all of this someday. It's all written down and explained for him in his journal. He will know that his mama had some problems that weren't his fault at all. However, he will also know that he was wanted, loved and cared for from the start.

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