Love at first sight?
Having a baby is amazing, and I think that my 17 month old is the most wonderful little thing in the world. But it wasn’t always like that; when she was born I didn’t love her, and I’m not really sure I even liked her.
Like many expectant mums, I’d been very excited throughout my pregnancy, but when she was born after a so-called easy labour and the midwife gave her to me to feed her, I didn’t feel any connection with her; she just lay there like a heavy lump. I had very little experience with babies, especially newborns, and didn’t feel brave enough to risk moving her little delicate body, so there she lay until I plucked up the courage to ask my husband to move her. When we were moved into the ward and I was left on my own with her, I dreaded her crying in case I had to pick her up and comfort her.
The first few days were awful; the shattering realisation that we’d got this little dependant for ever was too much to contemplate. I had a husband to support me and was surrounded by loving friends and family, but I didn’t love my little girl. Perhaps the first few days are like that for a lot of people as nothing can prepare you for the change that happens when you have your first baby. But for me it wasn’t just the first few days, it lasted for weeks. Generally speaking I’m a very caring and loving person, and find it easy to show affection, but that didn’t seem to matter. I felt that looking after her was my duty and I certainly wouldn’t have done anything to hurt her, but it was so difficult not feeling anything towards her. I was worried that I would never love her, that things would never get better. I kept wondering if we’d made a mistake, although it was too late to change it. I knew that we should be grateful to have a beautiful and healthy daughter, and I did feel very blessed, but something just didn’t feel right.
But one day I suddenly loved her. I don’t know what changed, there was nothing apparently different about that day, but it was as though a switch had clicked in my brain. Instantly it was easier to deal with the sleepless nights and the general fatigue and I felt like a huge weight had been lifted from me.
I was fairly open about how I felt at the time, but I received different reactions. Some people were supportive; others tried to understand, although it was clear that actually it was incomprehensible to them that I didn’t love my daughter; and some didn’t believe that I meant what I said. I’m writing this in case there are other people who feel like this, because outside of my immediate family, I felt that I was the only one. So much is said about instantly forgetting the pain of labour once you hold your new baby, and how wonderful motherhood is, that it can be quite hard to admit that you don’t feel like that. At least not straightaway. I was given some very good advice at the time which was to spend as much time as I could with people who would love and coo over my daughter, and it did made a difference. It didn’t change the situation, but it was definitely easier when I could see the effect she had on other people. I was pleased to see the enjoyment she brought to other people, even though she wasn’t bringing it to me! It helped me not to keep my feelings bottled inside and that there were people I could talk to even if they didn’t entirely understand.