That Instant Bond When You Give Birth? Nope — My Baby Was a Stranger

Marisa Hillman
Marisa Hillman

If you're a mom, there's a pretty good chance that the day your baby was born is one that is forever seared into your memory. Most moms I know will talk about that moment when they met their baby for the first time. You know, that moment when you finally meet the person who's been inhabiting your body for the better part of a year, and your heart pretty much bursts out of your chest. The moment when you're completely overcome with love and joy, the likes of which you've never known before. You know what I'm talking about, right? No? That's OK. Neither do I. When my daughter was born, that wave of inexplicable love didn't wash over me. There was no immediate and unbreakable bond between us. My daughter was a complete stranger.

I was sure that something was wrong with me, and I agonized over the fact that this feeling everyone told me I would have hadn't come.

It wasn't that I hadn't been excited to meet her. I wanted nothing more than to be a mother, and after years of trying along with a handful of failed fertility treatments, I was ecstatic when I finally learned that I was pregnant. I was even more excited when I found out that I was expecting a little girl. I spent the months of my pregnancy planning, shopping, decorating, and dreaming of what life would be like when we finally welcomed our baby. I also looked forward to this rush of unconditional love that I was supposed to experience, and on the big day, when it didn't come, I was beside myself with an ugly mix of worry and guilt.

The day she was born wasn't without emotion. In fact, it was riddled with it. I was nervous on my way to the hospital, excited when they were prepping me for the OR, calm once I got in there, elated when I heard her first cry, and awestruck by the sheer perfection of such a tiny human. But there was no rush; no wave of love so great or so intense that it manifested itself as physical pain in my chest. There was no great bond when we locked eyes for the first time. I was sure that something was wrong with me, and I agonized over the fact that this feeling everyone told me I would have hadn't come. My joy was momentarily replaced by guilt over the fact that this perfect, tiny human was a perfect, tiny stranger. I hoped that maybe, if we took some time to get to know one another, then everything would be OK. And that's exactly what happened.

I can't pinpoint the exact moment when it happened, but . . . eventually . . . that bond and wave of love did come. And now, four-and-a-half years later, it washes over me countless times a day. Unsolicited hugs, kisses, and just watching her live her life fills me with a type of love I never thought possible. I know my daughter, and I know that I would go to the ends of the earth for her.

Looking back, there was nothing wrong with me. Nor is there anything wrong with the countless other moms who don't feel an instant connection to their baby. Every mom, every baby, and every experience is different, and different is OK. I promise it will come, and I can assure you that you're doing better than you think you are.