I always hear people say that as soon as you hold your child in your arms you will be filled with love for them, have an immediate bond with them, and all your worries about how they will change your life or about what you’ve given up for them will melt away. That all sounds great and I wish it were true for everyone. But it’s not. And it’s harmful that we all keep repeating it to each other, banging each other over the head with it. Just like with most things, there is more than one right and natural way. By ingraining this one process into the minds of everyone as the way, we make those who don’t have that experience feel like there’s something wrong with them. We often create an environment so hostile to alternate experiences that those people don’t feel safe sharing their experience. Don’t feel safe sharing. Don’t feel safe getting help.
While I was pregnant, I loved Ryann. I felt connected to her. I was excited to have her. She was longed for, waited for, and planned for. The moment she was laid in my arms, that connection broke. There was an alien creature staring up at me and the warm baby whose movement I had come to know so well was suddenly gone. Intellectually, I knew I loved Ryann. But I felt nothing. It felt like there was something wrong with me. Everyone expected me to be a naturally good mother and I hardly felt a thing. So I did my best to act how I knew I should and hoped that the feelings would follow suit.
The first couple weeks after Ryann was born, I was a mess. I missed being pregnant, I missed being able to plan, I missed knowing my whole family. I cried. A lot. I remember holding Ryann, looking down into her beautiful face, and wondering whether we had just made the biggest mistake of our lives. And I felt awful for that. Guilty. Dirty. I wished that she would just go away. Disappear. And we could go on with our lives.
I was lucky. I only went through this for two weeks. Not everyone is that lucky. And I can’t help but wonder how much the false story of instant love and instant connection has to do with that. How many parents hide their fears and regret and wonderings because it’s not what they’re supposed to feel. How much does this hiding play into these feelings becoming chronic. Turning into genuine depression. How many parents would escape from this by knowing that it’s normal to have a rocky start. It’s normal to have to learn to love your baby. It’s normal to wonder if you made the right choice.