Baby Love
May 24, 2010 4:04 PM   Subscribe

How long did it take for you to love your baby?

Husband and I have a 2-month old son. By all measures, he is wonderful - healthy, happy and growing. He is a good baby - has started having long sleep stretches (sometimes up until 6 hours at night) and only gets fussy when bored, tired or hungry. He is extremely alert and curious.

He was very wanted too. We went through three rounds of IVF and two miscarriages to have him. It took us almost 5 years from start to finish.

And yet, I am not in love with this child in the way that you read mothers saying that they are in love with their children. I love him because he is my child, because I grew up for nine months and he is the product of much wanting. But, I am not in love with him. This makes it very hard to bond with him, to want to be with him, etc. I am happy to hand him off to someone else most of the time.

When will that love kick in? What if it doesn't?

FWIW, I've read this question ( but I am very interested in more perspectives. Throwaway email:
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (47 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
Not directly related to your question, but:

If you are worried you don't love your kid enough, you love your kid enough.

Comparing yourself to every mother out there is silly and dangerous. Just because you don't mind handing him off is not a sign that you don't love him. Really, it isn't.
posted by LudgerLassen at 4:21 PM on May 24, 2010 [16 favorites]

Infanticide to Infatuation
The thing that most surprised me about fatherhood the first time around was how long it took before I felt about my child what I was expected to feel. Clutching Tallulah after she exited the womb, I was able to generate tenderness and a bit of theoretical affection, but after that, for a good six weeks, the best I could manage was detached amusement. The worst was hatred. I distinctly remember standing on a balcony with Tallulah squawking in my arms and wondering what I would do if it wasn't against the law to hurl her off it.
posted by Maxwell_Smart at 4:22 PM on May 24, 2010

And also from the same article:
Six months or so later, I'd have thrown myself in front of the truck to save her from harm. What happened? What transformed me from a monster into a father? I do not know.
posted by Maxwell_Smart at 4:24 PM on May 24, 2010

I really liked my baby initially and even loved her immediately, but the deep-down primal feeling really didn't kick in until maybe 6 months. It's hard to say as there was never a light bulb that went on but now at 2 years old, I can definitely say that my love for my daughter is at a totally different place now than it was at 2 months.

But if this is concerning to you, please talk to your doctor about post-partum depression. It's a real problem for many parents and there is help, if you need it. But those first couple months are HARD - they are soul-sucking and sanity-depleting. You should be able to hand him off to someone else occasionally and not feel bad about it at all. You need a break and having regular time to yourself to recharge and revive will help you feel better about the time you are with him. It does get much, much, MUCH better.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 4:24 PM on May 24, 2010 [10 favorites]

There is no requirement to love your child this much {___} versus this much {________}. Whatever you have, that's enough. Do you know that, often, women experience this feeling of letdown after birth, and after marriage, too? For so long, you've been looking forward to This Event, the Birth or the Wedding Day. Now the anticipation is gone and has been replaced by the reality of a very needy little human being. It can be overwhelming.

If, as otherworldlyglow suggests, you sense that your feelings for your child are completely out of proportion or if life in general just seems too much to deal with right now, please do talk to your ob or general physician about the possibility of post-partum depression. Hormones are real and can wreak havoc on new Moms, and there is no stigma at all to saying, "Hey, something is seriously out of whack here."
posted by misha at 4:35 PM on May 24, 2010

Definitely talk to your doctor about PPD if you're really worried about it. Maybe a therapist to help you sort out where you are on the continuum of "yes, these are within the normal range of new-mother feelings" and "oh, needs some attention here!" (Former mom with PPD here.)

That said, the first months of parenthood are hard, even with a relatively easy baby. I have loved all three of my kids, and never had any doubt of it, but I was always happy to hand them off when they were very young babies. It was so pleasant to have a few minutes to myself. I also liked it that other people wanted to hold my babies, that they also liked my babies. This was true even though I very much enjoyed caring for my babies. Right now I have an extremely active 2-year-old, and I'd crawl across razor blades for her and all that stuff, but you should hear my little secret sigh if she wakes up from her nap before I think she should, and I'm not ready to dive back into the hurly-burly.

I honestly can't remember whether I had that crazy-in-love feeling. I do remember sitting up in the night after my first son had eaten, just enjoying holding him while he slept (I was much too tired to do this with #2 and #3). The love definitely does grow and change with time, IME.
posted by not that girl at 4:37 PM on May 24, 2010

First, congratulations on the arrival of your son.

Please do as otherworldlyglow suggests and talk to your doctor. I struggled mightily with PPD after both of my kids, and doctors are very aware of what it means and how it manifests. I'm not saying you're dealing with PPD, but that's always my gut-check when a new mom says she doesn't feel right in some way.

Also, after trying for so long, I wonder if you're feeling some sort of pressure - internal or external - to be head-over-heels-in-love with your baby? I love and adore my children, but sometimes, man, I just don't like them - or more specifically, how they are acting, especially in my immediate vicinity. Granted, my kids are far past the baby stage, but even babies, sometimes, are not innately lovable. You will build your own relationship with your child, and that will take time. Don't let anyone else tell you how you should feel about your child - it really is none of their business, and it will not help you at all. This is only about you and your son.

On that note, I highly recommend Andrea Buchanan's Mothershock: Loving Every (Other) Minute Of It. She offers great insight on the expectation versus the reality of becoming a parent.

Hang in there.
posted by Lulu's Pink Converse at 4:41 PM on May 24, 2010

I loved them deeply but it was overshadowed by intense worry and sleep deprivation. I have asked many moms about this over the years and a lot of them confess they were doing an "emperor's new clothes" thing about being "in love" with their baby. I think maybe you're just being more honest than average.

After all you went through, give yourself a break. He's here, he's healthy and you're doing an amazing job. Try to take care of yourself.
posted by MiffyCLB at 4:42 PM on May 24, 2010

I agree that if you continue to have trouble bonding, ask your OB about post-partum depression.

But, that said, I found that the love increased the more the baby was able to respond to me. At your baby's age, much of that interaction has barely begun. I suggest practising it - look into his eyes and make faces at him and say words. See if those mirror neurons of his kick in. (If he looks away, he's had enough.) If he's not smiling at you now, he will be soon, and that helps a lot. It helps when they babble at you, too.

For me, a huge part of bonding was when my baby first started to have some stranger anxiety. Before that, she would let anybody hold her, but there was something about having her want ME that was a great leap forward for our relationship. It was like, before, I knew she was mine. But after that, it was like, she knows I'm hers.

FWIW, the first few months of new parenthood are basically just you repeating to yourself, "My God, what have I done?"
posted by Knowyournuts at 4:45 PM on May 24, 2010 [12 favorites]

I agree with "check with your doctor if you suspect PPD." Having said that, please know that what you feel *now* for your child is not final and that there is every possibility of love surprising you at some date you can neither imagine nor choose. Motherhood is tough stuff. Look after yourself. Forgive yourself. And, for Bob's sake, throw away the imaginary love ruler you're measuring your tiger-mom self against.

Just be *good enough* for *your particular child.*
posted by MonkeyToes at 4:46 PM on May 24, 2010

Lots of sage advice here. How you feel is how you feel, and if talking to a doctor about it will make you feel better, by all means do, but don't compare yourself to other moms.

I am happy to hand him off to someone else most of the time.

I'd say this is perfectly normal, no matter how old your child is! Mine will become a teenager in a couple of weeks, and right now, I'm blissfully wallowing in his non-presence because he's gone for three days on a school trip!

I know it's hard when you're right in the midst of it, but I sure do miss that baby smell now, and sort of wish I could go back and do it all over again. ...Sort of. ; ) I really do hope you feel better about this.
posted by misozaki at 4:49 PM on May 24, 2010

I had three and did NOT bond with them each the same way. You are most likely normal. Can't hurt to screen for PPD, but look, motherhood is an adjustment that rocks your world in a way that can't be explained if one has never experienced it. Factor in all the struggles you had to get to this point, and it makes sense that you feel the way you do.

The love will kick in. Just continue to snuggle, to care for and to be there for your child. And if at any point it all seems to be just too hard, please don't wait to get help.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 4:56 PM on May 24, 2010 [2 favorites]

FWIW, the first few months of new parenthood are basically just you repeating to yourself, "My God, what have I done?"

Oh, and quoted for truth. *grin*
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 4:57 PM on May 24, 2010 [2 favorites]

It took me (the father) somewhere between six and eight months. During those months I ranged from indifference to, I have to admit, pure resentment. I felt like a failure.

Our son is a year and a half old now, and just wandered into my office, demanded my laptop so he could look at a choo-choo train, then said "Byeeeee" and wandered off to take a bath. Which: c'mon. Adorable.

You'll see thousands of articles and blog posts that are all OMG I WUV MY BABBY CENTER O THE UNIVERSE LAH DEE DAH. You won't see many people talking about not feeling that way. This is not, I think, because the people who don't feel it immediately are exceptionally rare, but because there is a stigma attached to talking about such feelings in public. So people don't talk about it in public. And we're stuck feeling like we're the weirdos, because the only ones talking about it out loud are the ones who are able to become utterly smitten with an object whose primary activities are, let's face it, screaming and pooping.

I found that if I talked to parents in private, and described how I was feeling, nearly all of them admitted, yeah, they kinda felt the same way some if not most of the time in the first few months. But they didn't like to talk about it because it felt like they were failing in some way.

You're not failing. A two month old child isn't a person yet; he's barely out of the fetus stage. You're still in the fourth trimester. You should feel absolutely no shame or guilt about not feeling in love with someone who is barely even a person yet. Ignore the blogs, ignore the baby-industrial complex. You're fine. I promise.
posted by ook at 5:09 PM on May 24, 2010 [12 favorites]

Oh my gosh! Don't worry about it! It's okay. Babies are really dull, they ask a lot and they don't offer anything at all, and you're super tired and worn out and freaked out. Baby Llama didn't really let us sleep right for a year.

Really, it's okay.

I started to feel like a mom around 9 months, and it really kicked in around two years. Just get the motions right -- keep baby clean, fed, hold baby when baby is sad -- give yourself a chance to catch up. Motions: it's okay if it's mechanical. Your primary obligation is to Meet Baby's Needs. Do not torture yourself about what you're feeling or not feeling in the moment.

I'm happy to talk about this endlessly. I'm aterriblellama at gmail; feel free to email me or mefi mail me if you want to talk.

The important thing is, don't freak. Some people are great moms of infants. Some people are great moms of teenagers. They don't overlap in some 'great mom' category.

Do not hurt yourself by getting unnecessarily worked up about this.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 5:17 PM on May 24, 2010 [6 favorites]

And yet, I am not in love with this child in the way that you read mothers saying that they are in love with their children.

Don't stress this. Right now your baby is a tiny little helpless meatbag, that takes and takes and takes without giving. Part of being a parent is surviving this period of time with patience and care, because it's difficult (for the demands on your time, the lack of sleep, the limited or no feedback from your child, and so on.)

Then one day your kid sleeps through the night, and then again, and you start to get some sleep, and you feel better.

Then one day, you realize you're spending more time playing with your child than playing for your child. And you start getting real smiles and laughs at your jokes, even though they're pre-verbal. And as those systems start coming online, you no longer have a tiny little helpless meatbag -- you have a little, tiny person who loves you.

At some point, you realize what's happened, and then you realize you love this little guy or girl like you never thought possible, and you have no idea when that happened. Even when they're annoying the shit out of you, or throwing a tantrum, and in those moments you get so annoyed and aggravated -- yet you love them, like crazy.

So: do the appropriate things, like talking to your doctor about PPD, and making sure your partner, extended family, friends and hired help are in place to ease the burden on you, and take the time to do nice things for yourself. Ride it out. It feels like it will take forever, and maybe your doctor will need to assist you, but that's okay.

At the end of this period (for me and my twins, it was 1.5 years or so before it really kicked in) you'll love them. A lot. Even when you hate what they're doing. Be patient.

And I too quote it for truth:

FWIW, the first few months of new parenthood are basically just you repeating to yourself, "My God, what have I done?"
posted by davejay at 5:23 PM on May 24, 2010 [2 favorites]

Months. The first one sooner than the second one.
posted by _paegan_ at 5:26 PM on May 24, 2010

Dad's perspective here. We thought our first (who's now 6) was pretty awesome from the get go, but I don't think my wife nor myself really felt that strong, warm love until her 3rd or 4th month. That time frame (as others have noted) mirrored the point we started to feel like maybe we DID know what the hell we were doing, and that we might just survive parenthood.

My son (3) who to me is the greatest person under 4ft tall in the world - seemed to actively dislike me during his first several months in this world, crying just about every time I picked him up - I'll admit to some ambivalent feelings toward him at that point. I can barely remember that time.
posted by jalexei at 5:30 PM on May 24, 2010

I'm the original poster on the "I don't love my baby" question that you referenced above. (for some reason I changed my baby's gender in the question to further anonymize it, but its me)

What I've come to realize is that the brutal sleep deprivation was simply making me emotionally dead. Are you getting the chance to sleep in more than 3 hour bursts? If not, find a way. I ended up shutting myself in my room for a weekend as my mother and husband took care of my baby, and just sleeping as much as I could, and that helped A LOT.

Feel free to mefi mail me if you want to talk. It does get easier. I promise.
posted by anastasiav at 5:32 PM on May 24, 2010 [5 favorites]

I would have killed to protect my daughter at birth. I'm not sure I would have died to protect her until she was four or five months old. It was a weird evolution of emotion. Suffice it to say, this is definitely within the wide range of what's OK; if you are distressed by it, see your doctor, though. (Not because this feeling in and of itself presages PPD, but because the distress might.)
posted by KathrynT at 5:34 PM on May 24, 2010

It took me several weeks -- months? -- with my first baby. I had a lousy labor which left me too exhausted to bond, and then PPD. Eventually it took, and now I love him to bits.

I am not in love with this child in the way that you read mothers saying that they are in love with their children

I think a whole lotta mothers are full of it. I love my kids, and my husband, and my mom, but I'm never going to write sappy poetry about any of them. There's a chance that there are all these women out there who really do love their children more than I love mine, but I think it's more likely that they just express their feelings differently than I do.
posted by The corpse in the library at 5:35 PM on May 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm the original poster on the "I don't love my baby" question that you referenced above.

Thanks for coming out Anastasiav; I think that question helped a lot of people and it certainly helped me.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 5:42 PM on May 24, 2010 [2 favorites]

When it happens ... and it will ... it will surprise you. It may not knock on the front door. It may come in through an open window. But it'll come. It may not look like a rainbow, either.

I was looking at my first son asleep in his little bouncy chair, and I remember thinking, "Wow, if I had to, I'd step in front of a bullet train if it meant saving this little guy. No hemming, no hawing. Just ... boom. Done. The decision has already been made."

It was like my internal transmission had another gear I didn't know existed.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:52 PM on May 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

Not until about 6 months. Like KathrynT, I felt intense protectiveness, but I think that was more about the investment I'd made up to that point in pregnancy, labor, breastfeeding problems, sleep deprivation, etc. No f*cking way was someone or something going to waste all my work. But it wasn't really love until 6 months. With my second, much sooner.
posted by cocoagirl at 5:56 PM on May 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

Anon, I sent you an e-mail. Please check.
posted by zizzle at 5:59 PM on May 24, 2010

I don't think everyone gets the biochemical swoonies, just like romantic love varies from human to human. You may not get the "awwwww, oookie widdle lump!" ever, and this doesn't make you broken. For example this Daddy-blog mentions he didn't really like his daughter until she was old enough to have a personality more sophisticated than a volume knob.
posted by Phalene at 6:13 PM on May 24, 2010

On that note, I highly recommend Andrea Buchanan's Mothershock: Loving Every (Other) Minute Of It. She offers great insight on the expectation versus the reality of becoming a parent. (Lulu's Pink Converse)

I'd like to point out that Andrea Buchanan is our very own mothershock. She might have some insight to add.
posted by ocherdraco at 6:35 PM on May 24, 2010

Babies are terrible conversationalists and newborns are worse. For the first three months my kid seldom even worked up a proper cry (just grunted and whined), and looked at me and his father with a frowny Winston Churchill face as though he'd been served the chicken when he ordered the lamb, no matter how much we cooed and talked to him.

But he smiled and laughed at the blank wall. Which was creepy, frankly.

It was hard to just wait for the affection to kick in, because we did often feel that we were faking it. We were convinced we were terrible parents pretending to be good ones, and that eventually something bad would happend and we'd ruin our child.

Also, we never slept and so were a tiny bit prone to depression and paranoia.

Believe me, it gets better. They develop personalities, you get to sleep, sometimes you even get to have sex again (and want to) and suddenly there are three people in the house, not the two of you plus a very needy alien pet.
posted by emjaybee at 6:45 PM on May 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

I am not yet a parent, but am always reminded of a friend's remark: "For the first few months we're basically talking about a creature that is little more than a digestive tract that needs constant attention at both ends. And it can scream."
posted by judith at 6:57 PM on May 24, 2010 [3 favorites]

8 months. Don't worry, its normal. Worry only if you have serius thoughts of harming him. We used to call our boy "FNG" The first few weeks, AND MONTHS suck! This bears repeating: The first few months are the hardest. "bundle of JOY"? No. "Bundle of crazy making" more like it. Honestly, this "being in love with your baby" idea comes from magazines, which are all about marketing, not reality. You're in the toughest of times; Hang in there! It will get better.
posted by hollyanderbody at 7:26 PM on May 24, 2010

my friend and i used to talk about this secretly....we did not bond with our children immediately. it took me a good long time to fall in love (and we are talking maybe up to about 9 months??? could it have been that long?) but when i did, I FELL HARD. and all of what came before was just the work.
posted by bright and shiny at 7:30 PM on May 24, 2010

I was really lucky before I gave birth. When I was preganant and interviewing pediatricians, the one I eventually settled on told me that it is normal for parents not to bond right away with their kids and that it happens all of the time--even to him. So I was prepared.

Most people just don't tell you this stuff and all you hear about is the immediate and fierce love mothers feel immediately. And your post and these comments are going to be a huge relief for many new moms who feel the way you do since I think there is a societal expectation that you are "supposed" to feel immediate overwhelming love. I didn't feel this way at first about my now 9 month old son. It was hard...REALLY GODAWFUL HARD! My life had changed so dramatically and suddenly and I was sleep deprived and wondering what I had gotten myself into. I just kept the words of my pediatrican in my back pocket and kept telling myself that it was normal.

Looking back, I don't know if I ever would have admitted it to myself or out loud, but I was much closer to what you described than the over the top super mom who had tsunami-like waves of love and devotion.

But now is completely different. I don't know when it happened or whether it is still happening. But my love has grown tremendously and unambiguously. He is a little person now (just started crawling and making my life ridiculously more difficult and I am loving every second of it). But I just saw a 3 month old this weekend and I could barely muster any warm feelings for when our guy was that small. They are just lumps at that age and need everything and give very little in return. Once they hit 6 months or so, it becomes more rewarding every day.

You are okay (I promise) and you will grow to love your son fiercely.

(ps: I often wonder if people think I am a terrible mom because I rarely hold him when there is someone else around to do so. Being a mom is hard work and having someone else care for your kids for even 5 minutes is still an enormous relief to me since I do it so much).
posted by murrey at 7:30 PM on May 24, 2010

Long story long: I remember my mom (who didn't have me until pretty late), saying something about the sort of odd let down she felt as a mom, because there were so many preconceptions about how she was supposed to feel about having children. Perhaps you can liken it to a first kiss, or the first time you have sex, or your wedding - there are all these expectations, and then it happens and more often than not it's not "Ahhh!" or "Ooooh!" but more "Oh?", "Ewwww....", "Eh." or "God, that was kinda exhausting". And the hallmark cards really never mention that. But all those new parents in a world of 6 billion - how insane is it to really think that something pops out of their bodies and into their lives and the first, continuous, overwhelming thought of every. single. one of them is.....unconditional love? I know it's almost kind of rude to say or think any variation of "I kind of though this would be better" when it comes to kids, but by not setting that expectation, I think new parents are often left thinking that they are doing it wrong. Hopefully this thread will give you lots of evidence that for every love at first sight story, there is a "I'm tired, and I think I want to return this" story, which slowly grows into something lovely over time.

Long story short: My mom said it took about 6 months before children become interesting. And that she had really wanted a girl, so after my brother was born, she decided to try again. My understanding is that my dad really wanted a boy, so had I been born first, they probably still would have tried again. After both of us, there seemed nothing else to have so they stopped. Somehow, perhaps in her telling of the tale, neither my brother and I get particularly fuzzy feelings, but we know they love us, they know we love them, and we're all still pretty happy about the way everything turned out. :)
posted by anitanita at 7:44 PM on May 24, 2010

ocherdraco: "On that note, I highly recommend Andrea Buchanan's Mothershock: Loving Every (Other) Minute Of It. She offers great insight on the expectation versus the reality of becoming a parent. (Lulu's Pink Converse)

I'd like to point out that Andrea Buchanan is our very own mothershock. She might have some insight to add.

And, I apologize for my obliviousness! That book got me over the hump when my oldest was about 3 months old and I was all 'what do you mean, I'm supposed to undyingly adore this screaming lump of humanity?!?'

Thanks, now I will go stalk her through the archives.
posted by Lulu's Pink Converse at 7:47 PM on May 24, 2010

It took a few months with the first; basically once he started giggling and sleeping 9 hours at a stretch (I know people think you "should" be grateful for 5 or 6, but hey, long-term, it's still sleep deprivation).

With the second, it was the blog-ready experience: the immediate, utter tsunami of love from the moment she was born. I don't know why this happened with the second and not the first, but I'd like to counter the suggestions that women who say they feel this way are making it up. I know I felt that way, and I know how it was different with the first. (And she didn't sleep through the night until she was 13 months, so it definitely wasn't all the rest I was getting....)

But I don't love either more than the other now. So just because you are getting to that fierce love via a different path, I have no doubt you'll get there.
posted by palliser at 7:49 PM on May 24, 2010


From discussions with my mother, I think that the OMG CENTRE OF MY LIFE thing actually ... never, ever kicked in. She learnt to love me, eventually, but only as a family member, and later on in life, as a close friend. I have never been as important to her as my father is, for example.

Yes, I know that's horrifying for some people. I don't find it so. I have a very positive, loving and close relationship to my immediate family, compared with most people I know.
posted by ysabet at 7:59 PM on May 24, 2010 [3 favorites]

In the beginning they are just meat bags :) Started having dreams involving the baby getting into danger, and me having to rescue him (seems to be natures way of programming the sub-conscious. fascinating... actually started somewhat before birth). Around 1 year or so the kid's personality started to shine through (and I was getting real sleep). Started being an awesome little guy from that point onward...
posted by lundman at 8:22 PM on May 24, 2010

To echo some others...I would have done most anything to protect my babies. But, a lot of that was hormones. I know that because some show (Oprah, Jerry Springer, some such talk show) was about a mom who killed her infant child. I couldn't stay in the room. It caused such heartbreak and rage. Now, well, yes I can hear and read these types of things without total break down. Like I could before I had kids. Yes, it is horrible, but my life goes on. Not when I was postpartum though. I suspect that many women confuse those hormonal changes with that "wonderful awefilling love."

I guess I have always been they type of person who thinks "What is, is." With my first, I was dead tired for weeks. Nursing was not that joyful pleasant thing they talk about - it hurt bad. I was in tears. Yet, I persisted and it got better. 2nd was less tired, but he was born with teeth - nursing was horrible combined with the "oh my god what have I done to my oldest???" Number 3 I was sick with a cough and sinus infection, and feeling sad for changing the dynamics for the first two. Nursing with all of them was painful the first couple of weeks. (We did have the teeth pulled as they had no real roots, were causing sores on both of us and we were concerned they would end up in a lung.)

Yes, it was wonderful having children. Yes, they made a part of my life complete. After the birth it did feel like this was what I was meant to do. (I guess part of why some women have so many children in a time when they don't "have" to.) But I never had that swooning "in love" sensation, any more than I have it when I look at a cute kitten, duckling or other small animal. Love grew as the children grew and I learned who they were. I certainly love them more than any kitten, duckling or small animal, and the maternal hormones meant that I would protect them to the point of harming someone who tried to harm them.

If you are overly concerned, or thinking of harming yourself or your baby, do seek help. Tom Cruise is a douche, and woman should get help when they need it.

wife of 445supermag
posted by 445supermag at 9:55 PM on May 24, 2010

I have a 15-month-old daughter. I was definitely fond of her from the moment she popped out, but I certainly cannot deny that as she has gotten older I've gotten far fonder of her. Now that she's fully mobile and capable of displaying affection and amusing herself, I totally love her.

So, to reassure you: the first 3-6 months are hell, looking back on it. After around 6 months she started to get much more interactive, and was thus much easier to get along with.

Communication helps. :)
posted by Kemayo at 10:12 PM on May 24, 2010

I've had two vastly different experiences.

When my daughter was born it was immediate. The moment that the doctor placed her on my wife's chest and my hand first touched her... that was it... I knew right then that I'd do anything for her. Even at her worst screaming fit I was truly, madly, deeply in love.

Then she died when she was eight months old. SIDS, at daycare. Totally sudden.

I've thought a lot about it over the years since, like maybe I sugar coated the bad days, or I'm forgetting something. There are no two ways around it though, I can't think of any time that she wasn't making me smile. Even now, while I'm typing this, I have a big dumb grin just thinking about her.

Fast forward a couple of years, lots of grief therapy, selling the house we'd planned to raise her in, and my wife and I decide to try to have kids again. A huge leap.

Twins. Identical boys. I actually had to sit down when the second one came on to the little ultrasound screen. Too overwhelming.

Still, to this day, I sometimes wonder how long they'll stick around for. Getting attached to them was, and is, hard. I love them each more and more every day, though. Sometimes I think it's more fun this way, instead of the big burst at the beginning my love gets to grow.

That's a long way of saying, at least from my experience, that there's no right answer. I haven't read all of the responses above, the few I skimmed were all good. Eventually you're going to fall in love, and if you're worried that it's not happening then maybe it's worth mentioning your doctor, just in case you've got some PPD.

Trust me, and everyone else above though... it'll come.
posted by togdon at 10:15 PM on May 24, 2010 [4 favorites]

I don't have experience in this...but just wanted to add that handing the kid to someone else is natural in hunter gather cultures etc that are more social than us so I don't think it's any bad thing.
posted by Not Supplied at 10:44 PM on May 24, 2010

I'm still pregnant, so can't answer your question from my own perspective. But I can tell you that my sister's situation was very similar to yours, and it took her three months before she really 'fell in love'.

I also agree with LudgerLassen, if you are worried you don't love your kid enough, you love your kid enough.
posted by different at 1:04 AM on May 25, 2010

I'm another one of the "didn't bond instantly" mothers. It was a very difficult labor, followed instantly by abuse and degradation from the La Leche nipple nazis and my mother-in-law. Once I threw her out of the house, and decided to stop torturing myself because I couldn't produce enough milk to feed a 11 pound newborn, and got to calm down enough to enjoy the little wiggler, we bonded just fine.

But the first month or so was really touch and go. I almost walked away and went back to Europe; figuring that I was a horrible mother because I didn't feel that fairy tale "in love" feeling. Mostly I was angry that people were slapping my breasts and pinching my nipples to "make me flow" and I just wanted to get away from everything that had anything to do with strangers thinking they had the right to touch me. (I really hate the nipple nazis and will never forgive them.)

Point being; every relationship is different. You're not a bad mother because you're not living the fantasy of subsuming your personhood to the whims of a new being who doesn't do much but cry, sleep, eat and poop. But soon; they start giggling, and smiling (not gas) and reach for you, and chew on their bear's face and do all those other adorably cute things that babies do.

Like everyone before me has said; if you feel like hurting yourself or the baby, then by all means call your doctor. PP depression is real, and dangerous. I've never felt so bad as I did when I had PP depression. Please get help if you feel yourself spiraling into a place that is dark and scary.

But if it's just a matter of not feeling the way the "mommy blogs" tell you that you should feel? Fuck those fantasy sellers.

You'll see. Give yourself time and quit putting yourself under pressure. I recommend the "Girlfriend's Guide" books. A smart, sort of snarky approach to pregnancy/parenthood that resonated with me. Also, if you ever just want someone to listen to you bitch, feel free to memail anytime.
posted by dejah420 at 5:27 AM on May 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

It really does differ from mother to mother and even from child to child. When my twins were born, they were extremely premature and tiny (2 lbs 4 oz and 3 lbs 11oz) and one of them almost died and it was all very scary and emotional - and I think because of that, I bonded IMMEDIATELY. Literally at the moment I heard their first cries, before I even saw them. I would have killed anyone who might hurt them and I would have given my life for theirs. And my heart was burst open with love. All in a split second. And it never went away.

When I had my son 2 years later, however, there was no such urgency - he actually went over time and was over 9 1/2 lbs and everything was ridiculously easy in comparison. And while I liked him and thought he was very cute, in no way did I have that fierce love. I felt guilty about it - did I love my son less than my girls? My 'second'-born less than my first-borns? - but thought to myself, 'hey, I've heard that sometimes people don't bond immediately with their kids; I'm sure it will happen at some point.' And of course it did.

Today, I love all of them equally. Not the same - they're extremely different people and I love them for different reasons, and sometimes one of them is easier to love than other times - but without doubt equally.

So all this to say - I think it's all completely normal (but if you have thoughts about hurting your kid, please see your doctor. That too is common enough that all pediatricians are taught to ask for it - don't feel bad, just accept the help).
posted by widdershins at 6:21 AM on May 25, 2010

Hi there -- and thanks, ocherdraco, for alerting me to this thread! Anon, send me a memail with your info and I'll gladly send you a copy of the book.

Mostly, I just want to echo what everyone has said here: the dominant public discussion about mothers and babies is often quite different from the reality of the specific, private, daily experience of mothering, and what's "normal" to feel or not feel encompasses a range we're not always made aware of before we experience it ourselves.

Things have been changing in the past decade or so, but it is still quite difficult for parents to talk openly about the difficulties of adjusting to life with a newborn -- however, as you can see from the responses here and the links people have provided, there are definitely voices out there speaking to what it's like to go through the cycle of adjustment that happens the first year of parenthood.

On thing that helped me was, in part, what you yourself may be finding in reading this thread: realizing that I wasn't alone. I discovered through books (and, later, blogs) like-minded women also searching for their way through the thicket of that first year of motherhood; in in-real-life playgroups, I found a sample of real people who ranged from mothers who claimed to "love every minute of it" to those who tearfully confided that some days they just wanted to run away. And of course, speaking up myself, connecting with other people, normalizing my own experience and in the process asking for help when I needed it (reeeeeeeally hard) was also terribly important.

I fear I've rambled on too long already, but I do want to say two more things. First, I don't have any recent data or links handy to back this up, but women who have struggled with infertility and miscarriage are often at a higher risk for post-partum depression -- and post-partum depression isn't the hormonal plummet that typically happens two weeks or so after childbirth; it can manifest anywhere from soon after delivery up to a year, and 4-6 weeks post-partum seems to be the sweet spot for it showing up. What makes it tricky is that many of the symptoms of PPD are also the symptoms of being an exhausted new mother -- I spent months and months with my first child telling myself, "If I just got some *sleep* I'm sure I would feel better" (meanwhile fantasizing about being hit by a bus). I wish I'd asked for help sooner. Do not be afraid or ashamed to ask for help if you need it. (It's like they say on airplanes: put your own oxygen mask on first, then tend to your child. Cheesy, I know, but seriously.)

And second, in one of the essays in Mother Shock, I write about being in the park with my baby daughter, feeling like such a fraud, certain I was due to be outed as a terrible mother at any moment, convinced I was failing, flailing. An older woman with a young man and a little girl walked by and the woman complimented me on my daughter, asking the usual questions people ask of mothers with new babies, then going on her way. And then for some reason she hesitated and walked back over to me. She gestured at the little girl and the man she was with and said, "Do you see that little girl? That's my granddaughter. That man holding her hand is *my* little baby." Then she squeezed my hand and said, "I just want to tell you, it gets better. It gets so much better from here."

That conversation in the park happened just about 11 years ago, and I still think about it -- the kindness of that woman, to send me a postcard from the future. So I'm sharing that with you now: it gets better. It gets so much better from here.
posted by mothershock at 7:29 AM on May 25, 2010 [10 favorites]

As long as you don't have negative thoughts about harming the baby, neglect, depression, it will happen. It took me a little bit because I was so shocked I was a mom. Then bam--it happened and I love every molecule of our son that it hurts. You'll get there one day. But don't rule out maybe going to group therapy and see others feel the same way. If in Chicago, Urban Balance has a before and after baby class to talk about things like this. It's with a therapist/dula. Maybe something in your area has the same thing. While it's been 1.5 years since the birth of my child, I still have some issues of wondering about parenting things, etc. I still might go.
posted by stormpooper at 9:49 AM on May 25, 2010

I have now 2 and a half year old triplets, and I felt very disconnected from them for the first few months of their lives. I don't know if it's because I didn't bond with them in-utero (I don't know if it's because it was all too surreal, or high-risk, or because we didn't find out their genders) or if it's because, well, exhausting to have three newborns. Part of it was because they were in the NICU for two weeks. I didn't feel like they were "mine" until they'd been home for a while.

I don't remember when it kicked in, but it did. Boy, howdy, did it. I adore those boys with every ounce of my being now. You will feel that way too.
posted by pyjammy at 10:26 AM on May 25, 2010

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