When I was pregnant for the first time, I would watch birthing videos online of mothers meeting their newborns. You know the ones. An exhausted mother labors forever and ever; her partner brushes the hair from her face and tells her she's doing an amazing job. When the baby finally arrives, she reaches out to hold her tiny, wailing prize. Sobbing tears of joy, she glances up at her partner, who is beaming with excitement. They were beautiful moments that often brought me to tears and had me yearning for my own emotional greeting with my baby that I had been growing for so many months.
So imagine how disappointed I was when I finally had my baby girl, four days late, and I didn't cry. I didn't laugh. I didn't really have much of a reaction at all. At the time, I chalked it up to the extrastrong (too strong, according to my doctor's reaction) epidural, or maybe the exhaustion. Was it my hormones? Did I have postpartum depression? What was wrong with me?
Fast forward to today, when as I sit here writing this, I'm nursing my 4-month-old son. My delivery with him was fast. He was born within 30 minutes of arriving at the hospital. There was no time for an epidural, so I. Felt. Everything. But when it was all over and I held his little, sticky, pink body in my arms for the first time, I still didn't cry. I still didn't laugh. I still didn't look over at my husband with pure joy. And this time I couldn't blame my numb emotions on the numbness of my body.
I didn't want to be judged for telling the truth. No, I wasn't immediately "in love" with my baby.
With both pregnancies, I had people excitedly asking me questions that I didn't know how to answer. They asked some variation of: "So aren't you just so in love with your baby?!" I didn't know how to answer because I didn't want to be judged for telling the truth. No, I wasn't immediately "in love" with my baby. Not my first baby, and not my second baby either. That's not to say that I don't love my children. I would move heaven and earth for them, but I wasn't IN LOVE with them right away. It's hard to be in love with somebody who makes you almost fall asleep while driving because you're so exhausted all the time. Or screams nonstop while you're trying to make dinner. Or puts tremendous strain on your relationship with your partner. I love my children, but I don't love the newborn stage. And that's OK.
I think I finally started enjoying my daughter when she was about 4 months old. Before then, she would make my heart melt when she smiled or laughed, but I didn't have the adoration for her like I do today. Now she is 2 years old and she is my favorite person on the planet. She makes me laugh every single day and she fills my heart with joy. Even when she's having a temper tantrum, dumping fish food all over the floor, or refusing to eat anything for dinner except ketchup. My heart is full because of her. And now that my son is starting to laugh and play, my feelings for him are growing more and more.
If you're one of those women who held your newborn in your arms and heard choir angels singing, this obviously isn't for you. But if you're one of those women who took a little while to fall in love with the tiny stranger who made complete chaos of your life, just know that you're not alone. Nothing is wrong with you. It's OK to take the time to get to know your baby before those extraspecial feelings erupt from within.
Even if you had to go through years of IVF to get that baby, or had to wait months to adopt, or if they're your rainbow baby. You don't have to feel guilty, and it doesn't make you a bad parent. Because when you can confidently scream from the rooftops, "I LOVE THIS BABY!," you will mean it with your whole being. Your feelings will be strong, and they will be fierce, just like mine.