Bonding With Your Newborn

Before I had Emma Kate, I had family, friends, and strangers alike tell me that the day I have her would be the best day of my life. That the second I saw her my heart would explode into a million pieces, and that I would experience love that I have never known. I was told this so. many. times. That I became rather curious. I couldn’t imagine this particular feeling, so I was excited to experience it. Of course, how could so many people be wrong? And, if I DIDN’T feel like that, it would clearly mean something was wrong with ME, right?

The day came, and it was slightly traumatic and filled with anxiety. Emma Kate came out screaming, meanwhile I was dry heaving into a bucket as I got stitched up. It was all a blur, and when I looked at her and didn’t have that immediate Elmyra from Tiny Toons gushy squishy feeling, I panicked. What was wrong with me? Who was this creature screaming her lungs out that I was now in charge of? I really, really just wanted to take a nap. It was all so surreal. I was relieved that the dreaded labor part was over, but now I was hit with this new reality that I was in no way prepared for.

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Did I love my daughter? Yes. In an “it’s my job, and I am going to take care of you” kind of way. I would never let any harm come to her, and I would take care of her. But did I love her like I love my husband? The rest of my family? No, I did not.

The first month of Emma Kate’s like was so hard. I was sleep deprived, having trouble with breastfeeding, and I was grieving the loss of my old life and freedom. I felt like there was something wrong with me for not having the same love for my daughter as I saw some people have on the internet. Oh the internet. I will save that for a different post, but seeing everyone else with their babies over the past year on Instagram and blog posts and how they were immediately gushing over them furthered my panic.  Were these people being truthful? Maybe they felt just like me, but were scared to talk about it, as was I. To not want to spend every waking second with your child? Taboo! Terrible mother! That’s how I felt.

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People were very passive aggressive about when I started running three weeks postpartum. “Don’t rush, don’t you want to spend every waking second staring at her face?” Um. no. I wanted to run to have some alone time, I needed to think. “But how can you be so selfish, I could never leave my daughter’s side even for an hour for months after I had her!” The fact that people told me I was supposed to just stare at her and be content with that…again, caused panic.

Then, around 7-8 weeks postpartum, something happened. Emma Kate started to smile. I didn’t feel the Elmyra squishy gushing feeling that I felt I was “supposed” to feel, but I smiled back, and my heart melted just a tiny bit. The smiles came more and more often, and the random crying (colic) became less and less. I was getting reciprocation from this tiny creature, and it warmed my heart. Soon after that, she started laughing. All the time. Everything I did or said was apparently VERY funny, and around three months I started to be excited to wake up and get her in the morning and see her smile at me.

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We left her for the weekend with my parents to go to New Orleans for a race in January, and while it was great to get away and have some time without her, I was so excited to see her and hug her when we got back. The affection continued to grow, until at four months, we were sitting together laughing one day, and I realized I loved her so much I just wanted to squeeze her so hard just like Emlyra. I am now constantly pinching her cheeks, kissing her head, and laughing with her. I find myself saying things like “I can’t wait until we can do XYZ together.”

When you think about it, it really makes more sense to me to have it happen this way. When you met your boyfriend or spouse, or best friend, I doubt you felt deep affection for them right away. Bonding takes time, and it occurs at a different pace for everyone. The more you get to know a person and spend time with them, the more you begin to love them. This is how it happened with my baby, and I honestly think this is what happens to a lot of people but they are so afraid to say anything for fear of people thinking they are bad mothers who don’t love their children.

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I know I was afraid to say anything at first, but I realized a lot of people felt this way and wanted to let you know if this is you, that you are not alone! Don’t be fooled by instagram photos or blog posts where moms say everything is going great and they couldn’t be more in love or more happy. Yes it is true for some of them and they do have an instant connection, but I can promise not everyone is being truthful. For me it was more of sidestepping the issue and not talking about it on the blog. If being on social media seeing how other new moms are doing is stressing you out, turn off your phone. Step away, and don’t compare your life to anyone else’s. They may be struggling with someone else that has been a breeze for you. Having the baby blues is ok too, just be sure you know when it’s time to ask for help.

So, ask me now, do I love my daughter, in the squishy love kind of way? Absolutely. But I also know as I get to know her more, I will grow to love her even more. So if you have a newborn, and aren’t “there” yet, don’t fret. It will come. It may take weeks or even months, but don’t ever let someone make you feel guilty or bad because your love came differently or more slowly. We are all just doing the best we can, and should be supporting each other in this crazy thing called parenthood.

QOTD: Did you have an instant connection with your baby or did it take some time?

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Comments

  1. Joy Hargraves says:

    Heather I think this is spot on!! Let me preface this by saying I have no human children, and never wanted them. So I’m in that boat! I would imagine that you have some very analytical thinking processes in your life. Yes, you have emotions, but you let the “thinking” process happen before making any decisions. I totally get it!! There is nothing wrong with any other mother like you. Love is a process that takes a lifetime of events and experiences to develop. It won’t happen in an instant. I think you are an amazing lady, and I’m so grateful you put this out there. I’m sure you will have many, many more moms (or dads for that matter) coming out to share their experiences. You’re awesome!! Now go give your EK a huge, warm, puppy-wuppy squishy hug!!! 🙂

  2. Good for you for sharing! I definitely felt overwhelming love like I had never experienced before the second I met my son. But wanting to spend every waking moment with him? No way! Moms need breaks.

  3. Heather,
    You are a courageous woman! This post is so spot on for so many moms and most are afraid to speak it! 🙂
    Of course, we all love our children but we need that bonding time with them in order for that relationship to grow! 🙂 I struggled at first with my kids too but now, I can’t imagine being anything but close with them.
    And as for running just a few weeks post partum…everyone needs alone time! At the very least, you were using that alone time to not only do something for yourself but also to make sure that you are as healthy as you need to be for both your daughter and your husband! I commend you for that!!!! My kids are all teenagers and I need my one hour every morning to just sit and have time with God and then another 30 minutes to exercise. It just makes us better moms and wives!

  4. Blogging is a strange creature. Most only put the highlight reel so if you get stuck in the comparison trap you wonder what is so ‘wrong’ with you. Colicky babies are hard to deal with (my first was a classic case) but like you, that first smile for me told me I was doing something right. I’m a big lurker of many blogs and hardly any touch this subject or truly discuss ppd as for whatever reason if they truly say how they feel they will lose the readers. It’s the same with getting the body back, everyone is in a race against each other to have a flat stomach immediately after. Anyways tangent there but kudos to you for putting this out there.

  5. Thank you for this! I do not have any children, yet, but this is a real fear that I have. I am not really a ‘kid’ person and I always say, “I know I’m going to love my baby if I have one but…” I am so glad to see that someone else out there has experienced the feelings that I might one day have…I can’t say how I’ll feel when (and if) it happens some day but at least I know I won’t be alone, no matter how I feel! 🙂

  6. Great, honest post, Heather! I think it’s so true that everyone adjusts to life with a newborn differently — while I did feel that instant connection with Lucas, I, also mourned the loss of my old life for a long time (and occasionally, still do!). And I think that’s totally normal!. It’s such a major adjustment and, as someone who was used to basically doing what I wanted, when I wanted, that really took time for me to get used to. Social media is a scary beast, especially when it comes to parenting. Keep soaking in those baby smiles — they’re the BEST! 🙂

  7. Great post! Thanks for being honest and open. I love seeing how different motherhood is for every woman. I’m a few years off from it but find it all so valuable and informative.

  8. This is probably what will happen with me if/when I have kids. I don’t generally like people until I get to know them well, and you’re absolutely right about needing to think, and give yourself space. Not everyone falls hard in love after a moment. I certainly don’t. It takes time. It’s great that you’re so excited to get to know her. Jut wait for Mommy Daughter Disney Races! 🙂

  9. Kudos to you Heather for being willing to openly share your feelings. Its so hard to not compare ourselves to others, and while I’m not a mom yet (at least not a mom to a human, only to my fur baby who I absolutely adore), I can only imagine how difficult it is to not feel bad about yourself when you’ve been told that you are “supposed” to feel a certain way after giving birth.

    I often find it difficult to be completely open and honest about my feelings on my blog. I shouldn’t feel that way, since its my blog, but I sometimes am made to feel bad, often guilty, about something when I shouldn’t be. Nobody should have ever questioned you for starting to run three weeks after having EK. As long as you were following doctor’s instructions about when/how to return to exercise, then why is it anybody else’s business to question your decision? I’m facing similar criticism with exercising while recovering from my car accident. I shouldn’t have to disclaim to others that I’m following doctor’s instructions about what I can and cannot do, but after receiving criticism from several people, I felt like I was left with no other option.

  10. Sorry. I was one of those that bonded and was filled with overwhelming love at first site. I HATE being away from my guys for a couple of hours let alone more than a day. I would die! But that’s me. We went through 3 years of fertility struggles to get our first and I think that maybe has something to do with it. I’m so very thankful I was finally blessed with children. Every mother is so very different and there is nothing wrong with either way. We are all great moms and do what is best for us and our family.

    • I’m sure your struggle with infertility had something to do with the way you feel, I have other friends who went through infertility that felt the same way. I def. think pregnancy and birth experiences play a part, too. You are lucky though! I went through months of panic wondering what was wrong with me for not feeling that way. I love being with her but I also love a good break. I can’t wait for vaca next week! Hope to see yall soon!

    • I still think its different for every parent and different circumstances can affect it. I also struggled with infertility and then my son came prematurely and had to spend a month in the NICU and while I loved him from the first day as Heather says the actual bonding with him took a long time even after he came home from the NICU. I felt so guilty for so long since we clearly were thrilled to have a son after trying for so long and I’m glad folks like you are willing to share so that others know that taking time to bond is actually common and not something to feel bad about.

  11. Oh Heather, I totally understand what you mean. Both about getting to know your baby slowly and trying to figure out how to share on a blog. As for that momentous love you’re supposed to feel when you first have a baby, some moms have it. But not all of us! When I had the twins I was so overwhelmed and tired and scared I remember actually thinking why didn’t I love them more? But the older they got and I got the hang of mother hood, the feelings grew. When my youngest was born, I was more confident in being a mom and knew what to expect. I did have that as soon as I saw his face I was bursting with love. But I love all of my boys so much sometimes I feel like my heart will explode!

    As for what to share on a blog. I still struggle with this. Do I want to share the lows as well as the highs, sometimes. But I do also want to keep part of my family life to myself! Yet, I want to help others who may be going through the same thing. It’s a difficult balance!

  12. I don’t have kids yet, but I’ve read your blog long enough that I could tell that you were struggling at first. In this world of social media and people’s personal stories all over the internet, it’s sometimes hard to remember that comparison is the thief of all joy. Your post reminded me of one a friend of mine wrote last year when she experienced the same thing with her twins: http://mengalings.blogspot.com/2014/05/when-it-isnt-love-at-first-sight.html

  13. I so appreciate honest posts! I am one of those who immediately felt an unexplainable love and connection with my children. However, I was worried that because I felt this way with my first that I wouldn’t with my second. Funny thing is that even though it came with both of them, the feelings were a little different. I wanted to keep baby #1 to myself with baby #2 I couldn’t wait to share photos and have visitors.
    I was given many side-eyes when I started hitting the gym soon after having baby #2. I needed that time because I had bad postpartum depression with my first and was determined to handle it better if I experienced it with my second. I strongly believe that it helped me not have depression this time around because I made time for me. I’m glad I didn’t listen to the people who questioned me or tried to make me feel bad. My babies were with their Daddy and well taken care of the hour I was gone. I don’t regret it.
    Each baby, Mom and situation is different. You’ve got to do what works for your family and don’t worry about how other families do it. What works for them might not work for you!

  14. Heather, Have you discussed this with your Dr? Yes, it is normal to not bond immediately (I had a hard time with my first) but it could also be a sign of post partum depression. I think it might be worth a mention, just in case. It’s so important to take good care of yourself so that you can take good care of the baby, that includes your mental health also.

    • Yes I have discussed with my dr. Who said the lack of bonding was totally normal, and my panic from it was caused by what I felt was expected of me. I was fine otherwise. We decided to give it a little time since that was my only symptom and like she predicted the love grew and everything was fine. 🙂

  15. Jacinta Dawson says:

    Heather, I appreciate your real-ness and honesty with everything you post. I am there is a new mom out there that really needed to hear this story on this day.

    I remember being in the hospital after having my second (now 9 years old) and the nurse bringing her in my room to nurse about 2am. Needless to say, I was exhausted and a bit grumpy when she woke me up. Sine I didn’t greet my newborn and the nurse with smiles & laughter, she immediately began to question me with: “you don’t want to care for your baby anymore” and “having her around doesn’t make you happy?” All the while I’m thinking, I just pushed out a living being, you’ve only let me eat ice chips for the last 8 hours, and you just woke me up from my 20-minute nap. Who wouldn’t be grumpy??! Bonding takes times and new moms do not need the instant judgement from others while trying to recover emotionally and physically from child birth.

    Looking forward to more great posts, Heather!

  16. Great post! When I had my son, who is now 7, I remember feeling VERY overwhelmed. I had no idea what to do or how to take care of him. And I couldn’t believe that the hospital was just going to let me take him home…… lol The first year I was very sleep deprived and on his first birthday I remember thinking that I couldn’t believe I made it to the one year mark. After that things became a lot smoother! Motherhood is definitely a unique journey for every woman and there is no right or wrong way to feel about it!

  17. Very well written Heather. As others said, you touched on a subject that not everyone would feel comfortable admitting. You actually made me smile while I was reading about EK smiling at you and you smiling back! I hope you get MANY more smiles in the future!!!

  18. Well said… and very brave of you to “put it out there” and not pretend the experience was what it wasn’t. The best things take time to grow and mature. Keep that close to your heart. I have three kids (ages 10, 8, and 6)… I came to motherhood late in life (compared to most) not having my oldest until age 37… like some other responses here we struggled with infertility for 3 years and finally had our first. The birth experience that first time was an event! A fast labor in the middle of the night, plummeting heart rate and then an emergency c-section. Not the experience I had dreamed all of those years. I had been told all my life that motherhood would come easy, I had good birthing hips (ha), I was such an awesome babysitter and loved kids. I would be awesome. I felt like I had failed at the birth but was so happy to finally be a mom… I think I was more in love with the thought that I was finally a Mom than I was with my actual baby. The baby love took a little time (and those first smiles sure do help I know). The knowledge of this helped so much with #2 and #3. (#2 was planned and #3 was our surprise FREE baby at age 41) My only daughter – my 2nd born – was my most difficult baby to bond with. From the moment I looked at her in the hospital I thought… “Who is that?” If I hadn’t seen them just pull her out I wouldn’t have thought she was ours. She didn’t look at all like my son and she was screaming really loud! Having been through this once before at that point I clung to the fact that things would improve and they eventually did. I do love my girl and my 2 boys. Each experience was so different… each of them… our family dynamic at the time…
    I just wanted to say that it is brave of you to put this out there and be honest. So many moms (me included) feel inadequate and are constantly comparing themselves to others. Social media can be a wonderful place to find support but then also be a terrible hole to fall into thinking you are the worst when you are bombarded with the “perfect” moms. Who posts the crappiest picture of the day anyway? No one.
    I would love to share this blog entry with my MOPS group… can I do that? The yearly theme this year is BRAVE – Be you bravely. I love the part – BE YOU… nobody else. I think your entry is a terrific example of being Brave as a mom. Thank you. Here here… to many more smiles! Thank you Heather.
    Thanks again.

  19. Heather, thank you so much for this post. My daughter will be 2 in April and I even still feel bad for admitting this now but I had a hard time really feeling connected to her while I was pregnant. I felt like I wasn’t excited enough or didn’t love her and love being pregnant like most women around me and friends on social media always seemed to be. I remember wishing I could just “take my pregnant belly off for a little while and set it right next to me so I can have some space!” I felt so guilty and I was so afraid that I wouldn’t bond with her once she was born. I remember feeling very overwhelmed when she was born but I didn’t cry with happiness like I always expected to. I was freaked out, then they took her to the nursery and didn’t tell me it wwould be “a while” before they brought her to me in my new room. It kicked in when I asked after her and they said it would be an hour or so before I could have her. She was having a newborn screening and routine testing. I told them, wrap it up. Give her here. I knew it was ok then and I would find my way at my own pace, but I was so worried for a while and felt really alone.

    Thanks for being brave to be so honest!

  20. Amen! I have a 7 week old and just starting to feel that connection – totally understand what you’re saying. It’s hard in the beginning when you’re just being screamed at and used for food. This was very well said. Poo on all that tell you it was well writtin but they connected immediately. No need to rub salt in the wound that all of our experiences werent as perfect as theirs. I too started running at 3 weeks and craved that time alone/reminder that I was still me.

  21. Thank you for your honesty! It is tough not to compare oneself with what others post. I have a 6 week old & I felt like something was wrong with me when I didn’t feel the rush of love when she was placed on my chest. I thought since I hadn’t ‘loved’ her during my pregnancy that certainly it would come at birth. I told my husband that I felt broken and that I was a terrible mom – it didn’t help that he seemed to be instantly in love. I saw the daddy-daughter connection and felt only jealousy. For me, talking with a counselor helped. It has gotten easier as time passes. Hopefully I will experience what you did when my baby girl smiles & laughs with me!
    My advice to other new moms is to get out asap and meet local mommies. I felt much better once I got to talk to some other moms at local La Leche League groups and mommy-meet-ups. It was scary to go at first, but I’m so glad I did!

  22. Heather – you are not alone. I felt the exact same way when my daughter was born 19 years ago. I was happy but not overwhelmed with joy and love. It took a while to form that bond and now that I think back on it, it happened about the time she started to respond with smiles and laughter. I never felt a moment of guilt when I took her to daycare for the first time at 3 months old. I was so happy to be back at work and with adults. When she was 8 months my husband and I went to Panama City Beach for a week and left her with my parents. Some people were horrified that I would leave her but it was as much for my sanity as hers. She was happy and so were we! Don’t ever feel guilty and do what is best for you and EK!! She will be a well-adjusted child and you will be a happy mom!!

    • I hear ya! Next week we are going to be gone a week and aren’t taking the baby. She will b just turning 5 months old. I have already gotten rude comments. Yes I will miss her but my husband and I really need this time away plus it gives the grandparents quality time with ek. They live out of town so are so excited to get to watch her so a win for everyone!

  23. Hi Heather! I found your blog last year looking for runDisney reviews and tips. I began to follow your blog when you shared your pregnancy as it was fun to relate to my recent experience of having my daughter last year. Anyways, I wanted to let you know that I appreciate all the honesty you’ve shared. Not a lot of bloggers share all the angles of motherhood. I felt like you with my first and once I finally got there, it was beautiful. Thanks for sharing your experiences as I can hope it helps other moms in the same boat.

  24. I am really proud of you Heather by sharing an honest, open and true story. In the social media world it can be so easy to show only the easy stuff, the pretty stuff, the stuff we think people expect to hear or we are expected to say. I have seen friends and family all over the board with this particular topic and at the end of the day there is no right or wrong, it just is what it is. For me, I was far more like you with my children and I think to an extent, still am. I believe that a woman who looks out for herself first is a far better mom, wife, sister, daughter and person. If your whole identity becomes about the child, or the husband, boyfriend, etc what kind of role model are you for that child? Bonding aside, balance is key to a healthy life both physically and mentally. Finding balance with a newborn is hard and takes commitment. I don’t think many realize just how difficult it is to fit in exercise with a newborn, or at least exercise on a committed regular schedule especially if you are also trying to work. It is a lot to juggle. Is that selfish? Some will say yes. I say to not do that, to not put yourself first is a disservice to those you love. There is a saying…if mama ain’t happy…no body’s happy. If staring at a sleeping baby for hours on end makes someone happy well, go for it. If getting outside and breathing fresh air and reminding yourself that you are still you, not just EK’s mom now, makes you happy, then do it. It really really is ok to be both. You can be her mom and still your own person. In fact, it’s the best thing you can do for yourself and your family as long as it is balanced. When one truly takes away from the other that’s a different issue entirely but that’s not what you are talking about at all here.

    I loved my children when they were born. Did the heavens open and the choir sing the minute I held them in my arms? No. I truly bonded with the people they grew into be. It is a different and deeper, and for me, quieter more powerful kind of love that evolves over time, and still evolves as they grow. And while that love is equal in measure for all my children, it has nuances for each that is different, just as their personalities are. That’s ok. Would I have walked through fire for them from day one? You bet. Do I plan my life around their activities and needs and make sure they have wonderful family vacations and trips, trying hard to facilitate all that they are interested in? Of course. Mostly. Do I still go on vacations with just my husband or gasp, a girls trip without them or have them catch a ride home with someone else or even say no to something so I can get my long run in? You bet! As kids grow I really truly think, in this day and age, it is important that kids know how much they matter, it is also important, perhaps even more so in this entitled hovercraft parent age, for them to know the world does not in fact revolve around them. You are starting out on the right foot. Well done.

  25. Awesome post!
    spot on yo exactly how I felt too. I had PPD too which just made things harder….but i can totally relate! So refreshing to hear others talk about it 🙂

  26. Heather, I don’t have kids, and to be honest, I don’t plan to, but I feel like I can resonate with this post regardless since I have a strong suspicion that if I did have kids my experience would be similar to yours.

    The internet makes a lot of things in life much more complicated and unfortunately gives us a false picture of what we should realistically expect from ourselves. I think you honestly sharing your experience is wonderful and I’m sure it will benefit others who are going through the same thing you did.

Mentioned elsewhere:

  1. Bonding With Your Newborn

    Before I had Emma Kate, I had family, friends, and strangers alike tell me that the day I have her would

  2. […] bonding with your newborn […]