The childbirth books all rave about that fuzzy, warm glow that happens when you set eyes on your baby for the first time. For some women, however, bonding with their newborn can take some time.
The process of bonding with your baby
My first pregnancy was a bit untraditional — I was only 21 and a full-time college student, so the pregnancy was a bit unexpected. I spent the majority of my pregnancy scared that I wouldn’t be a good mother or find a job, and couldn’t focus on trying to bond with my baby.
I wondered if I was missing the “mom gene” — you know, the one that stipulated that I compare my baby to various-sized tropical fruits in loving weekly Facebook status updates?
The truth is, I didn’t feel a speck of affection for my daughter for the entire duration of my pregnancy. So you can imagine my relief then, when the second I laid eyes on her after she was born, I fell completely head-over-heels in love with her in a happy-ending cliché movie sort of way. I was actually relieved to find out that I did love my baby after all. Phew!
Third time's a charm?
With my subsequent pregnancies planned and my husband and I in a more stable financial position, I fully expected that I would find bonding with my babies completely natural and easier the second and third time around.
Except, I didn’t.
The feeling of not bonding with my baby was, surprisingly, the strongest with my third child, who was also my first son. When he was born in early July, I remember staring at him quizzically. Perhaps it was related to the fact that part of me had difficulty comprehending that my body had actually grown a penis inside of me, or the shock of already seeing the shadow of the man my boy would become as he screamed on the warmer — but I couldn’t believe he was mine.
Is that my baby?
“I don’t even feel like he’s mine!” I exclaimed. Apparently, over and over again.
After my husband started to give me weird looks, I toned it down a notch, but the feeling persisted. I held him, fed him, and looked him over, all with the weird feeling like he wasn’t my baby.
It didn’t help matters that we couldn’t agree on a name (coincidence? I think not... ), making me feel like an even worse mother for not bonding with my poor, nameless baby.
As it turns out, though, my feelings were pretty normal.
Give yourself some time
Dr. Riley Minster, a pediatrician at Lake Shore Pediatrics, just outside of Chicago, says the birth experience itself can tire a mother out so much that she may need a “breather,” so to speak — before she can focus intently on bonding with her baby.
“Most mothers bond with their newborns within the first few minutes or hours after birth,” explained Dr. Minster. “But it is not uncommon that due to stress, hormones and the emotional and physical exhaustion of the birthing process itself, that some mothers don't immediately bond. In most cases, as the mother herself heals and rests, the attachment to her newborn grows and that special bond forms."
So if you are expecting, rest assured that if you don’t bond with your baby instantly, you’re not alone! Falling in love with your baby will happen. As are a lot of things with motherhood, sometimes you just need to take care of yourself first (take that nap, you deserve it!) before you can give your best to your baby.