I didn’t love my son the moment I saw him.
Somewhere between my water breaking at 36.5 weeks and the preterm labor, the internal monitor, 25 hours of Pitocin, two epidurals, the 27 hour delivery, copious amounts of my own blood smeared on the floor and my delivery nurses, and pushing while a vacuum pulled… Something in that process was just too much.
So when he arrived at 6:31am, I was relieved that it was all over, thankful we both made it thru, and fiercely protective of this stranger covered in my blood and his own fine hair, but I didn’t love him. I did love the waffle that was delivered at 8:15. After no food, besides jello, for 36 hours, I loved that waffle far more than appropriate.
It took weeks for me to love him. From the moment of his birth, I felt responsible for him. I never doubted that I felt connected to him, that he was mine. I nurtured appropriately ; I picked him up when he cried and admonished over zealous picture takers when their flash got too close to his new eyes. I just didn’t love him.
I was swollen and wounded in a way I didn’t know possible. I felt the worst I have ever felt, alternating between pain and anxiety. At night I couldn’t breath and felt paralyzed, so much so that I ended up walking laps around the mother and baby ward and then again when I got home. So even when my baby was sleeping, and my husband was zoned out in our room, I couldn’t sleep. I felt held down and trapped. Breast feeding wasn’t going well, so I dreaded our son’s wake-ups because I couldn’t help him. I couldn’t feed him, so each time he cried, I did too. My husband helped, he would take Lincoln and give him formula just so I could stop crying. And when we finally realized I was making milk, Linc just couldn’t latch, my husband researched breast pumps and decided which one to buy.
Those things helped, just having someone else make decisions helped, but I still didn’t love my baby.
By the second week home, I still wasn’t sleeping. I only felt “okay” if one of our moms was in our house. I remember fighting panic and tears when my mom would start to pack up to leave. When you are a new mom, struggling to mother-you need your mom. I ended every visit with, ” When will you be back?” I needed to know how long I had to survive until my mom would be back to help me inhale again.
I was pumping constantly, when I wasn’t pumping I was crying because our son wouldn’t quit crying. I remember standing over my crying baby at 2:30 in the morning; I was trying to change his diaper and he wasn’t pleased. Between his crying and my begging him to stop, I bit thru a Soothie pacifier that I had in my teeth for safe keeping. My husband came in to take over and I collapsed in bed.
I didn’t know what I had done to deserve such an unhappy baby; I didn’t know how he deserved such a despondent mother. That week while my mom was over, and Lincoln was asleep, she suggested I take a nap. Instead, I burst into tears as I tried to explain that I wasn’t sleeping at night because I couldn’t rest, despite being exhausted. And like all good mothers, she listened. When I stopped to breathe, she told me I was having panic attacks. She suggested that instead of a nap, I take the dog for a walk. That was one of the best suggestions I’ve ever taken.
I left my house and walked the dog. Something I had done hundreds of times before having a baby. The regularity of the action helped me breathe. Life had continued even though my life was frozen :The man across the street was mowing his lawn-didn’t he know I just had a baby. The fact that he didn’t care was exhilarating. The world was bigger than my baby . Things still Happened. Every day routines helped me find my breath.
It took me weeks to love my son. First, I had to learn how to breathe, how to sleep, how to feed my son; it did happen though. One day, while he was crying, I didn’t cry with him; instead, I sang to him. That’s when I knew I loved him.
It’s hard to share this. This doesn’t make me look good; it doesn’t make me feel strong, but it’s important for those exact reasons. See, I didn’t know that sometimes good women struggle with birth and new motherhood. One day, I sobbed to a close friend over the phone, she told me, ” You are regretting ever having a baby, you are wondering why you ever did this and how you’ll ever be ok again. You’re in the trenches right now. I promise you, you’ll come out of it.” .
I was so relieved that she understood, that I wasn’t broken, that my life wasn’t over, that I wasn’t the only one.
I’m telling you this because I need you to know. I need to tell you that early motherhood can make good women fall to their knees, but it is no indication of who you are as a mother. I’m telling you this because until I do, I won’t properly move forward. I’m telling you this because it’s ugly, and true, and honest. Sometimes good women struggle . I did.