Love, Mommy

Letters, thoughts and musings for my girls

Bonding with Baby

on January 24, 2012

When I got married over three years ago, I knew that children would be in our future.  I’m not sure why that is, considering I don’t particularly care for children as a whole.  They’re messy, loud, and tend to be inappropriate a good portion of the time.  Going into our marriage, I also knew that there was a good chance that physically having my own children might medically be difficult for me.  So a year into it, we decided to give it a try and, lo and behold, it turns out it wasn’t so medically difficult at all.  After we heard the heartbeat for the first time, we told the world about our impending arrival.  From that very moment and for the next seven months, we repeatedly heard things like “This will change your life”, “You’ll fall in love when that baby is placed in your arms”, “It’ll be love at first sight”, and other moderately nauseating and redundant platitudes.  My pregnancy was fairly easy, as was (gasp!) my delivery.  So, imagine my shock and guilt when my daughter was placed in my arms for the first time and I didn’t feel those things.  I wasn’t immediately in love, immediately bonded, or immediately changed.  I was confused.  And I wish someone had told me ahead of time that this was OK.  Why did I feel this way?

I was unrecognizable.  I knew how to be pre-baby me.  I had a job, a husband and a thriving social life.  I was independent and fun.  I’d learned how to be pregnant me.  I’d grown accustomed to saying things like “Oh, I’m fine, just a little tired!”, “She’s kicking up a storm”, and “Please pass the French fries.”  I’d learned how to play the baby card as needed and knew this tiny being as intimately as one person can know another.  But when she arrived, I realized with striking clarity that I was no longer either one of those people.  Physically, I was sore, cracked and stitched in unmentionable places.  I felt like a deflated balloon, was shocked at the sense of physical emptiness that was left, and had a body that had an entirely new shape (and not an altogether pleasant one!).  Emotionally, I could no longer be independent, nor was I particularly fun.  I was on maternity leave, so could not identify with being an employee and so many things that had defined my marriage suddenly changed with the entrance of this new person.  Who was this new me?  And how was I supposed to reconcile myself?

She was unrecognizable.  Throughout my pregnancy, my husband and I would marvel at the regular email updates received discussing the ‘status’ of our unborn fetus.  “Oh, she’s the size of a grape/orange/watermelon this week!” we’d exclaim.  I knew when she developmentally should be forming fingernails, or eyelashes, or fingerprints.  I learned her habits- she slept best when I slept on my left side, when she could hear the shower pattering against my swollen belly, or when I waddled back and forth on the treadmill.  I knew when she had the hiccups, that chocolate riled her up and that she loved to stretch out as much as she could with her hands above her head.  But when she entered the world, none of these things really mattered anymore.  It didn’t matter how I slept, or when I showered and I certainly couldn’t feel her tiny hands stretching above her head anymore.  We were no longer one, but two.  The separation and the realization that this was a tiny human that either had or would develop her own preferences and habits floored me.  Who was this little person?

Instinctual overload.  As soon as she was quite literally born, I reached down to hold her.  Did I plan this all along?  No way.  In fact, logic tells me that I would’ve preferred her clean and bundled.  But nope, that is not how it went down.  I took her because she was MINE.  I was terrified of breastfeeding prior to her arrival, but we did it immediately because that is what I felt like I should do and what my body seemed to require.  It’s complete garbage when mothers say you will instinctually know what a cry means.  Sure, when she was 6 months, I knew if she was crying for food, or out of pain, or just for attention.  But those first couple of weeks?  No idea, just crying.  But I held her, or changed her, or fed her because that’s what you’re supposed to do, or what my instincts said to do.  When she tensed up and kicked her little legs, I massaged her belly and pulled out the gas drops.  When she got too worked up to eat, I’d lay her on my chest skin to skin until she calmed down.  There was no faulting my instinct, but did I do it immediately because “it was love at first sight”?  No.  I did it because I felt it was the right/appropriate/motherly thing to do.

One morning, I walked into her room to scoop her out of her crib to start the never-ending monotonous cycle that was our routine in those early days.  I was tired, hungry and I’m sure my personal hygiene was questionable.  I looked down at her and she smiled at me in recognition as if to say “Hey, it’s you again!  Wow, what a night we had, huh? “.  And I loved her, I was bonded to her, unconditionally and without fail.  It was because of who she was, who she had made me, and who we were together.  It was a bond that was built, not a bond that was automatic.  And there’s no guilt in that.


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