I had a tough first labor. By some people’s standards it might have been easy and by some it might have been terrible. No one’s life was ever in danger, as far as I know. We all came out on the other side healthy. It seemed neither of us were happy, but at least we were healthy. For me it was life changing and absolutely shocking to become a mother. When she was born, I was so tired that I couldn’t see straight. We spent agonizing weeks trying to get her to nurse. I strapped on a medieval torture device every three hours for twenty minutes for two months and cried my eyes out. If I wasn’t crying, I felt just numb. I was terrified to tell anyone how utterly tired, unhappy, scared and frustrated I was. My husband and I spent sleepless night after sleepless night pacing the living room with a screaming blob that just couldn’t seem to settle down. My knees ached. I worried I might never be able to take another step. My house smelled like body odor and breast milk. I didn’t have time to eat, let alone shower. I don’t remember who I finally admitted it to. Maybe I just said it to myself, out loud this time. About four years ago to the day, I said the thing I’d almost been too afraid to even allow myself to think. “I feel nothing for this baby.”
As soon as I said it out loud it was as if the floodgates had opened. My once numb emotions came pouring out. I quit trying to succeed at the losing battle that was our breastfeeding. I finally said yes to a friend from birthing class who was pushing me to get out to a stroller fitness class. I felt love. I allowed myself to love myself and to admit that I wasn’t sure I loved this baby just yet. I gave myself space for that to be ok. And when I really thought about it, I did love this baby, or at least I was starting to. Before becoming a mom, I had felt sure that having a child was instant rainbows, butterflies and matching Laura Ashley dresses. Boy was I wrong.
I still feel anxiety when I see someone posting on Facebook about bringing a new baby home from the hospital. It brings back memories of the lost, helpless feelings I had. Luckily, I have done this a second time and I know this can be a joyful experience too. And I do remember joy from the first time as well. It’s just so tough to finally admit something to yourself that you’ve been trying to bury so deeply. It’s a shame that women feel there is a stigma around these types of feelings. I remember feeling just so ashamed that I wasn’t sure I loved this baby. And so ashamed that I wondered how bad I had screwed up my now seemingly perfect life by having this child. It didn’t take long after my confession for me to fall head over heels. And now, as I snuggle in bed next to my oldest girl, I wonder how I could ever express in words how very much she means to me.