Rolling over in bed, lights off and covers pulled high, I whispered to my husband, “It finally happened. I feel bonded with Bubba.” Our sweet 3-month-old slept peacefully in the cradle beside us as I shared the happy news. I laid back on the pillow and smiled up at the ceiling in a silent prayer of thanksgiving and joy.
Motherhood feels like the most instinctual journey I have ever walked, but bonding doesn’t come naturally to me, and it never has. When I pulled our firstborn onto my chest for the first time a few years ago, I expected the famous mind-blowing, earth-shattering, love-at-first-sight feeling to take me over and it just didn’t.
“Is this normal?” I wondered.
I was happy. Genuinely, truly happy. She was a calm baby, and I was blessed to have a relatively easy postpartum season with no depression or anxiety, yet I still wasn’t bonded with my daughter.
Perhaps it was the months of fertility treatments it took to become pregnant with her, or the miscarriage I had experienced prior. It could have been the high-risk nature of my pregnancy or maybe, just maybe, my delayed bonding experience was just another normal experience that isn’t shared enough.
Maybe it is more common than I realized at the time.
I will never forget the day my newborn baby girl was playing on the ground next to me, and I whispered, “I love you” for the first time. It felt so strange to say out loud— the words felt foreign coming out of my mouth, yet I know that I meant them. I would have joyfully done anything for her without hesitation, and after all, isn’t that really what love is about?
When my son was born, the lack of firework-style love didn’t surprise me so much.
I settled into the comfort that those feelings would come in time, and I could be patient to wait.
One day, it just felt natural. It felt easy and the “I love you sooo much” full-body hugs just flowed out.
One day, I noticed my second born no longer felt like a stranger, but like my son who I deeply love.
These days, my 2-year-old and I spin around the living room doing the hokey pokey and turning ourselves around in a dance of giggles and magic. I watch her build train tracks and block towers, and she sits on my lap for the “I love you” songs we sing. I twirl my son around and he wraps his arms around me as he falls asleep every night.
Right now, my kisses cure them, my calmness regulates them, and my presence secures them. These are the moments I have dreamed of my whole life.
I can now confidently say that I have a deeply bonded relationship with each of my children.
They light up my world and loving them is so easy.
I have learned a mother’s love is more than fireworks and tears streaming down our cheeks because we have never known a love so great. Sometimes, the first moment of a new mama holding her baby looks like a picturesque Hollywood scene, and sometimes, love is quieter and it takes its time to grow deep.
There is no “right way” to grow in love with our children, and there should be no shame in our different experiences.
One day, these babies we raise will become our best friends, closest confidants, and most beloved companions. We will toast our mugs and look back to realize that all along, our journeys of growing in love never ended.