There I was, sitting in the birth tub watching my husband hold our daughter in her first seconds of life. What a sweet moment it was.
As I watch this scene, from my corner of the birth tub, I feel nothing. Well not exactly nothing, I feel great physical relief, mental relief that it’s over, and honestly, really clear-headed. It was not a long enough labor for extreme exhaustion to set in.
I look at this new little baby he is holding, and it doesn’t register that she’s mine. I have yet to hold her and look into her eyes, as she was born while I was on all fours with my husband catching her. Maybe once I hold her, I’ll be overcome with emotion and cry and kiss her tiny vernix-y face.
I lift my leg over my husband’s head so he can pass her to me without wrapping her cord around my leg. I take her in my arms and look at her little face. Unfortunately, I still feel nothing. No overwhelming emotion, no tears. I’ve felt more emotion attending my doula births than now in this moment at my own birth.
At the time, I actually forced a smile because I thought “I’d better smile or people are going to wonder why I’m not smiling while looking at my daughter for the first time”. I sat there in the cool water looking at this little human being we created, feeling nothing. I really have no idea why I felt this way. I was so happy she was here, but the lovey-dovey feelings were just not coming.
Maybe because she had blonde hair? I had been picturing a dark-haired baby the whole pregnancy and never expected to birth a blonde baby. Maybe because she had this bulbous little nose that didn’t resemble either one of us except maybe my husband’s Oma? Maybe it was because she didn’t look like either one of us? She was just her own little person. I really thought she would resemble one of us enough to sort of see it. But she didn’t.
Do Not Cast Judgement
In the following days after the birth, we brought her home and started our journey as new parents. However, I still didn’t “feel” anything for her. I KNEW I loved her, I just couldn’t feel it yet. I hadn’t done this before and tried to have no expectations as to what was to come.
I was educated and knew what I needed to do to take care of this little bird, but you cannot educate your emotional system. I did the skin to skin, took baths with her and breastfed. I acted like I was enamored, but I was still a little numb.
I was never disappointed or worried about feeling this way. It wasn’t pharmacological, my lack of feelings, I was never given any drugs for pain or oxytocin during the labor. I was never on medication during the pregnancy. It wasn’t situational either. I had the best birth support from my husband, doula and midwives and gave birth in a birth center where I felt completely safe.
It was just me. My experience. I took it as it was. I had heard of other woman feeling this way and knew that bonding could take time.
Fast-forward to today, my little water monkey is 5 months old. I absolutely love her to bits. I am now able to stare at her with such deep admiration and heart-bursting love I could cry. I am happy to be able to say that.
The love feelings finally started to grow when she began smiling, and then making sweet little noises, and then eye contact. We also figured out she was intolerant to dairy. I stopped consuming dairy products and about two weeks later she stopped screaming for hours every evening and went to sleep easily and peacefully. My love continues to grow today, seemingly by the minute.
If this is a stark contrast to your first moments meeting your child, then welcome to a different side of it. This is normal for some moms, but it is less talked about. If this is your experience as well then know you’re not alone in feeling this way, and it will probably improve. Do not cast judgement on yourself or what you are feeling.
Some may wonder if I had, or ended up, with some sort of postpartum mental health condition. I did not. I would definitely say I had some baby blues. I cried when she was less than two days old because she was “so old already”. I cried when she sprouted eyelashes on day 3 or 4. I don’t think I experienced anything out of the ordinary for a new mom.
However if your experience was similar to this and is not improving as baby becomes more interactive to you, and less demanding than those first few tough weeks, talk to someone if you feel off. Postpartum is a roller-coaster of emotions and sometimes that roller-coaster just wants to keep on going. Talk to someone who can help you get off of it.
My advice for the mother who feels this way is to take lots of pictures and videos. I look back at them now with a different sense of amazement that I couldn’t when she was first born. I did not think she was a cute baby, especially while she was brand new with my husband’s Oma’s nose. But now I look at the pictures and think she is absolutely adorable. I am so glad we took so many pictures and video’s.
So Mama, don’t worry if the connection is not instant. It wasn’t for us, but in the long run, it really hasn’t mattered. My little water monkey doesn’t know the difference and is as happy as can be.