I didn’t feel connected to my daughter the moment she was born. I didn’t experience the immediate “falling in love” with her that my husband did.
As family visited the hospital room, and later our home, they would ask questions like, “Can you believe how much you can love someone so fast?!” I smiled and agreed, but behind my smile, wondered what was wrong with me.
How could I not feel deeply connected? I carried her inside of me for nine months for crying out loud. I felt her every kick and bump. I talked to her in the car while I was running errands, and felt her dig her heels into my side in response.
And yet when she was born, I didn’t feel that deep heart connection that mothers gush about. Maybe it was because I was battling depression. Maybe because I felt so overwhelmed and lost in my new role.
When I talked to her, she stared at me in wonder, eyes bright, with no clear emotion on her face for me to read and respond and connect. Or she cried. I would check her diaper and try to feed her, the only two tricks I had up my sleeve. If that didn’t work, I felt at a loss as I desperately attempted to rock and bounce her back into a peaceful state.
What did she need? What did she want?
For weeks, I felt like a fraud, a shell of a person who went through the motions and smiled at my baby, but didn’t feel connected or bonded in the way mothers are supposed to connect with their children.
And then one day, my daughter started smiling. And cooing.
I began to recognize familiar emotions, and to notice the tiny nuances between her cries. The more she communicated, the more skilled I became at recognizing and responding to her emotions. I learned what made her smile, and what made her squeal in delight. And as I did those things she loved most, a connection began to form.
I learned that she preferred fake screaming to peekaboo, and dada’s swaddle to mama’s. That she didn’t want anyone to watch her while she pooped, and that she saved her hardest laughs for our dog’s sniffs and licks along her jaw.
The more time we spent together, the closer we grew. Three years later, I continue to feel even more connected to her every month that passes.
Now she’s old enough to pick up on mama’s nuances. She understands my sense of humor better than anyone, and knows the phrase to sing, the words to say, and the face to make, to make me laugh so hard I cry.
She knows the exact second I’m about to open my mouth to demand she stop her shenanigans. And she beats me to the punch every time by warning herself, “Be caaaaareful!” or “Do we eat our hair? Nooooo. We eat food.”
We enjoy countless inside jokes and a closeness that I cannot rightly put into words.
So mama (or dad), if you’re not feeling a connection yet, you are not a bad parent. In fact, I would venture to say that you’re pretty darn normal. But you, and everyone that feels like you, don’t want to voice how you’re feeling out loud.
So I’ll voice it for you.
Your connection is coming. Your bond will run deep. Just you wait.