A recent post by one of our favorite bloggers, Karen Sullivan, the mom behind Baby Chenivan.
I have always known I wanted to be a mother. So when I got pregnant, just days after my 30th birthday, I was overjoyed and by my 9th month, I was so excited to meet the tiny little boy or girl (we never found out the sex) who had been kicking around inside my belly for so long.
When Nathan was finally born and the doctor laid him on my chest, I was expecting that moment everyone talks about. That "I instantly fell in love" moment. So imagine my surprise when I did not feel that way. Instead all I felt was fear. I had expected to instantly bond with my baby, the way a mother was "supposed to", but that didn't happen for me. I reassured myself it was normal--I had just gone through a very exhausting (both physically and emotionally) 18 hours of labor and I was just feeling overwhelmed. But a few hours passed, then a few days, and still, I wasn't in love with my baby, I was terrified of him.
I can't even count how many times I cried, not only during the first few days, but the first few weeks. Which then turned into the first couple months. Between the physical pain I was in from having given birth, the struggles I was having with breastfeeding, the loneliness and isolation a new mother often feels, and the extreme sleep deprivation, I was breaking down. I cried when I was alone with Nathan. I cried when (my husband) Will left for work. I cried when he got home from work. I called my mom on the phone and cried. I cried, I cried, and I cried.
I finally had this beautiful, healthy baby that I had waited so long for and rather than being happy, I was sad. I dreaded going to bed at night because I knew I had the long night ahead of me, with Nathan waking up every 2 hours like clockwork to eat, and knowing how much it was going to hurt. I was anxious when I woke up in the morning because I knew once Will left for work, I would be completely alone for close to ten hours. And I was scared that something was wrong with me because I wasn't blissfully happy, like I was "supposed to be".
Looking back at it now, I'm pretty sure I had either a mild case of postpartum depression or very severe baby blues. I think a major contribution to how I felt was loneliness. Will left for work everyday, my parents live out of state, and my in-laws both work full-time so I was basically alone every single day. That definitely took its toll on me because there was nobody to hand the baby over to for a few minutes so I could get out for some fresh air. I didn't have anyone to talk to or ask "What do you think he needs" when Nathan started to cry. There was nobody to relieve me when I needed a break. I eventually reached out to neighborhood Mommy groups and began attending weekly lunches and play-dates in Central Park. Being around other mothers helped so much, it provided an instant bond. Hearing other women talk about the same exact issues I was going through made me feel like I wasn't the only one struggling, I wasn't the only one having trouble, I wasn't the only one feeling completely and totally overwhelmed. I wasn't alone.
People kept telling me things would get easier and I wish I could have believed them but all I could think was "When"??? As time went by though, I got more comfortable with Nathan and more confident in myself, and I eventually came out of my funk. I think back to those first couple months and it makes me sad to think I didn't really enjoy my maternity leave with Nathan. But I've made peace with and accepted it as part of my journey toward becoming a mother. I love Nathan more than anything and I wouldn't change any part of our story, because it brought us to where we are today--and I can proudly say that I am ridiculously, head over heels in love with my baby.
Karen Sullivan is a mother of one in Manhattan. She blogs at Baby Chenivan.