Saturday, August 13, 2011

There is nothing wrong with you

Since becoming a mom over a year ago, I’ve been regularly surprised by the things that you don’t know, regardless of how much you read or how much you talk to other parents. I was luckier than some—I knew that breastfe.eding wasn’t always a walk in the park, for instance. I had a pretty good idea of some of the common challenges.

But one of the things that’s represented in nearly every movie and television show I’ve ever seen, and is certainly something my own mother told me over and over, is how the minute a baby is born, you (the mother) are transported away by a love that’s nothing like you’ve ever known. It’s magical! Nothing matters! You forget the pain of labor! Blah blah sparkles coming out of your eyes! Every moment is perfection!

I know that may be the case for many women. I'm so glad for those who get that. However, if it isn’t the case for you, please know: there’s nothing wrong with you. You are not a bad mother, nor are you a bad person, if you are not transported by ecstasy the moment you give birth.

I’m not talking postpartum depression here. For a frank, helpful discussion of PPD and how one woman is dealing with it, visit Erin’s blog. I’m talking about those of us that certainly love our baby (or babies) right away, but are waiting for the Hollywood soundtrack to start playing and... it doesn’t.

34+ hours of labor and a failing epidural meant that by the time they had to take Elle, I was absolutely toast. And she was born in the morning, so there were a lot of hours to go before I could rest. And if you’re bfeeding, they leave the baby in-room with you overnight-- which I understand and totally agree with, but as a single parent with no one else to take Elle and let me get some sleep, I maybe should have asked them to put her in the nursery that first night.

(Also, when you go into labor, TAKE A SHOWER. Immediately. This is my advice. I didn’t do this right when my water broke, and ended up not being able to take a real shower for one hell of a long time. It was gross. My postpartum photos are not exactly attractive—I know they aren’t always, but had I been a little cleaner, it couldn’t have hurt. Also, eat something. There. That’s my advice for women about to have a baby: shower and eat. I’m nothing if not practical.)

We parents don’t do anyone any favors by being less than honest about the parenting experience. My mother may have been ecstatic every moment of her mommyhood—but I doubt it, and conveniently “forgetting” the tough patches means I feel less than when she says something that invalidates a rough patch I’m going through.

And that’s why I’m being honest here, and I’ll refer back to an old entry in this very blog: I loved Elle from the moment she was born. It took me a while longer to fall in love with her.

There’s nothing wrong with you if you don’t bond instantaneously. Some women do. Some women bond on the second or the fourth or the twentieth day. I know one mom who’s very honest that she really didn’t feel bonded to her son until he was six or seven months old. It probably happens even later than that for some people.

THAT IS OKAY. It is all okay. It’s going to be different for all of us. There’s no template for mother love. Anyone who tries to tell you otherwise is full of it. Each path is different; let yours unfold however it unfolds, don’t compare yourself to anyone, and take it day by day (or hour by hour) if you need to.

I still don’t hear that Hollywood soundtrack. That’s OK. That’s not how I’m wired. But I feel a powerful, protective, often overwhelming love for my daughter, and I would do anything—anything—for her. I think she's awesome.

I’m pretty sure that’s the point.

1 comment:

Pat said...

I had the same experience with my first. Before I even got to the part where you stated that you loved her at birth but weren't in love with her yet, I mentally expressed that very same thought. My son felt like a little stranger at first, and it took a little time to feel completely connected to him. Another thing they don't tell you is that there will be moments (sometimes longer than moments) when you don't particularly like your child, especially as they get older. And that's okay, because you know you love them completely and those moments will quickly pass.