When I gave birth to my son, I didn’t love him. I felt protective. Happy. Proud of having had such a fine, attractive baby boy. And proud of myself for having another fast, natural birth. I felt tired, too, since he decided to that four in the morning was the best possible time to be born. There were a lot of thoughts and feelings going through my head that day but love? Like the deep, intense, and crazy love I felt for my daughter? Was not among them.
It wasn’t there during pregnancy, either. I had a rough and lonely pregnancy that was marked by a previous miscarriage and made heavy by the possibility of Down syndrome. Having lots of ultrasounds is fun until you find yourself having to drive commuter distances to the big city hospital to get them because suddenly you’ve become their patient. Suffice it to say it was a dark time, and when Bo started making himself known in my belly it wasn’t joy that I felt.
I didn’t hate him… I just didn’t feel much of anything. He and I had to overcome some bumps in the road for sure. And we did.
Why am I not ashamed to admit that – or afraid that someday Bo will find this post and know that I didn’t love him the moment I first saw his sweet face? Because I am not alone. Even without the nefarious influence of PPD or birth trauma, many moms don’t fall madly, deeply in love with their babies at birth. Plenty take months to experience that mama bear feeling that for a lot of us is the first really motherly thing we feel.
Bonding, my own mom once said to me, is a process, not something that happens in a single moment in time. She was right. Looking back now it seems almost silly to assume that I might have felt for Bo on the day he was born what I felt for P. after nearly four years of caring for her day in and day out. She and I had a lot of time to get to know one another.
My son, on the other hand, was a stranger – and one, through no fault of his own, of course, who was associated with the grief and stress and pains of my pregnancy. We needed time to connect and figure out who we were in relation to one another. I can say now without hesitation that I love him plenty despite our early beginnings.
And that’s nothing to be ashamed of.