Before having my daughter, I thought I’d never get bogged down with the baby blues. I was an upbeat person, and even through tough times, I kept a positive outlook.
I’d expected to be over-the-moon about her. I’d expected to hold and snuggle and kiss her. To look lovingly into her eyes.
I was totally unprepared.
She cried and screamed in our faces. All. The. Time.
She calmed down a little, when we moved around with her, but she was never happy. She was well-fed and healthy, but we still never had quiet awake time. Instead, our colicky girl gave us a grating cry and screamed in our faces. It wasn’t exactly love-at-first-sight.
I felt guilty about not feeling an instant bond.
Toward the end of the first week, I realized I wasn’t even sure if I’d kissed her. I was just trying to meet her needs and trying to get her to stop crying. I wasn’t even kissing my newborn baby.
I felt guilty about not kissing her.
I wore earplugs, when I walked with her. And, my husband kept sound-proof headphones by the changing table, because she just lost her mind when we put her down. She needed to be moving.
Sometimes my husband would tell me that he wanted to return her. But, there was a no return policy on this baby. It was too traumatic getting her out the first time.
The non-stop crying was emotionally and physically draining. We couldn’t even stop pacing to eat, so we just paced and ate whatever fast food we could grab.
This was supposed to be a joyous time, but it didn’t feel joyous. It felt crazy and stressful and out-of-control.
A nurse told me I could have one alcoholic drink per day, and it was probably the best news I’ve ever heard in my entire life. From then on, the one thing I looked forward to every day, was my 7PM pump, because it meant I could finally have a drink. That’s how I coped with my new life.
I mourned my old life. With my old life, I knew what to expect every day. I missed it. I felt a huge loss.
Sometimes I wished we could just go back.
I felt guilty about mourning my old life. Every time I felt guilty, I cried.
I knew that baby blues were pretty common for the first 2-3 weeks. But, as I marched into week four, I felt just as emotional. My hormones were still all over the place, and I felt like I should feel connected with my daughter. Thank goodness, my mother-in-law and husband were home with me to help and support me, for the first five weeks.
Then, my mother-in-law went home and my husband went back to work.
I was a wreck that week. I cried every day. My daughter would start crying and I’d cry with her. I still couldn’t put her down and now I was alone all day. Pacing. It was my worst week yet. I felt hormonal and exhausted, and I still didn’t feel a bond.
On top that that, I felt so guilty for feeling that way.
Then, I read online about a mother who didn’t feel a twang of love for her baby for the first 6 months. I thought, “Well goodness, if she didn’t feel anything until 6 months, then I’m fine.”
For the first time, instead of feeling guilty, I felt relieved. I felt more normal. I felt hope.
Then, in week six, something happened: she smiled. I’d just taken off her clothes for her check-up. I playfully told her, “You’re a naked baby”, and she smiled at me. Ha! I laughed and said it again. She smiled again.
With that big baby smile and her giant blue eyes looking at me, I finally started to feel a connection to her.
I also felt proud that we’d survived a week completely on our own. I felt like we could do this.
By week eight, she started sleeping pretty well. We figured out a schedule and I became confident in our routine. She started to cry less, and she had some quiet awake time.
And over the next couple of months, I fell completely in love with her.
Now, my impulse is to slobber all over her—that poor baby gets so many kisses. I just want to be with her, and hug her, and kiss her. I’d never understood those women who said their child was their best friend… I was like, “Come on, get a real best friend”. But now I get it.
I’m always excited to pick her up, after work, and to spend the rest of the evening with her. And I love how excited she is to see me.
My husband and I have figured out how to do a lot of things from our old life. Our excursions are shorter, but we do the things we enjoy.
I don’t feel guilty anymore, I feel an overwhelming love. And I don’t mourn my old life, I enjoy my new one.
I do still enjoy that 7PM cocktail though.
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If you feel this way, you’re not alone—studies have shown that around 20% of parents don’t feel much of an attachment to their newborn in the hours after birth. Sometimes it takes weeks or months.
Thank you to this honest mother for sharing her story. This article has a sister story from the same mother, about her baby’s NICU experience and learning to Exclusively Pump, which you can read here: http://mamalovejoy.com/?p=75. If you enjoyed this article and want to hear more from Mama Lovejoy, you can follow me by liking the Mama Lovejoy Facebook page.