Do I love my baby?


Yesterday we had the paddling pool out for the first time. Caterpillar had a lot of fun and then wanted to come and sit with me where I was watching from the picnic blanket. I wrapped him in a towel and we snuggled down and cuddled, looking at the sky and talking about the sun and clouds, singing songs and tickling each other. Not an unusual sight for a mother and toddler, but a moment perhaps more significant to me than it would be to someone who hasn’t suffered Postnatal Depression.

At one point my son gave me what we call a “hands kiss” (a kiss on the lips while putting his little hands on your cheeks) and I almost wanted to scream with the love I felt. Screaming may seem a little extreme but that’s how it feels to me – whenever I have a wonderful moment with my son – like I’m consumed by joy and relief. Because, for a long time, it was nothing like that.

As a pregnant woman you hear much about the magical and instant bond you will feel with your baby. It’s a given that you will feel a love for them that is beyond any other emotional connection you have ever experienced. The love you feel for your partner or parents will simply pale in comparison. You’re told that yes, parenting is hard work but the love and happiness you get from your baby will make everything worth it.

I couldn’t help but be excited about experiencing this completely new kind of love. I already felt very bonded to my bump and loved the magic of feeling my baby move inside me, I couldn’t wait until the moment I saw him for the first time and felt that lightening bolt strike me.

The reality was a little different.

Caterpillar was born by emergency section when his heartbeat dropped dangerously low after 12 hours of labour. When he was born they had to whip him off to suction mucus out of his throat. I was unable to feel or move any part of my body besides my head. Twenty minutes later I laid eyes on him for the first time. He was a metre or so away, and pretty blurry as I’d had to remove my contact lenses before the surgery, and I couldn’t hold him as I was unable to feel my arms.

He was so cute, wide-eyed with beautiful skin, and undoubtedly mine as he shared so many of my family’s features. I was so relieved to see he was okay after spending the last few hours convinced he was dying. There was relief and familiarity…but no lightening bolt. No overwhelming protective instinct. No “instant bond.” No euphoria. I just felt tired and nauseas.

For the next eight hours I drifted in and out of sleep, vomited several times, and waited for my body to come back to life. I was vaguely aware of Hubs holding a small bundle in his arms next to me. The next morning when I was finally able to hold Caterpillar I sobbed and told the nurse I felt I was seeing him for the first time.

Whilst in hospital I mainly felt anxious and useless. I assumed motherhood would come naturally but it didn’t. My milk didn’t come in and I couldn’t get him to sleep much at all. Aren’t new mums supposed to want to hold their baby constantly, and never want them to leave their sight?  But when the nurses offered to take him for a couple of hours to allow me to rest I felt only relief.

Back home we began to find our groove but my emotions were all over the place. I would cry every night around bedtime as I knew we’d be up every three hours, if we could get him to sleep in the first place. None of this is unusual, this is how life is during the first couple of weeks with any newborn but in addition to the usual sleep deprivation and steep learning curve I was dealing with a terrifying internal struggle: do I love my baby?

That awful, paralysing, guilt-laden thought kept whispering across my brain with increasing frequency until it got so loud it was all I could hear. I don’t think I’m enjoying this. What’s to enjoy? I’m just tired and drained. I thought these were meant to be the happiest days of my life. He’s so adorable, cuddles are nice but is this really my life now, forever? Oh my God, why am I thinking like this? Do I not love him? Is there something wrong with me, I should be happy to take care of him, shouldn’t I?

I cared about him a great deal, I found him beautiful, and I felt duty-bound to protect him – but that was the thing, it felt like duty, not overwhelming, uncontrollable love.

I believe it was these few thoughts about how I felt about my son and my new life as a mother than sparked the anxiety attacks which led to my PND diagnosis. I wish so deeply that I had known then what I know now.

That not everyone feels an instant, overwhelming bond with their baby. That the first few months of your child’s life may not be the best time of your life. That newborns don’t give much back, but they sure take a lot. That just because your bond isn’t instant it doesn’t mean you won’t have an amazing relationship in the future. That different people are suited to different ages and areas of parenting.

I wish I had known that I didn’t have to worry, that I would fall in love with Caterpillar. That as he grew, and as I got my anxiety under control, I would grow to love and enjoy so many things about him. That slowly, eventually, I would begin to feel overwhelmed by that love. That the love you feel for a child is unique but maybe not in the way you imagine; it’s complicated and conflicted and huge, sometimes so big you think you might explode with it.

I wish I had known that one day, two years later, I would lay with him on a blanket in the sunshine and want to scream with how much I loved him.

Best of Worst
Twinkly Tuesday

52 comments on “Do I love my baby?

  1. Thank you for writing this Laura. We have many mums at our support group who feel like this and they are terrified and ashamed. This will undoubtedly help them xx

  2. That’s a gorgeous, honest account and tribute. We too had a traumatic birthing with baby #1, and I was more than happy to leave the nurturing to the experienced nurses. I’m so happy you worked your way out of that black hole and found a better place. <3

  3. You are a beautiful warrior. You stand
    Up and inspire and love and your honesty will support in ways you will never know. I’m bloody crying again. We aren’t alone in this, we weren’t. Thank you

  4. You have written this soooo beautifully. I wish that more women knew that it’s okay not to feel that lightening bolt you speak of. Labour and birth are difficult and sometimes traumatic and then afterwards you are sore and exhausted. It’s okay to feel underwhelmed by the little alien you bring in to your lives because over time you do fall in love and when you do it is scream worthy. I struggled because I was so afraid that something would happen to my little man that I struggled to form a closed bond out of fear. I still have those fears but now I love him fiercely. I’m so glad you wrote this, well done hun it’s never easy to write these posts and I am incedibally proud of you x

    1. Thanks, lovely. I think there was definitely an element of the same thing for me – because I thought he was going to die I emotionally distanced myself a little. Plus, different people are suited to different stages. I thought everyone loved the newborn stage, but I’ve discovered that’s not true. Personally, as Caterpillar’s speech is developing I’m falling deeper and deeper in love with him so I guess I just enjoy slightly older children better 🙂

      Thanks for reading and commenting x

  5. I felt like this for such a long time and sometimes I think I still do. Maybe I just don’t understand what love is supposed to feel like. I’m glad you are feeling better, too many women feel like this and get more ill hiding it out of fear or unwarranted shame xxx


    1. I think it’s all about expectations. The love I imagined was an impossible, perfect love but in reality the love you feel for your kids is so complex. I go from wanting to explode with love for my son to being so frustrated and wanting to pull my hair out. It’s just a lot of emotion of all kinds, I find x

  6. This is an awesome post, not for what you went through but because you wrote it. I felt very similar at first to you – perhaps not as extreme but I was convinced everyone loved my daughter more than me. I felt anxious at night as always wondered how much sleep we would get and it took about 3 weeks for me to bond and when I cried when my girl had her 8 week jabs I knew I loved her. So glad you have some a lovely relationship now and all is better. Thanks for sharing with #bestandworst and see you soon xx

  7. Thank you for sharing. This is such a beautiful, honest post. I totally get the wanting to scream with love, it does sometimes feel overwhelming. Sorry to hear you had such a tough start to motherhood x

  8. Wonderful post, I could’ve written it myself, I felt exactly this way after my first, I spent the first couple of weeks shell shocked! It helps to write it down doesn’t it.


  9. What a great post, this will be so helpful for those out there who are going through the situation you were in that will see this and realise that actually in time it does get better. #MagicMoments

  10. This is a wonderful post, so honest, brave and hopeful. I think more of us feel like this than we know, I certainly did first time round (after a very similar birth to yours). It is good for us to talk about it x #magicmoments

  11. Inspired by this, honest, raw, poignant, and certainly reflective. I asked myself this so so many times, beat myself up for it, hated myself for been unable to connect and bond with my son. Little did i know it was PPD. over the years, I have accepted this was a condition, and the fact that I realized it was one was the first step. Today, i am humbled to see the strides made. blogged about it during my 30-day writing challenge which you can read here if interested. :

    Love your blog too. The theme is so eclectic, gentle…easy to read 🙂

  12. Really beautifully written account of how you felt and how you feel now. I think every Mum-to-be should read experiences like this so they don’t feel like they’re the only one.
    I didn’t have PND but I did really struggle sometimes due to lack of sleep and raging hormones, perhaps more so with my second than first and reading blogs like this helped keep me sane. I am so glad that people are being so much more honest about the dark bits of parenting as well as the great bits. It really helps. Now I’m just going to go and get a tissue!
    Thank you x

  13. What a great post, so honest and will be really reassuring to those going through similar. It must’ve been hard to write, but will help so so many others. #twinklytuesday

  14. This is exactly how I felt with my son. I always imagined that he would be placed on my chest and I would fall in love instantly, but that wasn’t the way it happened. Thank you for writing this.

  15. What a refreshing post! I certainly didn´t feel the immediate overwhelming bond with my son. I had an awful labour, followed by a nightmare time with breastfeeding and a baby who cried constantly and never slept. Ofcourse I adored him but I felt extremely alone at the time with my feelings. Obviously now things are very different, but it´s calming to hear other mums experienced something similar #twinklytuesday

  16. Thank you so much for sharing your experience, with such honesty and hope. By some miracle, I avoided PND, but I knew that I was susceptible and did a lot of research ahead of time. I truly believe that it’s stories like yours, letting me know that everything I was feeling after a traumatic birth was okay, that helped me avoid PND. Thanks for linking with #TwinklyTuesday.

  17. Amazing post, thank you so much for writing it (and linking to it!). The thing that I’m getting (as a soon to be Mum) is that so many of us end up feeling like we’ve failed if our experience in any way veers away from what we’re “supposed to” think, feel, act, do. I’m SO GLAD that you have explained your experience because every individual one shows us all that there is no ‘supposed to’ or right way, there’s just the way that things happen for you.

    1. That’s exactly right. If you can let go of any expectations of how you are “supposed” to feel then you’ll be completely fine. It’s taken me a long time to let go of those things but it’s really freeing when you do. Good luck xxx

  18. I can relate to this OH so much. The amount of times people said during the first few weeks of his life “I bet you can’t remember life without him!” and i used to say completely seriously ‘well yes i can actually quite easily.’ They only ever laughed, probably thought I was joking, but I wasn’t. I felt just the same as you described, i knew i did love him as i felt protective and would explore every inch of his body in wonder that i created such a perfect being, yet I couldn’t FEEL the love. When pregnant, I thought i’d never want to have him out of my arms once born, but the reality was, the moment anyone was visiting, I couldn’t wait to give him to someone else to hold and when he would cry to be fed, and as i was breastfeeding, it felt a huge responsibility that i was the only one who could do it, i would sigh that my time was up already to have him back.

    Unfortunately, my PND was missed by everyone- including myself. (i thought it was normal). Life went on and as he got older and much more interesting and giving smiles back, i felt okay, and i thought it was over- that it was just a thing with small babies. But if you’ve never felt it, then you don’t know what your missing. Sure i felt bonded with my son, but between 6-12 months i started to notice things were different with my relationship compared to other mums and their babies, but again i didn’t think on it too much, as we were getting on so well now he was walking and starting to really show his personality, this blissful period happened between 12-18 months.

    Then it all went wrong again, his ‘Terrible Two’s’ started early and once the tantrums started, what i thought was a secure relationship, crumbled instantly. I found i couldn’t wait to go to work to be away, and i shouted at him so much at his seemingly ridiculous tantrums, that he cried as often as a newborn baby throughout the day, and i just shouted more. I never calmed him with a hug as it never occurred to me that’s all he needed.

    About 2 weeks before his 2nd birthday, we were preparing to move house, i rang up the health visitors to tell them my new address. They asked the innocent question of how things were going, and i completely broke down and was sobbing uncontrollably about how much i couldn’t stand each day. This is when things finally started to move in the right direction, She arranged a home visit a couple of days later and just a few simple suggestions in how to change my mindset and JUST HUGGING HIM made the world of difference, a few weeks later i was completely besotted with him, he was instantly the love of my life and i felt for the very first time that bond that everyone talks about, two years i missed out on that wonderful feeling, i just had no idea i was missing so much love. It’s that strong bond that makes you get through the hard days, the foundation to the relationship that is essential in coping with everything they throw at you, which is why life was great when he was great, but when the tantrums started, i couldn’t stand it.
    Now he can do anything to me, and i know he just needs a hug and i can deal with it because i love him. He’s now nearly 3, and the past year has been amazing just loving him so much.

    Sorry for the long post, but it is such a huge thing for me still, that i can never condense it when i let it out.

    1. Thank you so much for sharing your experience. Not feeling bonded to your baby is the most heartbreaking and terrifying feeling and I’m sorry you had to experience it too, and for so long. I’m also really pleased that you feel so much more well and happy now. Thanks so much for commenting x

      1. Yes it is a horrible guilt-ridden feeling! I just wish it was more talked about that not everyone has instantaneous bonding, I try to prepare people I know who are pregnant, but they don’t want to hear it! And I don’t blame them to be honest, it seems such a negative expectation to have.

        That moment you describe at the start of your post, a similar moment happened to me last summer- we were in the garden on a warm sunny day, I was sat on the grass watching him play, when he came over to me and indicted he wanted a kiss, wrapped his arms so tightly around my neck and we just cuddled and nuzzled and I told him a loved him so much, and it was just the most perfect beautiful moment that I never thought I’d experience.
        And like you said, that is probably a ‘normal’ thing that most parents might take for granted but I will always be forever grateful of those moments and appreciate them so much more than if I had never had bonding issues, so some positive can come out of it. 🙂

        1. You are absolutely right, it is not spoken of nearly as much as it should be. And yet it’s not uncommon. I’ve spoken to many women on this PND and blogging journey who experienced similar feelings but of course it’s so hard to admit to. I try to let pregnant women know too but, like you say, it’s hard because it sounds so negative and bitter. But I don’t think talking about it is a negative thing really – if my expectations hadn’t been so unrealistically high I wouldn’t have struggled so much. I just tell people they’ll likely feel that instant connection but if they don’t, please don’t worry – this baby and you are strangers and you will FALL in love. Still get blank looks a lot of the time but at least if they do experience it they may be able to remember back to our conversation and get some comfort from it. Like you, I feel so appreciative now of the love and bond my son and I have and I pause to breathe every moment in – so I suppose that is a gift x

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