When I was pregnant, I was addicted to romanticizing about labour, delivery, and motherhood. I envisioned a calm, natural birth experience, dozing on the couch with my sleepy newborn, and “the big moment:” meeting my baby for the first time. Listening to the experiences of new moms as they told me that “all of the pain would disappear the second I laid eyes on my baby” planted this idea firmly in my brain that meeting my baby would be the most indescribable, love-filled experience that I would ever have. I dreamed about this moment daily, until I had essentially planned out every detail of how it would all unravel on the big day.
Well, as most people know, life often doesn’t turn out the way we plan. I ended up in a scene similar to the one in 500 Days of Summer, where Joseph Gordon Levitz’s character experiences major disappointment as his “expectations versus reality” play out on a split-screen. Instead of feeling overwhelmed by joy as I had expected, my reality was something along the lines of “we made a mistake; I can’t do this; I need help.” And the guilt was intense. How was it possible that this perfect little baby had been in the world for less than 60 seconds and I was already paralyzed with fears that I couldn’t look after her?
As she grew into a colicky, needy, and anxious baby my feelings of fear and resentment continued to build. I took very good care of her during this time and continued to breastfeed, hold her, and keep her safe; but the big, all encompassing love that I expected to feel as a mother – and that I believed I was supposed to feel as a mother – just never materialized. Then one night, I snuggled up to her in bed to help her drift off to sleep and as she laid beside me staring into my eyes and touching my face gently with her hand it happened: after seven months of mothering, I fell in love with my baby. And for the first time since I became a mother, my reality exceeded my expectations.
It’s difficult to admit these feelings to a public audience. I’m sure there are many people who will read this and think that I am a terrible person and a terrible mother, who doesn’t appreciate or even deserve my baby. But I think it’s important to share my story because I believe that I’m not alone. This Hollywood-esque, romanticized version of what motherhood entails can make so many women feel isolated and guilty when their own reality doesn’t meet their expectations. So I tell my story to help other women understand that they are not monsters, or bad mothers, or even bad people if they don’t love their baby right away. After seven months of working hard to adjust to motherhood, my hormones and emotions settled enough to let my love for my baby fill my heart. It was a long, lonely, and guilt-ridden journey, but I think my daughter and I have come out stronger on the other side of it all.