Today I wanted to take a second to talk about something that really isn’t mentioned and I think it deserves it’s time in the lime light.
There’s a lot of pressure that when a woman has a baby that you are supposed to be instantly connected to this little human, love them wholeheartedly, want to give them everything they need, and above all else, be absolutely ecstatic and obsessed about it!
But it isn’t that way for everyone, and it certainly wasn’t for me.
When I got pregnant, it was unexpected to say the least. I was so scared of what my family would think, I was scared of not being in the right place to have a baby, I was worried if it would tear me and Tony apart, and I was scared of giving birth to this little human who would be completely defenseless.
We honestly threw around ideas of abortion or adoption but both still felt wrong to us. She was due on Christmas Eve and it felt wrong to take away that life that could come around that special time of year. We knew every year it would be on our minds of how old she would be, wondering who she would’ve been, what would she have looked like, and all those other things. So we thought maybe adoption. Why not help a family who really wanted a baby but perhaps couldn’t conceive one? Keep it open to where we can keep in contact and watch her grow, where we could even be a part of her life. But we knew one day we would want kids and how would she feel knowing we gave her up but not her future siblings. Why her? I always heard a mothers bond was so strong, I also thought about when it came to her birth, would I really be able to just hand her off?
These ideas led us to our decision to keep her. We kept our little December baby growing and while I didn’t mind being pregnant (minus the nausea, and back pain, and peeing all the damn time) I honestly still remained just as scared as before. Everyone kept congratulating me on this pregnancy and asking if I was super excited but I lied every time I told them “yes”. I was still so scared of what the future was going to hold and still wasn’t sure if I could do it. Being a mother was such a huge responsibility. I was scared of labor, the bleeding, the sleepless nights, the anxiety of just trying to keep thia little human alive. I was afraid of knowing that I would never be the same. Life was going to change and it was going to change in spades. I knew that all these fears wouldn’t just go away either. I may get over some but there was always going to be worry for the rest of my life about the wellbeing of this child.
Through all of this I was also overwhelmed with a sense of loss. I struggled a lot knowing I would also be doing this without my own mother to rely on as she had unexpectedly passed away when I was 15. We also got pregnant right after my grandmother, whom I was extremely close with, had passed away as well. I wondered how was I possibly even going to be able to do this without a mother figure in my life? And towards the end of my pregnancy, my grandfather and my childhood dog also passed away that September. I had a lot of loss, fear, and unnecessary roommate drama that I was dealing with and my psychologist also warned me I was very likely to develop postpartum depression and what to look out for.
I’m sure at least some of you can relate?
Early Christmas Eve morning, my water broke and contractions immediately started. I waited around by myself in the darkness of my home wondering if this was really it. Was she really coming right now? Right on her due date nonetheless? Did my water actually break? I thought it was supposed to be in the movies, not some little leak?
I woke up my husband and we hurried off to the hospital and 12 hours later she was in my arms.
I just stared at her in awe that this little thing was inside of me. I was proud of myself that labor really wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be. I looked at this tiny human and only saw my husband. I knew I was supposed to do with skin on skin and to keep attempting to breastfeed but honestly I felt no connection to her.
I was getting crowded with congrats for her arrival and being a new mommy but deep in my head I was thinking “I totally could’ve given her away”. That connection that I thought I would have where I couldn’t let her go? It wasn’t there. I had nothing. These words in my head made me feel horrible knowing that I was saying this about this child who is my daughter. My daughter…such a weird thing to say.
I felt lost when they left us alone with her that night. What am I supposed to do? We felt horrible when she was crying and we couldn’t figure out why, only to realize we needed to change her diaper. Aren’t they going to give us like at least an introduction to this parenting thing? I mean I guess that’s what parenting classes were for but we didn’t have the money or time to take them. Dang, we are already really a mess. She’s a couple hours old and we were already failures. I say these thoughts but honestly we were doing fine. Tony helped with diaper changes and sang her to sleep. I attempted to breastfeed whenever it was time. Then, Christmas Night, they had sent us home.
“Breastfeeding is such a great time to bond.”
If you have done any reading while preparing for your little ones arrival, how many times have you read that quote above? I don’t know about you but I HATED that quote when she was born. You get so tired and all you want to do is sleep but they are non-stop connected to your breasts. You are leaking everywhere and even if you take a shower you are quickly covered in spit up, milk, or who knows what else. My time breastfeeding in the beginning was horrible. I was in terrible pain where I would dread and cry every time it was time to feed her. I would be cringing at her latch, my nipples were bleeding and crusty. Even if I wasn’t feeding her I would have this stinging pain surging through my nipples for at least an hour. By time that pain would subside, she’d be ready to nurse again and it started all over. Does this sound like bonding to you? It certainly was not a pleasure to me!
I was so determined not to give up though. We did use formula a few times so I could get a breather and relax but I kept trying. I was going through all the motions.
But that’s all I was doing. Going through the motions.
I’d wake up and feed her. I’d do the diaper changes, I’d take her with me wherever I go. I’d attempt to play even if I got no reaction in return.
Is this what it’s supposed to be like? Aren’t I supposed to be crazy in love with her? Why do I just feel like she’s a never-ending chore? Why does everyone make mothering sound like so much joy when really, I feel pretty miserable?
I remember one day in college, we had a small tangent from a critique where we got on the subject of babies. My teacher went ahead to say that it took her 6 months to bond with her child. Those 6 months, she said she just did what she knew she had to do because if she didn’t the child wouldn’t make it. She went on to say though that she knew she was normal and that one day it would just click. And 6 months in, it finally did. I remember sitting there wondering how can you not feel bonded to your child for 6 months. Like isn’t that just unmotherly? That will never happen to me.
This discussion popped in my head one of these days and suddenly it made me realize, what she talked about is happening to me. I had no bond. I was only a month in and I told myself, “if she could go 6 months then I can keep going too”. I just have to be patient. Isn’t it funny how things get placed in your life for a reason? Such a seemingly random discussion in a photo class suddenly gave me hope in my adventure of being a new mom. I had another friend keep telling me that the beginning is the hardest. Just to be patient for when they start becoming less of a blob and more of a human who can smile, or laugh, or when they start to play because that’s when a real connection begins.
Around 3-4 months in, we were finally (kind of) getting the hang of breastfeeding. It wasn’t painful all the time. I was starting to get more rest and I was pumping on the side so others could help as well. I had also started going to therapy for postpartum depression as well as going to a weekly breastfeeding group. One day, I left Riley at home so I could go to a therapy appointment and after I got out, I was told she was sleeping and I could go out if I wanted. I wanted to get some decorations for her upcoming Easter shoot for her so I decided I would make a run out to our nearest party-decorations store. Except I never made it there that day.
On my way to the store, I was at a stop and someone rear-ended me, totaling the back of the car and shattering the back window. I was rattled. I didn’t even see the guy coming. One second I was by myself on that road, the next was just a shattering BOOM! I got out of the car to make sure the other driver was okay. He apologized and said he thought I went already and didn’t realize I was still stopped.
We were okay.
But what if it didn’t happen this way?
Like I said, my mom unexpectedly died when I as 15 and it has been on my heart for years as I’ve struggled to go on without her. This was already a source of anxiety when I got pregnant and it made me start to write letters to Riley so that if something were to ever happen to me, there would be these letters to be like a piece of me to her. Now here is this accident and I start thinking about what if this was the moment I was gone? She really would’ve never known who I was. She was only couple months old, there was no way she would remember me.
At this point, I just wanted to get home to her.
This moment standing on the side of the road, 15 minutes from my house, all I wanted to do was get home to my baby and hug her. I wanted to tell her I was there for her and that I loved her. This was when I felt our bond begin. Was it perfect? No. But it was finally able to begin, and thats what mattered to me.
She was no longer just a chore. She was my daughter.
I took joy in her smiles and giggles.
I could finally tell her I loved her without it feeling like a lie.
This is my story of how my bond came late with Riley. I feel like this subject is a hard subject to talk about because people feel so judged for not loving their little blessings. How can someone not feel bonded when there are so many people wanting to have a child, wishing they could have this bond. Thinking they’re “just a bad mom” but the truth is this is a real thing and I think it needs to be mentioned. I know if my teacher hadn’t talked about this subject that one day in class I might not have been as patient as I was. This is why I feel like I need to share this for anyone who might be feeling the same way. For anyone who thinks that maybe something is wrong with them.
If you or you know someone who is struggling with these fears and anxieties let them know that it is okay! Keep on encouraging them that it may take some time, but it will get better. Let them know their fears are valid and that it’s okay to feel the way they’re feeling. Listen to these fears and do not bash them for having them. Every person is different and just because you didn’t feel that way doesn’t mean they have to feel the same way too. Encourage them to get help too. People don’t like to succumb to needing therapy because it makes them feel weak but honestly might be the best for them as it was for me. Having that unbiased person to talk to can really help put life in perspective as well as they can give you little things to do that will help get you back on your feet.
Mommas, if this is you, just remember to be patient with yourself. It’s okay if you don’t feel bonded and know it’ll come eventually. Do the things that make you feel like yourself whether it’s going on a hike, going to the beach, walking around the mall, working out, whatever it may be. These things will help make you feel better which will also make you ready to take on that little munchkin of yours. Seek help. It’s literally one of the best things I did during that time. There’s nothing wrong with the way you are feeling. Remember postpartum hormones are crazy and have their ways of working with our feelings. Last but not least, remember YOU ARE NOT ALONE! There are many people who feel or have felt the way you do and are happy to support you so don’t be ashamed of admitting how you feel.
In support of others, if you have felt this way and feel comfortable telling your story, I’d love to hear it below. If you just loved the rawness in this story, lets show some encouragement for those who may be feeling that way and cheer them on.
If any of you want to contact me directly to see encouragement or have more questions, feel free to contact me too. I’m always happy to talk and share thoughts with others because I know how much it means to have someone to talk to (Especially being able to talk to a human that can speak real words and not just stare at you with baby babble)
See you next time friends!