Help me bond with my baby
May 1, 2009 9:19 AM   Subscribe

I am 39 years old, 22 weeks pregnant with my first baby (a son) and I don't feel very maternal, for lack of a better word. It all feels very abstract and I find very little interest in baby-related things, learning about childbirth/child-rearing, etc. When does the baby excitement kick in for someone who has not historically been baby/kid crazy?

This pregnancy was planned and I am happy that Mr. Murrey and I will be parents together. But it just seems so theoretical. I thought settling on a name and giving our son an identity would help (as opposed to calling him "the baby" all the time). But any benefit was minimal at best.

I thought actually looking pregnant (which has now come to pass) would help. Again, not really. I look at the baby in ultrasounds and it is fascinating, but still pretty abstract to me. Intellectually, I know the baby I see is growing inside of me, but I don't get all warm and fuzzy inside. My friends gave me all of this baby stuff (which is hugely appreciated), but I have barely researched anything else I might need.

My concern is that I know myself pretty well. When I am interested in something, I research everything I can on the subject. I am remodeling my house at the moment and can tell you what size gas pipe needs to run to a tankless water heater for it to work properly, but the thought of taking childbirth classes leaves me cold. I just want to show up and give birth.

By way of background, I have never had any interest in infants at all--still don't. It does not rise to the level of aversion, just extreme apathy. I start finding interest in kids when they can communicate (around 2). Can't say I have ever gravitated to the kids when I am at a kid-friendly function (which is rarely), but if I happen to find myself around them, I will engage with them and usually have fun.

I have friends with two young daughters (3 & 5) and I do seek them out and love them very much. I go to lunch with them (just the kids) every other week and love being around them.

I am not afraid that once our son is here, I will be a loving and committed mom. I just want to have more excitement about it now. Mr. Murrey and I were talking about it last night and he asked if I picture having our son there with us, as we will 4 months from now...Nope!

Anyone else ever have this problem? When does the mom-gene kick in? Is there a way to expedite this? I want to bond with my son now.
posted by murrey to Human Relations (41 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
I think it's fine to not be that excited now; it means that you'll be able to make some very important decisions with a clear head.

I know it's not at all the same thing, but I remember when my cats were tiny kittens. Kittens are cute, sure, but what I really looked forward to was having a couple of big, warm, lazy, purry cats around. My dreams came true! Slowly, the cats got bigger and lazier and, thank goodness, smarter and funnier. I loved them more as time passed.

I am not equating cats to children. Just my experience of enjoying a more mature nurtured-thing more than a tiny cute nurtured-thing. People get enjoyment out of different sets of circumstances.
posted by amtho at 9:35 AM on May 1, 2009

You may be experiencing depression, which is not uncommon during pregnancy - one of the attributes is feelings of detachment or general disinterest in your child.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:39 AM on May 1, 2009

I went through the same thing, last year, at 38. Don't worry about it. You don't have to be gaga over infants to be a parent. Infants, frankly, are almost completely personality free, and not a lot of fun to be around. She's ten months now and getting awesome. She's using words! No consonants, but hey. Consonants are for the conformists. Geniuses don't need them.

It's really okay. People will do their best to make you feel like every woman has to feel the same but it's just not true. People asked me if I was excited the whole time I was pregnant. The answer was No. Same deal as you -- a planned baby, a good relationship.

There are a lot of really humorless people you'll encounter and a lot of tediousness and a lot of people who assume things they shouldn't. I went along with most things people said. The only person I told the truth to was Mr. Llama. Everybody else got some variety of bullshit, because they wanted to have a vicarious pregnancy and what the hell. I'm not going to go around burdening people with honesty and my weirdo take on everything.

I still find it very hard to relate to other parents. In case that isn't clear.

You're not a freak. (Also, btw--I got really tired of 'pregnant woman' being my primary identity. It felt like it was all there was to talk about.)
posted by A Terrible Llama at 9:41 AM on May 1, 2009 [15 favorites]

My mom-gene didn't really kick in until I gave birth. It wasn't a planned pregnancy but we planned to continue it and have the baby. I liked certain parts of it: feeling the baby kick, getting presents, picking a name. But I didn't feel particularly 'motherly' or attached until that kid came out. I couldn't take my eyes off of him. At one point very early on (still in the hospital) it struck me, really for the first time, that I made this person. And from then on, he was fascinating.

It just gets better every year that passes. He's 12 now and has a nine-year-old sister and I really enjoyed my pregnancy the second time around, knowing what I was getting out of it at the end. Other people's babies and kids just are not nearly as interesting as mine were/are.

I think once you actually meet him and start caring for him every day you'll be fine. It's hard to imagine a little person until you actually see him and touch him, even though you're gestating now.
posted by cooker girl at 9:42 AM on May 1, 2009

I don't know that I ever "bonded" with my daughter while she was in utero, and I found it nearly impossible to imagine life and activities with her before she was born. It really all seemed very abstract until the last few weeks.

And for what it's worth, I didn't think it was a problem. As the date approaches, you may find yourself more interested in taking a childbirth class, but you can also find most of the information on the internet or in a book (my hospital-run childbirth class was a colossal waste of time).

Once the baby's born, you can read about breastfeeding or child development, and you'll have your son right there to observe and see what's working or not working.
posted by mogget at 9:42 AM on May 1, 2009

You sound exactly like me. I was told off by one of my friends for still referring to "the fetus" when I was about 33 weeks pregnant. We didn't have any of our stuff, aside from a few gifts, until a few weeks before our baby showed up. etc. etc.

All I can say is, gradually the excitement will build. For me, it wasn't until the last month, when she was kicking all the time, that I felt like it was all about to happen, and I was looking forward to it. Before that, pregnancy just felt like an intellectual exercise.
posted by gaspode at 9:45 AM on May 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

I had my daughter at 40. I hadn't had too much exposure to little babies and was sort of nervous around them and didn't understand them at all. They were cute and sort of interesting but I didn't really connect at all with other people's kids.

It was all still totally abstract to me up until the moment I had my daughter right in front of me. When we were at the hospital and I was in labor, I still didn't quite connect with the idea that I would shortly have a person come out of me. I kept seeing these babies in bassinets and thinking "oh look, a baby!" as though it was a coincidence that a baby was hanging around the hospital. The cries of babies in the next room didn't even really make it real to me. And to be perfectly honest, the first couple of weeks were even a little odd. All of the sudden there was the creature in our house and she needed stuff and we just sat there trying to figure it all out. However, I can say unequivocally that now, at 11 months out, I'm totally bonded to my daughter. Now, I see other children and I'm interested in them and can totally relate to them.

It was definitely a process for me. it didn't happen overnight and certainly didn't happen while I was pregnant. Some people are just like that.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 9:46 AM on May 1, 2009 [3 favorites]

You know, I never felt all warm and fuzzy about the preborn sprogs either. It was, as you said, very abstract. And I found pregnancy itself to be pretty annoying, which probably didn't help matters. I was grateful that the childbirth prep course recommended by my doctor was a single long evening that focused more on the logistics of giving birth in the hospital and less on breathing and visualization--I could not have stood the once-a-week Lamaze in a room full of earnest birth coaches kind of course. We named our daughters early on but I still actually felt stupid calling them by name before they were born, preferring to continue calling them by their silly womb names ("The Bean" and "Squishy Baby", respectively). Pregnancy culture in general is totally obnoxious, and I hated having to even skirt the edges of it.

I liked my babies just fine, but I'm not afraid to say my daughters have gotten more interesting to me as they get older (and by that I mean, every new age is more interesting from day one, and I don't regret the passing of any of the time so far). Not everyone would agree, but I thought the most exciting moment of having a baby was the point at which you could tell it was an actual person, not an adorable meatloaf.

Researching what you might need is more likely to make you think you should have a bunch of crap you really don't need. Trust me, anything you discover you need once the baby is born is something you can quickly get unless you live in a cave in the woods. All you really need is diapers and breasts or bottles. Please don't sweat all that mess.

Could it be depression as noted above? Maybe. But it may just be that pregnancy isn't your bag and you'll believe the baby when you see him, so to speak.
posted by padraigin at 9:47 AM on May 1, 2009 [3 favorites]

Can you feel the baby move yet? Maybe that will help. I didn't even feel all that pregnant until I could feel mine move (and it was around 22-23 weeks.)

Although I have always loved babies, I didn't bond with my triplets when they were in utero. Maybe because it was a high-risk pregnancy, I don't know. But I didn't feel any kind of connection to them at all until maybe 6 weeks after their birth. So don't feel bad if you don't feel bonded right away after his birth either.
posted by pyjammy at 9:48 AM on May 1, 2009

I felt exactly the same way! I think there must be some kind of hormone that makes some people enjoy pregnancy and feel all bond-y with their unborn child. I didn't have that at ALL though. Basically I just got annoyed constantly with all the "awww, I bet you can't wait to see your little sweet one" and I mostly felt like there was an alien inside my body. It got weirder the more he moved around, too.

I tried to learn about childbirth, but it seemed like a lot of learning for one day, and since I had a lot of risks/complications, I ended up with a pretty standard hospital birth, where I showed up and they told me what to do, and everything went fine.

Bonding with my son took a little while. It wasn't immediate for sure. I knew I liked him, but it was mostly intellectual, and it was a lot of work and no sleep at first, so I didn't really have much room for mushy warm feelings.

But you will bond, definitely. My little guy is 7.5 months old now, and he's awesome and I love him so much, more every day. For me, I just needed a little time to get to know him as a person, because I don't particularly like babies in general (and I still don't fawn all over the other babies at day care) but I really DO love him in specific.
posted by faustessa at 9:50 AM on May 1, 2009

You sound like a dad. They tend not to get that interested until the child is actually born, and even more interested when the child can interact.

You may feel more engaged with the baby as you feel him moving more and, as he gets bigger, sometimes will be able to identify his body parts from the outside. Your OB may be able to show you. Congratulations and best wishes!
posted by lakeroon at 9:52 AM on May 1, 2009

Looking at your question, you're ok with not feeling maternal right now, so I'll shelve the reassurance. Ideas for feeling more excited:
- Subscribe to one of those websites that tell you exactly how big your baby is each week and what part of its anatomy it is developing presently
- watch that birthing show on cable (I've only seen it once - not sure if it's on Discovery or TLC or what)
- decorate the baby's room - give yourself a proactive project rather than just receptive "people give us stuff" - the idea here is that it's kind of a feedback loop; if you do nothing, you're not motivated to prepare and remain apathetic, if you do a project, eventually it will generate its own excitment

Because I can't resist, I have to say that nothing much worked for me, not even the things above. Decorating the nursery worked a little. FWIW, my apathy was present for both baby #1 and #2, so I think it's just hard for some of us to picture something if it's not (visibly) right in front of you (physically, of course, I suppose it is right in front of you....
posted by dreamphone at 9:54 AM on May 1, 2009

These feelings are totally normal, just many expectant mothers don't have the balls to admit it! (pardon my language). You may not even be "in love" with your baby when he's born. Again, totally normal. Give yourself time and space to experience everything and approach it in a way that makes you comfortable. Learn about the signs of depression and talk to a Dr if you think that you may be experiencing some or if the maternal feelings don't kick in a few weeks after birth. Your first baby is an amazing experience that will be over so quickly. Don't get bogged down in what you are "supposed" to be feeling. Just enjoy the ride. Best of luck!!
posted by pearlybob at 9:59 AM on May 1, 2009

I think you're normal, since I had a similar experience.

I think my experience was also linked to not feeling great during pregnancy. During the first trimester, I was so nauseated and tired, I couldn't get anything done or do anything fun. During my second trimester I started to have high blood pressure. And when I developed pre-eclampsia and delivered at 32 weeks, that was scary but OK because I had a great team of doctors behind me.

What also helped was my husband, sister and a few good friends were very excited about the pregnancy. My husband went with me to all of the appointments. My friends were genuinely interested in how I was doing. And I also had a friend who was pregnant during the same time as I was, so we traded sob stories over e-mail every week. One of my friends summed it up best: "Pregnancy is not all rainbows and kittens."

But when I had the baby, it changed. Not like fireworks went off, but something clicked with me then. It was so much easier to have a relationship and feelings with someone I could see, hold and touch.

My little girl is the best thing that ever happened to me. She's almost a year now and it's been such a privilege to see her grow up.

You will do fine. Just be willing to talk with people (like you are here) about what you're feeling. There's no "right" way to feel during pregnancy. You feel what you feel. But if you think you're not in the right frame of mind, or if you feel like you're going to hurt yourself or someone else, you need to call your doctor.
posted by FergieBelle at 10:11 AM on May 1, 2009

I'm 30, and I'm 36 weeks pregnant, and I still don't really feel all gaga, exactly. I am, however, much more excited to meet the baby and ready to GET IT OUT now that the baby is kicking my ribs painfully, occasionally sitting on my sciatic nerve, and giving me heartburn that wakes me up at night. This has all happened in just the last week. Until this week, I would have been content to leave the baby in my belly for the foreseeable future. Which is all my way of saying, like the people above, don't worry if you aren't overly excited :) Congrats, though! Good luck!
posted by dpx.mfx at 10:15 AM on May 1, 2009

I'm surprised "depression" has come up here at all. Nth 'you sound normal to me.'

That said, while pregnant, I had perhaps the nicest time going to used book stores &c and assembling a library of children's classic books, and trying to find ones from my own childhood. Picturing reading them with somebody new was something I could get in to.
posted by kmennie at 10:57 AM on May 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

Agreed, not to worry! I agree on so many points from replies above. I am not the gaga for babies type of person. I found my first pregnancy to be more of a fascinating science experiment than this fuzzy-wuzzy bonding experience you are expected to gush about. This second pregnancy feels more of a means to end, and I am looking forward to not having endless heartburn, pain and exhaustion.

We were remodeling our house during the first pregnancy, and I'm pretty sure that took up all my available brainpower and focus (on top of a full-time job) so there wasn't time or space to research motherhood. I didn't do birthing classes or anything either. Once my son was born and in front of me, I cried with the relief, shock, excitement and emotion of it all. I think that while I did bond with my son once he was born, I can look back and say it was more of "feels tremendous responsibility for this helpless being" kind of love, rather than the traditional bonding you may feel you are expected to have. As he grew up and developed a personality that bond changed, and now I love him as a little person, son and someone I have tremendous responsibility are care for.

So, don't sweat it. See how it goes. Enjoy the relative freedom of pregnancy, get the house done and have your baby. It will all be confusing and tiring at first, just give it some time and try to evaluate how you feel afterwards. Even after birth your emotions may flip flop all over the place. A friend of mine even said she felt like she couldn't be a good enough mother and wondered if she should put him up for adoption for his good - that was just the emotions and hormones talking. It gets crazy, you may cry for no reason, feel depressed, worried, ecstatic, content on a crazy emotional rollercoaster. But it will calm down. Find someone to confide all your crazy thoughts in, whether its Mr Murrey or a good friend. Don't actually ring the alarm bells unless you feel the urge to harm the baby. Other than that, anything goes emotionally!
posted by Joh at 10:59 AM on May 1, 2009

A lot of pregnant women I've talked to have expressed a lot more "this is weird" sentiments (body taking over, you being along for the ride, not quite believing it's happening) than snuggly sentiments. Plus morning sickness and physical discomfort and exhaustion. Sounds normal to me. Best of luck.
posted by salvia at 11:21 AM on May 1, 2009

If you're looking for reassurance, I'll add my data-point that I didn't truly love my first baby until he was around 5 or 6 weeks old. I think of that relatively delayed bonding as widening my empathy for other mothers and teaching me early to discount conventional wisdom on how motherhood is supposed to feel.

But if you want to expedite the process, think about what you loved as a child, and what you want to do with your child. Plant a garden? Read books? Explore your area? Then make plans, and take steps toward those things: Start a garden this year, so you'll be prepared for two years from now, when your baby will start to be able to participate. Put together a children's library. Find out everything child-friendly in your area and make a list of what you want to do with your child. Take concrete steps toward the kind of parenting you want to engage in (as opposed to feeling like you have to be learning 30 breathing exercises and putting together a labor mixtape or whatever pregnant ladies are supposed to be getting excited about), and you'll be looking forward to your child's arrival.
posted by palliser at 11:37 AM on May 1, 2009

I Nth the sentiment that this sounds normal. If you're disappointed that you aren't more excited about the baby now, just chalk the non-excitement up to hormones. Like how some women have a total lack of interest in sex while pregnant = hormones, or others have an overactive sex drive = hormones. It could just be that your body chemistry is keeping you calm.

I suspect that the more you learn about your baby's personality, the more you'll get excited about him. This might not happen until several months after he's born, so be patient with yourself. And have a read of all the other AskMe posts by women worried they won't or don't love their infants - it'll help you see how common/normal it is, and maybe by comparison, you'll find yourself an exuberant cheerleader.
posted by Sprout the Vulgarian at 12:10 PM on May 1, 2009

I thought of pregnancy as more of a science experiment on my body than a love-in. I researched birth for the purpose of optimizing my results. Birth didn't magically improve my attitude towards my daughter either. I was on the table in the OR and as my daughter was pulled out, I thought to myself "Oh my god I have made a terrible mistake and the only way out of it now is if I die".

My attitude didn't improve for months because she had trouble feeding, she was constantly screaming, she and I slept in at best 3-4 hour chunks, and I had post-partum depression. I don't think I really started to feel love for her and get properly bonded and attached until she was nine months old and grew out of all that crap. She is two now. I love her to pieces and most of the time, I really enjoy spending time with her.

Being apathetic doesn't make you a bad mom. You feelings early on will have no impact on your kid later in life. I don't feel guilty in the least for my early attitude.

If I were you I would try to give up the dream of being excited. It's ok if you're not. Take the time to focus on yourself and do all the things you won't have time to do when the baby is born. Revel in your tankless water heater knowledge, you probably won't have the mental bandwidth to contemplate those things after birth for quite some time.
posted by crazycanuck at 12:15 PM on May 1, 2009

For my wife, it stopped being theoretical and abstract when our son started getting the hiccups on a regular basis (about six months into the pregnancy.)

For me, it took until he started developing a personality (about six months after the birth.)

Everybody's different. Don't worry.
posted by ook at 12:15 PM on May 1, 2009

Take the time to focus on yourself and do all the things you won't have time to do when the baby is born.

This. Just wrapped up my first pregnancy a few weeks ago, and I also didn't really ever develop the warm/fuzzy baby excitement (the Obsessive Internet Research Phase, by contrast, kicked in around week 32). At the time I also felt a little weird about not being more baby-crazy, but in retrospect, I am so glad those nine months were (mostly) times of relative continuity with my "old" life, of focusing on my partner and my hobbies and my pets, etc. If anything, I wish I'd spent less time planning and thinking about the baby, because 80% of those fantasies and expectations and purchases turned out to be completely irrelevant and beside the point once she actually arrived.

Remember, you have the whole rest of your life to be enthralled and engrossed by your son (and believe me, you will be!); but you really only have ~18 weeks remaining to preserve your headspace in a deliciously baby-free condition. Enjoy it while you can!
posted by Bardolph at 12:48 PM on May 1, 2009 [2 favorites]

I had a very wonderful older ob-gyn who told me that bonding, even after the baby was born, wasn't necessarily automatic. (Thank you, Dr. H.) I know that might seem like heresy, but I found that so liberating. I didn't have a moment's depression during the pregnancy or afterwards.

I, too, felt somewhat detached throughout my pregnancy. My husband was the same way--the two of us like lab partners waiting to see what our very planned experiment would bring about--sort of "curb your enthusiasm" prospective parents, the two of us. When our daughter finally arrived, there was still this feeling of "Oh, it's a cute little alien. I guess we have to keep it since we already committed." Then, oh then, over several weeks, I truly couldn't wait to hear her cry so I could run in and see her awake! Over time, we all bonded like Super Glue.

There are so many expectations laid on new parents. There's a lifetime to bond. Some people bond best with infants; others when the child can finally carry a single mitten. We're still bonding with our daughter, and she's all grown up!

P.S. Completely disagree that you're experiencing depression as a previous poster said. Totally agree with Bardolph in the spot right before me.
posted by Elsie at 2:05 PM on May 1, 2009

Also, remodeling = nesting. that's what you are "supposed" to be doing now. your body is taking care of baby right now. no need to drum up enthusiasm you don't have. nthing the normal, but if you feel apathetic/pleasureless/ miserable after the baby is born, please don't hesitate to seek help.

PPD sucks but it is treatable and doing so early can prevent a lot of heartache for everyone. no need to suffer unneccessarily.
posted by Maias at 2:21 PM on May 1, 2009

That's totally understandable. I do want kids, but I think being pregnant might be a bit surreal until the deed is done and everything works out okay. I'm also one of those "cautiously excited" sort of people in every regard.

Breastfeeding is key for bonding, according to my mommy friends...
posted by futureisunwritten at 2:24 PM on May 1, 2009

It didn't kick in for my wife until about 4 weeks before she was due (and about 2 weeks before she delivered). I sympathise with you on this - our relaxed approach to things like, "Not wanting to reorder half the house in anticipation OF THE SACRED BABY" led to more than a few fights with family members.
posted by rodgerd at 2:53 PM on May 1, 2009

I don't know if this will help you be more excited, but since you mention liking kids more once they can communicate, I'd highly recommend learning a bit of baby sign sometime in the next nine months. I started signing with my daughter around 6 months, and she signed back to me when she was 9 or 10 months old. "Milk" she said. A month or two later she signed "outside", then "Daddy". She learned a great deal of signs once she was a year old, using short sentences even. She didn't use her voice for words until close to two years old. So signing could give you communication a year or more sooner than you might otherwise have.

I think that learning the basics of baby care, decorating the nursery (if you have one), and learning about how your baby is developing might help get you excited, but as long as you're actually ready, I don't think you need to spend every minute thinking about your baby. You'll be doing that soon enough.
posted by Margalo Epps at 4:33 PM on May 1, 2009

Man, this was me 2 weeks ago. My wife and I were so ambivalent that we were still asking ourselves "What the hell are we doing?" a week before our due date. It still doesn't make any sense that we decided to have a baby. We were never interested in looking at other people's babies, we *hated* registering for showers at Baby R Us, and didn't do any childbirth classes until the last minute. We never found baby clothes cute. All we did was mourn the loss of independence.

My first impression actually seeing the baby was "Who the hell's kid is that?" But after 45 minutes of holding him in my arms (while my wife was still under anesthesia -- she had a c-section), I was forever in love and it just gets deeper every day, despite the exhaustion.

I think the "love your child gene" probably kicks in at different times for different people, but for me it was at delivery.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 5:11 PM on May 1, 2009

Absolutely want to reinforce what every one else has said - you sound completely normal to me. There is so much 'magical thinking' about pregnancy, motherhood, baby bonding ... ideas that, as intelligent reasoning people we would normally have the confidence to raise an eyebrow at and reject.

Has anyone ever been able to describe "bonding" to you? Or will you "just know when it happens".

Remember that you are an intelligent, reasonable person with a well-rounded and mature sense of self, and there is absolutely no reason to subsume yourself in this baby experience. Right now I am sure you are showing care and responsibility for your pregnancy, and when your baby is born you will be responsible and care very deeply indeed. But beware of expectations (your own or other people's) of instantly becoming a saintly, all-enduring, selfless mother-sponge, dripping with mindless baby-love, no matter how hard you are wrung out.

Pregnancy, childbirth, and raising babies is a demanding business. It makes demands on your body, your life, your time, your sleep, but it's entirely right for you to retain your sense of you throughout.

Who wants to be a sponge, anyway?

Just to let you know where I'm coming from - I had my first *ahem* "pleasant surprise" baby at 30. I have never been interested in infants, never went to ante-natal classes, felt like you do during pregnancy, had a somewhat difficult time giving birth, baby was rushed to NICU and kept there for a week, and then the week after I had to return to hospital without him for a traumatic post-birth infection crisis, had to stop and start breastfeeding and eventually give up, have had to take up antidepressants for PND ... all these things that 'should' have hindered the magical mystical ineffable 'bonding' experience ... none of it mattered a bit. He is almost a year old now, and I am fiercely proud of his sunny good temper and sociability, I love his company and miss him when he sleeps in too long, I enjoy caring for him, feeding him, bathing him, dressing him, reading to him, playing with him, and he loves me back.

I can't see how things could possibly be better now if I had felt immense excitement and read more "squee! baby countdown!" magazines 16 months ago.
posted by Catch at 5:16 PM on May 1, 2009 [2 favorites]

I just talked to my wife and it turns out she started to get a bit more excited when she realized about a month ago that those little rhythmic "jolts" in her stomach were the baby's hiccups. We'd had lots of ultrasounds and baby showers and all the rest, but this was the first real intimate connection she'd made between herself and the little person inside her that no one else could share or tell her how to feel about it.

I think it is certainly ok to not be experiencing the maternal instinct just yet. I realize you are not asking "Am I normal?" but "How do I feel this certain way that I expect to feel?" Rather than focusing on what you want to feel or what you should be feeling, it is much better to approach pregnancy and childbirth completely open minded, dealing with things as they come and with your emotions as they are now. There will be plenty of maternal bonding later.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 5:19 PM on May 1, 2009

gaspode: "I was told off by one of my friends for still referring to "the fetus" when I was about 33 weeks pregnant. "

Same here, but it was "The Parasite" -- in a loving way! It was a Star Trek reference! But anyway. With my first, I didn't really bond until he was a few weeks old. It turned out I had post-partum depression, and probably had pre-partum depression too, so I agree with the other people who are saying you should check with your doctor about it just in case.
posted by The corpse in the library at 5:29 PM on May 1, 2009

Interestingly enough, I was holding my fresh new baby when I read your question. I guess I'll add my voice to the fray and say that I wasn't all that excited about the whole pregnancy, baby stuff, nesting thing. I stopped reading the Mayo Clinic guide to being knocked up a few weeks after getting knocked up. We hardly had any baby stuff ready when the baby was born (six weeks early). Nowadays I love my baby, but I will say that I'm pretty much just waiting for her to get interesting. Right now she's doing the sleeping, eating, eliminating cycle, and that just ain't that rad. I know the cool stuff is coming, though, which gets me through those nighttime feedings, ugh.
posted by Never teh Bride at 7:52 PM on May 1, 2009

This was me too. Really, SERIOUSLY... no need to worry about it now. Your brain will be forever consumed by all things baby soon enough. Pregnancy and childbirth is just OUT THERE, bizarre, very hard to wrap the head around. After a difficult labor and c-section they laid her on my chest and my first words were, "Oh shit!" Until we got her home it was like it wasn't even real.

It all worked out for us (in a scenario identical to what you've described) and it will for you guys too. I had never really baby-sat or kept any children before my own. I am still not baby-crazy, although I understand them so much better now. We are such simple creatures really. The best part is when they finally hug you back. Best wishes!
posted by FuzzyVerde at 9:24 PM on May 1, 2009

I just wanted to come back and add that while I'm having a hard time thinking about a baby in anything other than the abstract, one thing I am starting to focus on in a more concrete way is the excitement of seeing my husband as a father. I know he isn't necessarily gaga for the baby either, but I can see him starting to be more protective of me, and starting to think about things he would like to do with, for, or see in our child. So that's something different and practical you might want to think about in a more concrete way. If that makes sense.
posted by dpx.mfx at 11:27 AM on May 2, 2009

Just wanted to chime in that this is normal.

Also, if you want to kick-start some naming research, have you discovered the Name Voyager yet?
posted by ruelle at 1:13 PM on May 2, 2009

[few comments removed - fighty answers that don't help the OP can be memailed or sent to meta, thanks.]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:13 PM on May 2, 2009

Totally normal (I'm on baby #3, currently at 21 weeks). I had a bad labor with my first, and afterwards I was just...recovering. Too woozy to feel excited -- more like terrified that now I had to actually *be a mother*. That I was responsible for this little mite's physical, mental and spiritual well-being. In the hospital I just concentrated on trying to breastfeed and ignored what would happen after leaving to go home. I cried when they wheeled me out to the car! It felt so safe and cozy in the hospital.

Once we came home everything was just fine. The first weeks are hairy since you are flying by the seat of your pants and whatever books you've been reading. Then you'll just... Get It. Every week you'll know your baby better. You'll be amazed at what you can do. And on how little sleep. There's no way to prepare for this -- it just happens.

With baby #2 I already knew what was coming, at least in general, so that fear of not being good enough wasn't there. Instead I was worrying about integrating a baby into our life with a toddler. Now in September I'll have a newborn, a 19-month old, and an almost-4-year-old. Every single child has added love and happiness to our family exponentially, even though my younger daughter didn't sleep well for a year at first. Overall it's been an amazing journey, to see my kids grow but also to see myself and my husband grow and expand as well as parents. I cannot thank God enough for the experience.

You'll be fine.
posted by mdiskin at 4:01 PM on May 2, 2009

Not for nothing, this is how virtually every Dad feels while his wife is's just so...abstract. No worries. No one makes you be excited while you're pregnant.

As long as you are generally concerned with the well-being of said fetus (not drinking, eating well, basically following the rules of responsible gestating) then I think you're doing better than a lot of people right out of the gate.
posted by agentwills at 9:47 AM on May 3, 2009

As someone who did developed prepartum depression in between the 1st and 2nd trimester, I have to say that I *don't* think that's what's going on with you. Me, I felt that I had already doomed my son to a life of misery by conceiving him. I felt that getting pregnant (it was a planned pregnancy) was the stupidest thing I ever did. I thought about suicide constantly. I attribute it to (a) having to go off of my meds (primarily), and (b) the physical rigors of pregnancy. Feeling like you have food poisoning for 4 months straight would drive anyone insane.

Before the depression kicked in and after it was treated, I felt much the way you do. Pregnancy is a weird, unpleasant experience, and our culture makes women feel unnatural if they aren't traveling around on gossamer cloud of joy 24/7. When my son was born, I was awed by the fact that I managed to make a whole brand-spanking-new human being, but I wouldn't say that I bonded with him until about week 12. That's when the crazy mad love kicked in.

I would, however, like to recommend a book: The Scientist in the Crib. It does a pretty good job of explaining developmental psychology, and reading about how newborns and infants perceive and learn might help pique your interest.
posted by echolalia67 at 1:32 PM on May 3, 2009

I really have nothing substantive to add to this discussion (came across it while looking for old MeFi/AskMes on what the hell I'm supposed to register for), but I wanted to thank you so, so much for asking this question, Murrey. I'm 28 weeks along, and my attitude is almost exactly what you were describing. Thanks for having the guts to post the question, and thanks to everyone else for offering such terrific assurances that this is not, in fact, completely abnormal.
posted by shiu mai baby at 6:44 AM on July 16, 2009

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