MY EARLY MOTHERHOOD STRUGGLE
I didn’t feel an immediate bond when Naomi was born and I was ashamed to admit it to anyone.
How could I not when everyone talks about this all consuming rush of love a mom feels the moment she holds her baby. My birth happened so fast that it left me feeling exhausted and overwhelmed. Anthony handed her to me and although I knew she was mine, she felt like a stranger.
I spent the night at the hospital trying to process what had happened. I was pregnant and then not. Out came this tiny human being that didn’t have much of an Asian resemblance and I thought, ‘Is this really my baby?’ (My husband is French). I was confused about my feelings or lack thereof, especially when I would see Anthony well up every time he looked at Naomi. Why was I not sharing the same sentiment? Aren’t mothers supposed to feel this unconditional love towards their baby the minute they’re born? Surely there was something wrong with me.
The next day we took Naomi home for the first time and my doula, who was also my lactation consultant, came over for a postnatal visit. She asked me how I was feeling, and I whispered ‘I don’t feel anything, I think I may have postpartum depression’. She assured me that the first two weeks of postpartum are the toughest as moms adjust to their new role, heal and deal with hormonal imbalance.
Two weeks had passed, my stitches had healed and I was back to walking properly…but the bond with Naomi wasn’t happening, even though I was there for her every second of every day. I felt exhausted, lonely and also fearful about everything, even putting her photo up on social media. But most of all, I felt guilty for not loving her the way I should be. I confessed to a mommy friend of mine. This was my text to her:
“I think I’m having difficulty bonding with my baby or I don’t know if my expectations and ideas about what I should be feeling is wrong. I don’t feel this overwhelming mommy bliss and of course, now I’m thinking I may be depressed or experiencing baby blues”.
She immediately came to my rescue and assured me that what I was feeling is completely and a 100 percent normal. She said that bonding with your baby doesn’t happen overnight and it doesn’t mean that there’s something wrong with me. It was quite a revelation to me as all I’ve ever heard is a romanticized view of mother and baby bonding. She encouraged as much skin-to-skin contact, breastfeeding, co-sleeping, and singing or talking to her.
From that point on, I stepped away from all my other obligations including the blog and took the time for me to get used to being a mom and getting to know Naomi.
I would spend my days holding her as she slept on my chest, napped together in bed, nursed her on demand and got to know her coos and movements. I tried to be present with her as much as I could and celebrated little achievements along the way: the day her umbilical cord fell off, her first bath, her first smile, the first time she rolled over, and the first time she smiled at me when she woke up in the morning.
Once, Naomi and I were the only two people awake in the house in the middle of the night. I sang “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” as I rocked her back to sleep. Her head pressed against my chest, I smelled her hair and I said, “You’re mine and I love you so much”. A sudden gush of tears followed and at that moment I was certain about something: I loved her so much and no one could ever love her more than me.
On top of my attachment difficulties, I also had to deal with the daily demands of motherhood and it’s started to take a physical, mental and emotional toll on me. My second priority was to re-center myself in order to feel good again and be the best mom I could be to Naomi. I asked for my mom’s and Anthony’s support so that I could heal. They gave me the space and time to take care of myself. They made sure I changed out of my pajamas, showered or at least went for a 10-minute walk. I also introduced meditation, yoga, and healthy eating into my daily self-care practice.
Forming a mommy tribe proved so beneficial as no one can really understand your ups and downs better than other moms. When I shared my early struggles to a wellness coach who also happened to be a mom, I formed an amazing friendship with her. She said something to me that struck a cord, she said. “You get to define what motherhood is for you”.
Looking back, I believe part of the problem was that I let society define my motherhood journey and dictate how I should be feeling. Every journey is different. Some moms feel an instantaneous connection and for some, like me, forming an attachment is a process and that’s ok too. Bonding with a baby is like falling in love –a relationship will flourish from getting to know the person and being together over time. Let go of any preconceived expectations, be patient and have faith that it will happen.
Why have I decided to talk about this now? I guess it’s a healing process as I let go of my feeling of inadequacy. I also want other moms to know that we all have our own struggles and we shouldn’t be ashamed about it. We don’t need to suffer in silence in fear of being judged; talk about it with other moms or your support system. There is no right or wrong, only your journey. You are a wonderful mom and the best mom to your baby.