Now that my son is 12 months old, I can admit something that I would never have fathomed admitting to anyone. When I first saw him, of course, I loved him instantly with that unconditional love a mother feels. But, to put it bluntly, for the first year of his life I just didn’t feel bonded to him. This was shocking to me because I wanted another baby to the point of obsession.
I have no answers to why I didn’t feel bonded to my son, as I did to my daughter, who I immediately bonded with and who always loved to hug, cuddle, sleep beside me, kiss me, etc. While my children do share some of the same personality traits – they are both sweet, funny, and seemingly always happy – I just wasn’t getting the same vibe from my son as I got from my daughter.
I worried about this. A lot.
One of the reasons I think that I didn’t feel entirely bonded to my son is that he just loved to move around so much. He was holding his head by two weeks, he was holding his bottle by four months, and he was walking by 11 months. He never sits still long enough for me to cuddle him, aside for the first couple weeks of his life when I swaddled him and he couldn’t move. Those few days were pure bliss.
Let me be clear. I know my son loves me, even though he can’t say the words. He never cries when I carry him, he’s more than happy to play toy cars with me for hours, he loves coming out with me. But the damn meatloaf was NOT into cuddling. Picture your partner not cuddling you for a year, and that’s what my son’s first year felt like. I’m telling the absolute truth when I say I would actually COUNT the seconds my son would rest his head on my shoulder. The highest number I reached was number nine before he was off of me, like a dog who just heard the doorbell ring.
I did admit my feelings to two people. One was my fiancé, who when my son would rest on my fiancé’s chest, actually made it to the count of 12 seconds. So, at least it wasn’t just me. But my fiancé didn’t seem at all worried about this. If my son was not related to me, and about 30 years older, and I was dating him, I probably would dump his butt, because there was some connection that was missing. I would think that the relationship was going nowhere. Or because I wanted MORE out of the relationship, which he clearly was not giving me (The hugs! The hugs!)
I suffered from PPD with my daughter so I know what THAT feels like, and this time around, it was definitely not PPD. No, my son is just not a hugger and didn’t like to cuddle and it really hurt my maternal feelings. I also admitted this, finally, after 10 months to my best friend, saying I just didn’t feel as bonded to my son as I did my daughter when she was a baby.
“Oh, don’t worry. My friend has two sons and she felt the same way about her second,” she said.
So, obviously, there ARE people out there, who worry like me, that we don’t feel that bond with our infants that I always assumed every mother and child automatically felt.
My fiancé also told me to not worry, reassuring me every time I would say, “Oh, I just got my eight SECONDS of cuddle time.” He remembers his two children not being big into cuddling either when they were infants. It wasn’t until later, when they learned to walk and talk, that they became huge into cuddling.
With my daughter, I swear I was in UTOPIA every time she fell asleep on me, or wrapped her arms around my neck, which was ALWAYS. My son does fall asleep on me when I give him his bottle at night but all I could think was, “But that’s because he’s tired.”
I love my son. When I look at him, I can almost feel my heart cracking in half because I love him so much. So I just didn’t get why I didn’t feel bonded to him, because aren’t ALL mothers supposed to feel this incomparable relationship with their own child? And, of course, people don’t talk about this.
But then something wonderful happened. My son, at 13 months, started reaching out for me whenever someone else tried to hold him. If I propped pillows on my bed right, he would actually last almost half an hour, just lying beside me. He now nuzzles and rests his head on my shoulder and wraps his arms around my neck for minutes as opposed to seconds. So maybe it’s true that some babies just ARE NOT into cuddling, which results in us mothers questioning WHAT IS WRONG WITH US?
Just like I wish more married couples would just TELL me how they make their marriage work, or openly admit that they have regrets about marrying the wrong person, I wish more mothers would just SPEAK up and say, “Don’t worry. My infant was not into cuddling either, except with his toy truck. It doesn’t mean he loves you any less.”
I, too, am part of this problem. I didn’t admit that I didn’t feel bonded to my child for an entire year, until now, when I finally do.
(photo: The Big Crafty, Asheville)