I'm pretty sure I don't love my baby.
August 19, 2006 11:47 AM   Subscribe

My baby is six weeks old. Increasingly, I have the feeling she's not very fond of me, which isn't unexpected since I'm coming to realize that I don't really love her either.

Everyone - her father, her grandparents, our friends - takes great joy in her, but I simply can't find any way to take enjoy my time with her. She is not an especially difficult baby, but I find that even when she's quiet and awake I don't have any interest in interacting with her in the way that other people do. I make sure she's fed and cleanand safe and I try to make her comfortable and happy, but I'd rather watch TV than sit and talk to her endlessly or try to play with her (and I hate TV). Last night she was asleep and I actually forgot she was there until she woke up and cried.

I don't feel violent towards her in any way, and I don't feel depressed. I do, however, feel that perhaps I've made a terrible mistake in deciding to have a child. I'm realizing that I'm also jealous of the relationship her father and her grandparents have with her - their ability to get her to smile at them. My mother is, in fact, playing with her right now and getting happy cute reactions that I've never been able to get from her, and its breaking my heart. All morning, as I tended to my daugher's needs, she basically did nothing but cry, but as soon as my mother came in she was all smiles. The same thing happens every day with her father.

I don't think this is a normal way for me to feel, but on the other hand I have no idea what I should do about it. I don't feel depressed - more just disapointed in myself, and jealous of the relationship other people seem to be able to build with her. Are some people just not cut out to be mothers? I love my husband, and my parents, and many friends, and my child is, by all accounts, beautiful, but I don't ever seem to have "bonded" with her - I don't find any trace of the feelings I have for them when I look at her. I keep hoping that perhaps when she's hold enough to hug me, or even respond in some way to anything I do that things will change, but I don't hold out much hope.

I'm realizing as I'm writing this that it may not even be a question, but more that I need to tell someone that I don't love my child, and I am, perhaps, taking advantage of being annonomous in order to do so
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (51 answers total) 77 users marked this as a favorite
I am so sorry for you, but please, don't be so hard on yourself. Six weeks is not a very long time. Perhaps you just need to get to know each other better. One of my oldest friends went through something similar when her daughter was born 13 years ago.

She showed up on my doorstep with the baby, confused, and afraid to tell anyone what she was feeling. I think what you are feeling is not that uncommon. She did come to love her daughter, very much, but it took time. And I have to say, her kid turned out pretty awesome, too.

Back then, we didn't know much about postpartum depression, but I think she may have had it, to some degree. Maybe you do, too. I don't know. But I think you could talk to your doctor about this. Don't be ashamed, I really think this happens more than people talk about.
posted by astruc at 11:57 AM on August 19, 2006 [1 favorite]

You're not the first person to ever feel this way - it's quite common and doesn't make you an unloving parent. Newborns have no ability to express emotions beyond just "I'm hungry" and "I'm tired". This is pretty different from other meaningful relationships you've had in your life, where the ability to express love is reciprocal. This is also a case where you didn't select the person you are going to love, and of course there's no trade-backs. So, this is going to be a one-way street for a little while, and you kinda have to roll with it.

Things change a lot at 4-6 months, when she will start to smile for real (i.e., not just gas), respond to seeing you, etc. At that point I believe you'll start feeling more like a mom and find the experience much more rewarding.
posted by drmarcj at 12:09 PM on August 19, 2006 [1 favorite]

You really really need to talk to a professional about this -- a therapist, a psychologist or psychiatrist or someone. What you're describing isn't unusual. I've got a friend who gave birth three weeks ago and this morning she was telling me about how she can't wait to go back to work and get away from the baby. She's much more cavalier about it, but she hasn't bonded yet with her baby either. Our culture puts a lot of pressure on women to become the perfect mothers when they have children, but that pressure is part of the reason you're feeling like this. You need to know that what you're feeling is perfectly normal and that talking to a mental health professional would do a world of good.
posted by incessant at 12:15 PM on August 19, 2006 [2 favorites]

and I don't feel depressed

a lot of depressed people don't. it's either that, or you don't particularly care for your child. not uncommon situations, both of them. thankfully, there seems to be a part of the family that does care for the baby, so it's not that worrisome.

anyway, if it's not depression but actual lack of interest, try not to fuck up your kid's life too much this next, say, 15-20 years? it's a long time, but then your kid didn't really ask you to bring her in this world -- you and your husband did. hence, it's your responsibility. two indifferent parents are a horrible curse, one indifferent parent is a problem that can be overcome anyway.
posted by matteo at 12:18 PM on August 19, 2006 [2 favorites]

Don't worry. Keep fulfilling your motherly responsibilities, give it time.
posted by Meatbomb at 12:20 PM on August 19, 2006 [1 favorite]

The idea that you should have a magical bond of instant head-over-heels love for your baby the moment you first lay eyes on her is cruel and seems to serve only to make women feel guilty for normal feelings.

Many women take months to truly develop a sense of love for their child. Think about it: one minute you're pregnant, the next minute you're a mother, and there is a huge world between those two states that you're expected to navigate in a millisecond. You're expected to love your baby more than you've ever loved anything in your life, but you're given no time to develop that kind of intimacy. It's just not that simple.

You care for your daughter, you ensure her safety, you feed and clothe her, and you're jealous of the relationships your other loved ones have with her. The very fact that you're struggling with this tells me that you are more than fit to be a mother.

That said, please, please, please talk to your doctor, because even though what you're experiencing isn't out of the ordinary, it really could have its root in postpartum depression. You should have a six-week postpartum checkup coming up soon; take the opportunity to talk about this. You may not feel depressed, but postpartum depression takes many forms, and it can be treated. You don't need to deal with this alone.
posted by jesourie at 12:24 PM on August 19, 2006 [10 favorites]

Are you breastfeeding? If not, try it.
posted by orthogonality at 12:28 PM on August 19, 2006

Baby massage!
posted by footnote at 12:33 PM on August 19, 2006

I didn't feel depressed either, just disinterested and detached- I thought my best friend's baby, a few weeks older than mine, was absolutely fascinating- and I stayed that way until I realized I was lying in bed at night, pondering if it wouldn't be better to smother the baby now, before she was really a person and something terrible could happen to her.

I got myself help then- please get some help for yourself. If you're afraid of what that means, regulating the sleep loss alone made a world of difference. (I got sleeping pills for my off nights, so I would actually sleep, and my husband had to step up and actually take care of the baby on my sleep nights.) I did take an antidepressant for a while, but I think the sleep helped more than anything.

Please get help now. Mine went on for so long, I missed most of the first year. Just recently, I looked back at pictures of my daughter in her infancy and only now, years later, realized she wasn't an ugly, uninteresting baby. It was startling how much the PPD had affected the way I saw everything.

Please talk to your doctor, or find the number of a local PPD group, or a social worker. I went the social worker route, and I'm glad she did. She was available just to listen, she arranged the doctor's appointments for me, and she checked in on me to make sure that I was doing well after I got help.

At the risk of being repetitive, please get help now.
posted by headspace at 12:34 PM on August 19, 2006 [3 favorites]

Also, please remember- chances are, you spend the most time with her. You likely do most of the basic maintenance, which will include things she doesn't like. You are the most familiar person to her. Dad and grandparents mainly play with her, so of course she smiles when she sees them. They're just play to her; you're everything else. You are her everything so you see everything, all her moods (and a lot less play because you have a lot more to do than play.)

She is not old enough to like or dislike you. She's not old enough to like or dislike you. Those are grown-up considerations you're attributing to a baby with a brain the size of an apple and the consistency of custard. I felt the same way with my daughter, that sounds so familiar, so I really hate to preach and plead, but please, please get some help.
posted by headspace at 12:43 PM on August 19, 2006 [8 favorites]

I think that you are actually feeling post-partum depression, even though you don't realize it (or don't want to admit it). Were you given a lot of attention during your pregnancy? It's a big change from being the center of attention (when you're pregnant) to being part of the background when the baby is born and all eyes turn to her. You have to do most of the hard work (and it is a lot of work), while other family members "drop in" and get to reap the rewards (baby smiles). Trust me, if you are the one consistently feeding her and keeping her clean over the next few months she will grow to ADORE you, more than anyone in the whole wide world.

Hang in there.
posted by sic at 12:43 PM on August 19, 2006 [2 favorites]

She is not old enough to like or dislike you.

I think this bears repeating.
posted by jesourie at 12:48 PM on August 19, 2006 [1 favorite]

If the OP is not already breastfeeding, after 6 weeks it would be exceedingly difficult. It made me laugh to type that, because as someone who breastfed, I can tell you it was more difficult than I could possibly describe, and we started immediately after birth.

Do you worry about your baby? That is, do you think about all the ways she could be hurt, and worry about how to keep her safe in this crazy world? If not, I would be very concerned. If you don't feel like going straight to a therapist, try looking up post-partum help in your area. Almost every hospital has a 24 hour line you can call. You could try talking to someone anonymously first, and go from there.

Good luck.
posted by peep at 12:49 PM on August 19, 2006

This is one of those normal things that no one ever talks about. This is one of those normal things that expectant mothers are often not told about. PPD is talked about these days, but some of the things that go along with it are not. And you are not necessarily having PPD to be feeling these things.

You're assuming that what you're feeling right now is some big revealed truth and is permanent. And while there's a small chance this is true, there's a much bigger likliehood that you're feeling the same things that so many mothers feel who do go on to bond with and deeply love their child. So stop assuming the worst—it's not that likely and it's too early to tell.

What you can do now is to regularly talk with someone who will listen sympathetically. You're doing that right now by posting here in AskMe: most people have been sympathetic. But you probably feel guilt and shame about these feelings and it would help you a lot to be able to talk about and work through this stuff on a regular basis with someone who won't be judgmental or threatened by how you feel.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 1:02 PM on August 19, 2006

My mother is, in fact, playing with her right now and getting happy cute reactions that I've never been able to get from her, and its breaking my heart.

This doesn't sound like someone who has no love for their baby.
posted by lbergstr at 1:11 PM on August 19, 2006 [5 favorites]

I definitely agree that you should seek some professional help. This is not at all an abnormal sort of feeling, lots of people feel this way, especially at this point (and when you're probably suffering from some kind of post-partum depression) it's just that not many people talk about it. You're the primary caregiver for a completely helpless being who has no way to communicate with you other than by crying, and whose only real function in life at this point is wanting things from you so she can grow. It's all take and no give right now and it is definitely normal and understandable to feel taken advantage of or resentful to some extent, despite the fact that people like to pretend that motherhood is all sweetness and light and laughing babies. The people you see who are able to have fun and interact with your baby aren't in your position: they're not the primary caregiver, they haven't just gone through nine months of pregnancy and all the physical/hormonal changes that entails, and they're not the baby's mother with all the societal pressures about how you're "supposed to" feel. It's okay to feel the way you do, but it's something you probably need to address with the help of a professional you can talk to and who won't judge you for it. Good luck and please don't be hard on yourself about this, but please do find some help so that you can work through this.
posted by biscotti at 1:27 PM on August 19, 2006 [1 favorite]

OK, everyone else has said this, but I have to as well: it sounds like you might have post-partum depression or, as it is now called, post-partum mood disorder. I had it with my first pregnancy, and also was slow to bond with my baby.

Please call (800) 944-4773 if you're in the US, or visit http://www.postpartum.net. They can help. You're also welcome to e-mail me if you want (but I won't be able to check my e-mail until Monday).
posted by The corpse in the library at 1:38 PM on August 19, 2006 [4 favorites]

It can be difficult having someone new in your life, someone who takes and takes and takes and doesn't really give anything back. It can be hard adjusting to a new mode of interracting, one that you've always been taught to avoid. You're not the only person who's gone through these feelings. You might have lifted your question/statement from my journal after my daughter was born.

There's good news though. Eventually your child will start crawling, then walking, then litening and talking. Once my daughter started wanting to play with me our relationship changed immensely. Your child will always be dependent on you to some degree, but they also become a friend, and that's a wonderful thing.

If you can, I'd suggest getting whatever help you can, professional help, if at all possible. I didn't have anyone to turn to and it sucked immensely. If you'd like to talk more, if I can help at all, my email's in my profile.
posted by lekvar at 1:39 PM on August 19, 2006

My heart goes out to you. You must be exhausted mentally, physically and emotionally. It also sounds like you're suffering from Postpartum Depression (also known as "New Mother Syndrome").

Take no blame for your feelings. Give yourself credit and lot's of allowance as you bear the great weight of depression. You are suffering and you need help and understanding. And if you can muster it, rejoice, because you are a mother who gave life!

Take care and follow up on the information you've been given as soon as you are able.

God bless you and your baby!
posted by rinkjustice at 1:59 PM on August 19, 2006

I had some of this with my second baby.

Please understand that your body has gone thru incredible hormonal upheaval by giving birth. And I can definitely confirm that one does not have to feel sad in order to be depressed.

Call your doc. This is treatable.

Meanwhile it sounds like you have help-take advantage of it, get as much sleep as you can. Get out in the sunlight, that helps too.

In my case, it got much better a few weeks along.

I commend you greatly for speaking up here, by the way. You are going to be a fine mom. IT WILL GET BETTER.
posted by konolia at 2:09 PM on August 19, 2006 [1 favorite]

I don't think this is a normal way for me to feel.

I just wanted to single out this comment, anonymous, and say simply that yes, this is a normal way to feel.

It's going to be as hard for you to believe the answers upthread right now, but hopefully it will keep you hanging on until you get to know all these things for yourself. Right now, I imagine that this is like being a very little kid and being told that someday, you'll find that you like those gross boys a whole lot. Or being in the throes of your very first crush and enduring someone older explain that someday, you'll won't actually be madly "in love" with this kid your whole life. It doesn't feel like it can be true until it...just...is. Just keep re-reading, look up those postpartum resources, and remember that a whole bunch of women know exactly what you're talking about.
posted by desuetude at 2:11 PM on August 19, 2006 [3 favorites]

A thought: babies can be very sensitive to non-verbal communication and certain kinds of social cues even from an early age; perhaps your little girl is sensing that you are unhappy.
posted by clockzero at 2:23 PM on August 19, 2006 [1 favorite]

It took me about a year to stop feeling the way you do now. What you feel is normal but hardly anyone ever dares admit to it.

It took 7 months to feel even slightly like myself again and to stop wondering if should put the baby up for adoption. It took 9 months before I dared to get some help and was diagnosed with PPD (which I had insisted for 9 months I didn't have). I'm more confident now, but I still get jealous of the relationship my MIL has wtih my son - I feel so boring compared to her. But I also know that when he needs comfort, it's me he comes to, probably because I have been there for all the boring stuff and still loved him despite the horrific poo bombs.

What helped:

Reading dooce.com (she went through the PPD much worse than I did at about the same time)

Talking to an experienced mum about my fears

Throwing away the baby books and not worrying about every little thing any more.

Anti-depressants for a few months, to give me a leg up.

Wearing him in a sling (I couldn't breastfeed, so this was important)

Realising what a shitty start we'd had (botched C-section, long recovery, colic and reflux) and giving myself a break.

Farming him out to my MIL one night a week so we could get some sleep.

And mostly giving it time and trying to do my best : making an extra effort when playing with and caring for him was the last thing I felt like doing. As long as I knew I was doing my best about 60% of the time, I felt a bit less guilty for not loving it.

Oh yeah - and telling the truth to anyone who dared to ask how motherhood was treating me; that it sucks, christ on a pogo-stick it really sucks, but it gets less sucky as the kid gets older. Because, damnit, someone has to start admitting that motherhood is not the idyll it's made out to be. Denying it makes us feel worse.

27 months on, I am hopelessly, pathetically in love with the boy. I had my very first experience of that rush of love you are supposed to feel when your baby is born, shortly after he turned two. It takes time. But it gets better. It does.
posted by pootler at 2:24 PM on August 19, 2006 [12 favorites]

I've totally been in your shoes. It's really hard to love something that pukes, craps and drools all over you. They won't let you sleep, eat, shower or even go to the bathroom. Yet you're supposed to be totally blissed out by the whole experience. It's a rotten situation. I don't think I really "bonded" with my daughter until the first time she laughed.
It is worth considering the possibility that you are depressed. I certainly was. Please talk to your doctor about how you are feeling. S/He will know how to help. Depression is a perfectly logical reaction to having your life turned upside down. It's not a flaw and you're not a bad mother. Feel free to e-mail me if you need a sympathetic ear.
posted by jrossi4r at 2:26 PM on August 19, 2006

Nothing new, but I wanted to tell you as mother of two children who I would die for (and they're teenagers) that I didn't feel particularly strongly for them at birth. For either of them, but at least the first one had the aspect of being a novelty. I came to the conclusion of faking it till it was real. I still don't understand that instant thing people talk about.

I also felt that talking to the babies was weird, but I knew it was necessary for language development. I always felt stilted and bizarre but my mother-in-law (and grandmother-in-law) were able to just go for it. (Experience might have had something there, perhaps).

Get help - doctor & psychologist, give it time, and please, ignore the cruel and unkind and unhelpful remarks in this thread. They do not understand what you are going through. They feel the perpetuation of the myth of instant motherhood is far more important than that you actually get assistance.
posted by b33j at 2:33 PM on August 19, 2006

Soon after bringing my daughter home from the hospital, I began to have some "call the orphanage" feelings. Basically, I occasionally found myself thinking, "This is the worst roomate I have ever had." It's all about her. She is quiet until we try to eat. She wakes us up at night. My wife and I feel like coworkers for Baby, Inc. instead of the old friends we were before getting married.

I missed thing like being spontaneous, taking the back roads home, deciding to go somewhere with no notice and leaving immediately, without packing the car with more baby stuff than I had posessions when I moved to my first job after grad school.

Today she is four, and I morn for every minute I ever wished would pass more quickly.

Two things:

1. You just met this person. Like any relationship, you get to know the person and learn what makes them unlike other people. I know it is different with out kids, but really, don't relationships take longer than that to build?

and most importantly:

2. You are in the fourth trimester. It took you nine months to have this baby. Your body and mind aren't going to simply snap back to their old state of being overnight. Give it some time.

As a man, I can't know this for sure, but it must be hard to transition from being pregnant (nine months of "It's all about the mom-to-be") to having a newborn ("It's all about the baby").

Talk to your doctor. You aren't alone in this, maybe just one of the few corageous enough to talk about it. God bless.
posted by 4ster at 2:33 PM on August 19, 2006 [9 favorites]

and apologies for my horrible spelling.
posted by 4ster at 2:34 PM on August 19, 2006

I can't add anything to the wonderful advice you've already gotten, but I do want you to know that you aren't unusual or flawed as a mother in some way. I agree with the PPD opinions, as a mother who suffered terribly with #s 2 and 4 of my children with PPD.

My email is in my profile, if you'd like to have someone to follow up and talk with. I promise it will get better.
posted by hollygoheavy at 2:41 PM on August 19, 2006

Whoa, I could have written your AskMeFi question about four months ago. My daughter is now seven months old and is playing at my feet. I would throw my body in front of a train for her these days. But that wasn't always so.

However. For the first sixteen weeks of her life or so, I would call my mother sobbing, "She's hates me. She won't even look at me." Or sometimes I would just feel numb. I would wonder seriously if my sister would want to raise her instead. My husband hugged me in the hallway one night and I burst into tears, "She's a very nice baby. Too bad we CAN'T KEEP HER! (very many tears here)" I was sure that our relationship was destined to be one of mutual disinterest, perhaps even descending into intense mutual dislike, and I was filled with dread.

Mostly, I felt that I was going to be a terrible, detached mother and that I had made an awful mistake in having a baby. Because, if I was supposed to be a mom, why was I feeling this way? I caught myself looking at her blankly when she looked at me, my face in a slight frown, my eyes unfocused. She would mirror my mood/expression and then I would feel guilty and ashamed.

I was getting no sleep. Sleep deprivation wrung every emotion out of my body. I was a zombie. My thyroid went ballastic and I became hypo-thyroid. I felt isolated, trapped at home all day. I was frustrated that I didn't know what I was doing. And here is the kicker.

No one told me that a newborn infant can be BORING! (Yes, let the wrath of the internet descend upon my head right now.) Talking to the baby felt like talking to myself and that seemed goofy. I missed intellectual stimulation. I missed adult conversation. I missed physical well-being and the freedom to do whatever, whenever. I was in mourning for my old life. I think the book "Mothershock" had the quote from someone's spouse about the baby, "So the point is that we have to keep him alive until he gets more interesting, right?" And that became my mantra.

Eventually, though it seemed like it took forever, I fell in love with her. She began smiling at me as much as she smiled at my MIL. Now, as a previous poster said, the minutes go by much, much too quickly.

Please take care of yourself. It's okay to pamper yourself and let others help you take care of the baby. Get a massage. Get a sitter. Get out of the house. Be gentle with yourself. Take good care. It will be okay.
posted by jeanmari at 2:58 PM on August 19, 2006 [24 favorites]

This is one of those normal things that no one ever talks about.

Exactly. You care enough to post here, now care enough to get some help. You are a good mother, and your baby will love you when it is old enough to love anyone, which isn't for some months yet.
posted by LarryC at 3:02 PM on August 19, 2006

Perhaps not comparable, but I've had (thankfully) short stints in my 2.5 months as a father that were like this. A few days of her wanting nothing but booby and crying when I picked her up were very hard. But it got better and now each day is great...just like it was the first few days with her.

However, as others have said here, depressed people don't always feel "depressed". Do yourself, the baby, the father, and everyone else a huge favour and seek some advice from a professional.
posted by Kickstart70 at 3:03 PM on August 19, 2006

I've never had a baby, and I don't have anything as insightful to say as lots of the responses above, which are really touching and eye-opening. The one part that I do have first-hand experience with is hiding or revealing myself to the people I love. When something feels big and negative about myself, and I hide it from people like my husband, parents, or friends, I feel isolated, detached from them, and ashamed. Maybe I'm leaping to conclusions, but from your post, it sounded like you might not have told anyone you love how you're feeling.

It sounds like right now, your lack of starry-eyed love for your 6-week old, and your feelings of being abnormal for that lack, are really true, important things about you. I hope that you can take comfort from hearing from everyone here how normal and temporary it is, and get yourself the kinds of help they recommend. But beyond that, I also hope you can bring yourself to give the people you love, especially your husband, a glimpse into how you're really feeling, if you haven't already. I hope he responds lovingly, and that you can feel the sweet relief of being how you really are and finding out that you're still loved and accepted.

Again, I haven't had your experience, so if it's too much to ask to expect you to reach out to others until you get your own self back together, just ignore me.
posted by daisyace at 3:46 PM on August 19, 2006 [4 favorites]

We have a seven month old. My wife had a lot of the same feelings when the baby was born. Realize that you two are just getting to know each other and that if there is one constant with having a baby it's that nothing stays the same for long. Just give it a chance, and realize that things will change. I can guarantee that.
posted by trbrts at 4:10 PM on August 19, 2006 [1 favorite]

i think you're brave to post this, and i also think your feelings are totally normal. like others have said, i suspect you're having post-partum depression, and you're probably getting no sleep, and the first month to six weeks of a child's life is utter hell (at least it was for the parents i knew). get some help. hang in there.
posted by sdn at 4:14 PM on August 19, 2006

This thread all by itself justifies the existence of AskMe. Congratulations to all the people who posted those wonderful answers. I hope the poster takes them to heart.
posted by languagehat at 5:19 PM on August 19, 2006 [1 favorite]

The literature they gave me at the hospital said that many women take several weeks to begin feeling affection for their babies, and that they shouldn't feel like they're bad people for that, and so on. I did feel affection for my baby right away, but even then there were times when I just didn't want to see her because I was so exhausted. Also, I felt like she thought of me as a walking milk sack. Papa was for playing, and I was for feeding. He got the first smiles and the first babbles, but now I get some too. Although I will say that just earlier tonight she was sitting happily in her little reclining baby seat near my husband, until I walked in the room and she yelled for food. I might have interpreted that as an unhappy noise and felt bad that she made it when I walked in, but I'm sure it was just that she recognized me as an opportunity for food, and took the chance while she had it. Her crying while she was alone with you may just reflect that she recognizes you as the one who takes care of her. Just give it a couple of weeks and she'll be smiling at you to thank you.
posted by leapingsheep at 5:51 PM on August 19, 2006

I am moved to second language hat: fantastic thread, insightful responses, and one very brave poster. Good on all of you!
posted by rob511 at 6:46 PM on August 19, 2006

Your hormones are still on the pregnancy & birth roller coaster, and will be for quite a while. So, yes, another voice saying postpartum depression. It's treatable. If your family gives you any crap at all about it, or if you need to hear that you're okay, you're a fine person, you're a good mom, come back here, or email me or other posters who seem helpful.

Your baby loves you. Your baby will grow into a child who loves you, and, someday, an adult who loves you. And who you will love with a passion you could never have imagined. You are the person your baby depends on above all others. You are safety, home and the world to her. The baby cries because she trusts that you will take care of her.

If your baby cries a lot, if you have any reason at all to think your baby has colic, my email's in my profile. My baby had colic, and it was so awful.

Aside, women have different experiences of breastfeeding. It's quite possible to start nursing at 6 weeks postpartum, and for some women, would not be difficult.
posted by theora55 at 6:58 PM on August 19, 2006 [1 favorite]

Father of two, grandfather of 4 here. Tossing into a thread I've watched, that's over, only to say:

You don't ever quit falling in and out of love with them.

They're two, and they've just learned "No!" and you love them, and you want to strangle them, 'cause all they've said, for two days, proudly, defiantly, with their little fist clenched, and tears rolling down their cheeks at times is "No!"

They're eight, and they've got their first, best, lifelong friend, and that friend's mother lets Best Friend stay up until 11:00 on school nights.

They're 14, and they avoid you. No reason, they just avoid you. All the time. You wonder if they're doing drugs. You wonder if they're having sex. You wonder if they can have sex. You wonder if they are avoiding you on grounds they think you're having sex. (You've had no sex since they were eight.)

Tears for your fears, Mom. And tears for joys to come.
posted by paulsc at 7:10 PM on August 19, 2006 [17 favorites]

I recently read an article in a parenting magazine about exactly this, from both the view of the mother and the father. They all said it would change.

Some things that might help:
1. Talk to your doctor at your 6 week visit. She/he has heard it all before and will help you.
2. realize your hormones are still in flux big time! Think ongoing PMS for a long time. Again, the doc may be able to help.
3. You are sleep deprived. Take any chance you can to get sleep. If friends/neighbors/parents ask what they can do to help, tell them to take the baby so you can take a nap.
4. Try to eat balanced meals with good food - so often we moms skip this to tend to the little ones, but food also plays a role in mood.
5. Talk to your doctor. (I know I already said this and so have many others, but do it.)
6. Cut yourself a break. Blame it on the sleep, hormones and everything else, but don't blame it on you.
7. Take some time for you. Do something you like. Go for a walk in the park, meet some friends for coffee, get out of the house. When you have a break from baby, you may feel a little better coming back to her.
8. Get some exercise out in the sun. Both are mood boosters, and can help you get the melotonin and other hormones back on track.
9. Let dad take over on some of the tasks like a night feeding or two as well as diapering and other things when he is home.
10. Think about going back to work. If that is where you are happiest, then that is what is best for the family. I know you didn't mention this, but you may be missing work where you get to interact with adults and use your mind. Think about going back part time if you think that this will help. Talk to your employer about doing a couple hours a week until the end of maternity leave to decide how much you want to work.

Try not to worry about this too much. Be honest with your doctor, don't be afraid of meds, and try to get enough sleep.

wife of 445supermag
posted by 445supermag at 8:30 PM on August 19, 2006

I'll jump in to add my experience to all the others. I got hit with PPD pretty obviously, right off the bat. All I could feel the first few days were terror and anxiety. My mom and husband ended up doing all the caring for her, except to bring her to me for feeding. And like somebody upthread stated, I felt like a walking milk bag. I could not comfort her except to feed her, and I was certain she took cues from me and reacted by not wanting to be in my presence. All I could see ahead of me were days on end of doing something I hated. I blamed my husband for pressuring me into something I never would have chosen. I thought that, if I'd known what it would feel like, I would never have become pregnant, and I wanted nothing so much as to take it all back. I did not want to be a mother. I did not want my child.

I took care of her, of course. I did all the right things; I went to every length to make sure that she was getting everything a baby needed to be healthy and happy. I smiled false smiles at her, cooed at her through my tears. I was going to be the perfect mother, even while I was at the end of myself and feeling shame and guilt for the thoughts I was having.

My daughter is almost three months old, now. It's gotten better, though it finally took antidepressants to start bringing me back to a semblance of normal. I am fiercely enamored with her, but there are still days when I just want her to be away for a while.

I want to emphasize again, though it's been written above many times: this is common. You are not a bad person, or a bad mother. And no, you don't have to feel sad to have PPD, though I won't diagnose you with it. Please do speak to somebody who will understand. I think it will lift a very heavy burden from you.

A final thing I want to stress: get sleep. You will be amazed at the effect a little more sleep will have on how you feel about things during the day, and how you are able to interact with your baby.
posted by moira at 9:41 PM on August 19, 2006 [2 favorites]

Another voice added to the chorus:

This sounds precisely like postpartum depression. Totally natural, not at all your fault, completely treatable. Seek professional help. If there's not a telehealth or public-health-nurse number at hand, just go to the nearest emergency, and they'll direct you to people who can get you through this.

Further context: I'm a father of a seventeen-month-old who taught me the meaning of the phrase I'd die for you. In Calgary, where we live, the regional health authority offers prenatal parenting courses, heavily weighted toward teaching new moms how to detect and deal with PPD. Our instructor got into teaching the course because she'd gone through PPD without help and it drove her nuts to think anyone else would have to suffer that way through something for which effective help was so readily at hand. Her mission in life, self-proclaimed, was to try to save as many women as possible from doing it alone. She'd beg and cajole you to seek help, and applaud you lustily for having the courage to do so.

So I'll do my best on her behalf: You can do it. Do it. Go. Now. Godspeed.
posted by gompa at 10:30 PM on August 19, 2006

Yet another voice echoing the previous sentiments. I am not a parent, but between my sister's three kids and several close friends who have also had children in the past ~8 years, I've absolutely heard new mothers experiencing exactly this feeling more than once. From what they went through, and based on the many thoughtful and heartfelt remarks in this thread, there are two general conclusions I've drawn: first, parent-child bonding is a process, not the instantaneous, bluebirds-on-your-shoulder bliss that popular culture would have us believe; and second, that PPD presents itself with a variety of symptoms that can seem very different from "regular" depression. I urge you to be as gentle and kind to yourself as possible, and to talk to your doctor soon.

We're all pulling for you. Best of luck.
posted by scody at 4:43 AM on August 20, 2006 [2 favorites]

I'm only a dedicated auntie, but from my witness experience, those first 3 months (wait, make that 6 months) look like hell. To me it looks like one of the most gruelling and difficult things anyone can go through as a normal life process, and I don't think anyone can look askance at a new mother who's struggling through it.
posted by Hildegarde at 12:41 PM on August 20, 2006

I didn't have your experience. I felt very strongly that I loved my babies -- but I didn't love their father (at all) and also knew in my heart that I was completely unqualified to be their mother. Knowing me could only harm them; the constant, constant thought that with everything I did I was fucking up such beautiful little kids just made it impossible for me to exist. So I decided to put them up for adoption, then kill myself, so the whole wondering-about-the-birth-mother thing couldn't hurt them either. My bastard husband at first agreed to it and signed the papers, then outed me to my dad.

My dad, to my surprise, completely freaked. He offered to adopt them. In the end he was their guardian for six months. During that time I saw a shrink, started taking medication, and...

Goddamn if things didn't start looking very different to me.

Methyl Jr is 14 now. One night he was telling me all the ways in which I suck, as 14-year-olds will do. After he'd let it all out...

Yeah, yeah, I know. But you know what? All your friends' parents, every teacher you've ever had, the principal and the freakin office ladies, all of them are constantly kissing my butt about you being such a spectacular kid. They all think I must be this perfect mom to have a kid like you. Ha! So there.
Methyl Jr.: Jesus.
Methylviolet: Yeah, OK, you and your sister are the two people in the world to whom I cannot front, but how is it fair for all the good parents to have these stupid, lame kids? I am a bad parent, and I have these angel children from planet Bitchen. If you want anybody to believe you when you tell them how much I suck, you might want to do something differently.
Methyl Jr: (laughing) Yeah, maybe! ... E-e-eh, you're alright.
posted by Methylviolet at 2:59 PM on August 20, 2006 [10 favorites]

Jeez I got so wrapped up in my experience that I forgot to tell you the points I was trying to make.
  1. Don't worry about fucking up your kid. Kids are resiliant, and who knows but the very flaws you see in yourself as a parent will be the things that help them blossom into marvellousness.
  2. Medication revolutionizes your world. I personally thought I was only being pragmatic with this adoption/suicide plan. I though the only reason I was sad was that I was feeling well-deserved guilt over pretending that I could be somebody's mother.
So, go to a shrink, and give yourself a break.
Whatever you are, is good enough.
posted by Methylviolet at 3:18 PM on August 20, 2006 [4 favorites]

I felt exactly the same way with my daughter, if it's any consolation.

I called it 'Planet Mommie' phenomena. She reacted to other people, starting at about 6 weeks. She smiled at them, made noises, etc. I am totally convinced she didn't realize I was a separate person thanks to the breastfeeding, constant care, etc.

I was the first person in my group of friends to have a child, so I thought I was a horrible human being. At 3am, when she started to cry yet again to be fed, I would turn to my husband, not joking at all, and say, "I thought we agreed never to get another roommate."

Then my husband went to E3 to go drinking with his friends for a week. I nearly had a breakdown, crying, but still caring for my kiddo in the functional, if not emotional, ways. And she, at about 2.5 months, patted me on my back the way I always patted her to burp her. Sure, it was probably just coincidence, but I felt like she got that I was a person and was trying to console me.

When her father returned, he said he felt left out because we were suddenly so in synch.

I've got my fingers crossed for that moment to come sooner, rather than later, for you.

And if you're anywhere the sf bay area and ever need another mom to talk to, I know I could have used one when I was in the same spot and my email is my profile.
posted by Gucky at 3:53 PM on August 20, 2006

I thought that this was apropos, if somewhat late: from this weekend's Globe and Mail: Motherhood is Boring. Subscription required, but if you take the time to search for the article via google news, their link will get past the subscription wall. It's a referrer thing I think.
posted by GuyZero at 6:56 PM on August 20, 2006

I just wanted to add at this late stage that I intentionaly avoided saying "yes, this is PPD". The reason was that while it's true that for many people having some medical diagnosis describing the things they are feeling that they believe are abnormal is reassuring, it's also the case that this isn't abnormal, it's normal, and medicalizing it may not be comfortable for you. And the thing is, it doesn't really matter whether you slap a label on these feelings or not. What does really matter is that these feelings are very common, they'll likely pass, it'd almost certainly be helpful for you to talk to someone about it, and if you want you can investigate the possibility of PPD and treatment for it in general. But you can also just "treat" these normal feelings very specifically, even including using medication if you wish, with whatever is appropriate and helpful for you to feel happier in your present situation without wholeheartedly embracing the PPD label. You can if you want. Or not. The important thing is just to realize that you're not a bad mother or a bad person for feeling these things and that there's resources available to you to help you work through this.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 11:18 PM on August 20, 2006

Good luck, and please do keep us posted!
posted by DenOfSizer at 11:24 AM on August 21, 2006

I may be late to the party, but I wanted to say that some women from the local Post-Partum Depression support group made a presentation about this at my local parent-infant drop-in. They talked about how the bond with your baby is NOT instant and how it takes time. In fact, because the mom is so sleep deprived and perhaps experiencing the baby blues or, in some cases, post-partum depression, it can take a while for the bond to form. You are absolutely not alone. I know lots of moms who've confided that the bond wasn't there right away. The media builds it up as though you give birth and become a mom right away. That's not true. It's a change to your identity and it takes time. I hope you can confide in your doctor and health nurse and get some support. You're not alone.
posted by acoutu at 8:43 PM on August 24, 2006

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