Every pregnant woman has heard the anecdotes – Laying eyes on your child for the first time is the most amazing thing ever! It’s like being hit by a thunderbolt of love! You’re suddenly aware you’ve never loved anything so much! Nope. I didn’t feel that way at all. Not after the birth of either of my children.
After the birth of my first child, I was convinced there was something wrong with me. Where was the immediate mom-bond everyone loves to brag about? I believed Ricki Lake, and decided I was broken and unable to bond with my child because he was sliced from my womb. Has everyone seen The Business Of Being Born? There’s that scene where the French doctor explains monkeys in the wild will reject their young when they are cut from their body and not delivered ‘naturally.’ I bought it hook, line and sinker, because what else could it possibly be? Literally every mom I’d ever met went on and on about that feeling of “love at first sight.” Even my own mother. I’d had my child sliced from my womb, and now I was the monkey.
Wrong. The depression from my c-section and inability to immediately bond with my child was one of the things that drove me to start writing about parenting. And once I started sharing my story on my blog, I found out a lot of women don’t immediately bond with their babies – not just women who have had a surgical birth. I’m not sure why – maybe it was some intricate hormone cocktail that my body was just not able to create. Maybe I was really freaked out that an actual human just emerged from my body. Maybe the the shakes I had from the epidural were causing me to freak out a little. Maybe that immediate bond thing just doesn’t happen for all women. And that’s okay.
I’m not in any way comparing this to postpartum depression,** or postpartum psychosis or any other very serious medical thing that can happen to a woman after she gives birth. I didn’t have postpartum depression; I had a depression brought on by the pressure I put on myself to have a natural birth and my inability to not be in the moment when my child was born.
In retrospect it’s clear that “being in the moment” after the birth of your child is one of the hardest fucking things in the world. Whether you have experienced a surgical birth or a non-surgical birth – your body has just experienced a trauma. I know everyone insists childbirth is “the most natural thing in the world,” but guess what? It can also be incredibly disarming and scary, especially if you are on an operating table, awake, while someone is pulling a human from your body. I’ve heard having one emerge from your vagina is also not the most relaxing thing in the world.
Yes, giving birth is a “natural” experience. It can also be scary as hell and completely discombobulating. If you are not struck by a freight train of mom-love as soon as a tiny human emerges from your body – don’t worry. It happens to a lot of women. It’s totally normal. Those feelings of love will eventually wash over you. You are not a bad mom.
**If you are experiencing depression that leaves you unable to care for yourself or your baby or that you feel you may need help dealing with, Katherine Stone has amazing resources for mothers on her blog, Postpartum Progress.