It’s such a weird thing to write. It is such an awful thing to say — and to admit, at least aloud — but I didn’t fall gracefully into motherhood. I didn’t have that instinctual maternal response. I didn’t “coo” and “ca” at my kiddo or have that “instant bond,” that other moms talk about.
“It will happen,” they said. “Don’t worry. You will see her face and things will just change. You will change.”
But I didn’t, and initially, I didn’t even like “being a mom.”
(I know, I know. But wait, please. Hear my story before you cast stones.)
When I conceived my daughter in the fall of 2012, I was #blessed. My husband and I had been married for five years. We had waited a while and dated and enjoyed our time together as a couple. We had thoroughly enjoyed each other, but we were ready for “the next step”; ready to start a family.
So we tossed the condoms. I threw away my pill pack, and we stopped “being cautious.”
In less than 60 days, I was “fertile.” In less than eight weeks, I was pregnant.
We were officially expecting.
My pregnancy was perfect. I mean, I struggled with morning sickness and back pain, constipation and awful acid reflux, but I couldn’t be happier. My husband and I would read to “the bean,” we would sing to “the bean” — and I would dance with her — and I would write to “the bean.”
We were head over heels in love with the unborn baby in my belly.
So what happened? When did things change? When did I change?
The first time I noticed a shift was on the birthing table. My legs were up, the pushing was done, and after 34 hours of labor, my daughter — my beautiful and perfect little girl — was here. But instead of crying with joy or feeling that rush of pride and motherly love, I felt awkward. I held her stiffly. Cautiously. And when I looked at her smooth, flushed skin and into her little gray eyes I felt nothing. Well, I didn’t feel “nothing,” I just didn’t feel the unblemished joy I expected to.
I didn’t feel like I knew the little stranger in my arms.
While I would like to say things got better — while I would love to tell you that we “settled in” once we got home, once I managed to enjoy 40 straight minutes of sleep — that would be a lie. Because things got worse. Far worse.
Instead of finding comfort in her coos, I found anger. I found resentment.
Instead of finding joy in her chunky thighs and when I tickled her little toes, I found sadness.
And instead of finding love, I found pain. Insurmountable and uncontrollable pain.
Because I wasn’t okay; I was struggling with undiagnosed postpartum depression.
But I didn’t know that then. I didn’t know what was wrong with me, or why I didn’t “get it.” I felt like I was missing the “mom gene” and I made a mistake. I felt like a cold and callous b*tch.
I was sure I was nothing more than a bad, and unloving, mom.
Make no mistake: I love my daughter. She is my muse, my rock, and she is my world. But parenting is hard. It is an exhausting and thankless job, and it’s a job that comes with a learning curve. (Heck, I’m still learning — and my daughter is nearly three.) But it would take me a year to figure all of this out. It would take me a year to settle into my newfound role. And it would take me a year of therapy — and medication — and of learning and growing to feel adequate. To feel okay. To love motherhood, and to truly like “being a mom.”
So to you, new mama, I say this: It’s okay to grieve the loss of your old self and your old life.
It’s okay to get angry, to feel resentful. It’s okay cry.
And it’s okay if you need a courting period; it’s okay if you aren’t immediately enamored with motherhood.
Just stop and breathe. Just stop and feel your feelings — embrace them, no matter how “awful” they may sound, or bad they may feel.
Because they are yours. They are valid. And thoughts and feelings do not — and cannot – make you a bad mom.