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When the Bond with Your New Baby is Not Instant

All I ever wanted in life? To have children. Even as a young adult, I knew I could not make someone fall in love with and marry me. But I would have children — whatever it took. I even put together back up plans in case I needed to resort to those extremes in order to have kids. Lucky for me, I actually did fall in love and marry a wonderful man. (Sucker!)

Shortly after getting married, the itch to have children started. When we made the decision to start trying for kids, we were very fortunate and were pregnant within four months. Ecstatic does not even begin to describe how I felt. It was FINALLY happening! I was going to be mom.

While nervous about becoming a mom, I was very excited at the same time. I had that wonderful first-time mom naive thing going on. My baby would breastfeed for at least 6 months (but probably longer), and everything was going to work out just like all the books say.

Isn’t that first-time mom naïve-ness so wonderful?

The big day came. I went into labor, and we headed to the hospital. My birthing experience was very painful, thanks to a nurse who backed out my epidural. I know many women give birth without medication, but that was not my plan. So when I experienced the worst pain of my life, it really threw me off. I had not prepared for that. When my little guy was finally born, my very first thought was not the joy of a new baby. I simply thought, “Thank God that is over.” 

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Still on that “help in the hospital” high…

We did not find out the gender of our baby ahead of time, so we were elated to find out we had a sweet baby boy!  In those first two days in the hospital, I was on a high of endorphins and joy. Then, as we were about to leave the hospital, we were told our little guy had jaundice and needed to stay longer. He was not having enough bowel movements, and I had to start supplementing with formula. By the time we finally got him home, I had four days with my husband to help before he went back to work.

Then I was all alone.

And nothing prepared me for how on demand I had to be for this baby’s every need. Every feeding, (which took 45 minutes to try to get him to latch and eat), then supplementing, then diapering… By the time he took a short nap, I had to start the process all over again. We had to go to the doctor every couple of days to make sure his jaundice was going away. The crying. No sleep. He was not eating well. Not pooping. It was too much. TOO MUCH

His crying all of the time drove me to distraction. I could not handle not getting more than forty-five minutes of sleep. He fell asleep every time I tried to nurse him but sucked down two ounces of formula in two minutes flat. It infuriated me that 98% of his care fell to me. I remember looking at my son and thinking “I don’t even know you. I just met you last week, and I’m expected to do all of this for someone I don’t know. You are a stranger.”

Shortly after having him, I remember sobbing on my bed. I would never have another child again. This was too hard.  I wanted him back in my body. Things were too hard with him on the outside. He made my life so hard. His not breastfeeding correctly made me so angry.  And I was mad at myself for my inability to give him enough nourishment. My husband didn’t have his body destroyed by pregnancy and got to go back to work and live his past life. This was all I had ever wanted in life, now that I had it, and I HATED it. I was just angry. All the time. And it affected how I bonded with my son.

I remember a relative came over to see him once and said, “I just can’t imagine how anyone could ever hurt a sweet baby.” My answer to her? “I can.” 

It was a dark time. I loved my son, but I did not like him. He felt like a job I had to do. He became another chore on the long list of things adults do.

It is clear as day to me now that I had post-partum depression, but at the time? I just hated my life and detested my new baby. Things finally got better when I stopped breastfeeding. No longer worrying about how much milk I was producing (which was not a lot), and no longer worrying about how much he was consuming (not a lot), and no longer being responsible for every. single. feeding. was a major contributor to bringing me out of my dark haze.  Times were still hard as I was adjusting to this new life, but things got better. I would say we did not really connect until he was around three months old. He finally started to get on more of a schedule, and I finally started to adjust to our new life. That was when I finally started to enjoy him a little and not think of him as a chore.

That boy is now a sweet, funny, kind, smart, and amazing seven year old. He is one of my favorite people ever! I cannot get enough of him, and I pray for him to stop growing and stay this age forever. I ask him every day to stay with me forever and never leave me. So, as you can see, I went from one unhealthy situation to another. Ha!

I honestly cannot tell you why it was so hard for him and me in the beginning. When I had my daughter nineteen months later (because clearly, I am not bright), I did not have the same problems. I don’t know if it was because I already knew what to expect the second time around and was better prepared mentally. We also found out the gender on her ahead of time, unlike with my son, so maybe that helped a bit. She didn’t feel like a stranger. My birthing experience with her was easier as well.

Sometimes I feel so sad for that poor girl, seven years ago. She was in such a dark place that she could not enjoy her new son. I wish I could tell you how I snapped out of it. I just kept moving forward, one day at a time. 

If you feel like you cannot get out of your dark place, please talk to someone. I did not. I was ashamed of how I felt about my son, so even though the thoughts were in my head, I was terrified to vocalize them. But just know, you are not alone. You are not the only one who has ever felt this way. You are not a bad person for feeling that way. Adjusting to a new life is hard.

Hang in there, mamas. I’m rooting for you. You can do this. You will survive.

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We are all good now. One of my favorite people ever.

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