My son was about a month old before I loved him. I was enchanted by him the first moment I held him, but I did not love him. I adored him the way everyone who likes children adores cute little babies, but I did not love him. I fed him, changed him, soothed him in those first few weeks, but I still did not love him.
Less than 24 hours after my perfect boy was born he was whisked away into the N-ICU (neonatal intensive care unit) where he would sit for seven days under lights for jaundice. Twelve hours after our baby was admitted my husband and I would both catch horrible colds that prevented us from visiting our newborn and since both of us couldn’t visit, neither could any grandparents or family. Perhaps that traumatic first week stunted my ability to bond, perhaps not.
In the early days after our baby was finally home, my husband would change him and get him ready in the morning before he left for work. One morning he told me how much he would rather be home as he coo’d to our little baby how much he loved him and daddy would miss him so much. I remember watching this display and the thought occurred to me that sure, this kid was cute, but I didn’t really love him, I didn’t even know him! Then I felt awful. What kind of mother doesn’t love her baby?!
My thoughts immediately went back to the birth at a moment when I was having a hard time and my girlfriend says to me “Just keep going! As soon as you see your baby you will be so in love the moment you see him, it will all be worth it!” Immediately my nurse said, “Don’t tell her that! Not all moms can bond immediately,” the nurse then turned to me and said, “it takes time for some moms and that is ok!” Mind you, I was a little busy right then, so there wasn’t much discussion after that. An hour or so later my baby was born, he was placed squalling, in my chest and my first thoughts were “Ohmigawd he looks like his dad.” followed by “eww, he is kind of gross.”
Very motherly of me.
I wandered around our apartment thinking of these things and thanked God for the conversation that my friend and nurse were having as I labored away. I cannot imagine the turmoil my soul would have been in had my friend not said “You will be so in love the moment you see him” and the nurse not replied, “It takes time.”
It takes time and that is ok.
Those first three weeks of motherhood I held onto those words. I had people over, shared my bundle, we all exclaimed over how sweet he was (and he was). I nursed, and cuddled and dressed him, and mothered him as best I could in spite of not having yet fallen in love.
Then, one day as I was changing a diaper a large pee fountain went streaming into the air. Seconds later projectile baby poo went flying onto the wall. I looked at my tiny boy just minding his own business there on the changing table and started laughing. I laughed so hard, nuzzled his little cheeks and before I knew what I was saying giggled, “I love you, baby!”
I have had two more babies since then, one whom I didn’t even get to hold until she was twelve hours old. Love came much easier with each baby I had. That first delivery nurse, unknowingly said exactly the words I needed to hear to give me the grace and freedom to learn to love in my own time.