You can read a hundred books, wander through a million websites and somehow no one will tell you that most people don’t feel the proverbial rush of love when their newborn is handed to them right after they are born. For many moms it’s the first time they feel mommy guilt. You’ve carried this child for 9 months (if all goes well), you think you know them, you feel ready to love them, and when they hand you this purple little bundle sometimes you just feel empty.
I remember standing over C’s little Lucite bassinet looking at her sleep and waiting for that rush of love. After a day I would have settled for even a little emotion, but all I could muster was the feeling that I should love her, and that obviously I would be there to protect her, but love? Not so much. It’s possible that after 28 hours of labor and a c-section, two nights with no sleep and countless nurses who seemed to love yanking open my gown to see if I was engorged I wasn’t at my best. I’m pretty sure that most people would find it hard to fall in love in those circumstances, even if you ignore the catheter bag that was attached to me for two days.
Then we went home, no one groped me, and I still didn’t feel that rush of love. She was cute, she rarely cried, but for the longest time it all just felt like I was just doing what I was supposed to be doing, almost out of obligation rather than desire. The stress inflicted by unsuccessful breastfeeding probably didn’t help, but it wasn’t the only thing to blame. The fact is, bringing home a baby is overwhelming. It’s difficult enough without worrying about falling in love. My daughter was well fed, clean and cozy. I hugged her, kissed her, and held her when she slept. She had no idea that my heart wasn’t entirely in it. And in the end, it’s like everything else, if you fake it well enough, eventually you pretense becomes reality.
I don’t know when I fell in love with C. I don’t know when duty turned to desire. I do know that today I look at her and I want to eat her up I’m so in love with her. Her laugh and her smile melt my heart. I watch her learn new things every day and I marvel that I had a hand in creating someone so smart and agile. Everything she does and says amazes me and makes me fall in love all over again. She owns my heart fair and square and I’m loving every minute of it. I’m over the guilt of the first few months. Now I know I’m not the only one who feels the way I felt, and I’m spreading the word one pregnant friend at a time. “You know, it’s ok if you don’t fall in love right away. I promise that soon you won’t imagine ever loving anyone as much as you love your child.”