With the 4th of July landing mid-week, my week was all mixed up! We had a great 4th of July- M went to her first parade, my dad came to town, and we celebrated with friends.
This weekend, I’m excited to head up to my hometown of Green Bay, Wisconsin for a friend’s baby shower. It seems like a wave of my friends are having babies right now! Talking with so many new moms has reminded me how hard newborns really and how much pressure new moms face. I felt this intense pressure and expectation that I would have this immediate, inseparable bond with my daughter. So much of what I read talked about this wave of love immediately after birth. That was not my experience, and everything turned out okay. Delayed bonding is pretty common and happens for a variety of reasons (or no reason at all). For me, it had to do with postpartum depression. Here is how postpartum depression affected bonding with my baby.
I had little interest or energy to care for her
This is really tough to admit, and for some of you, I’m sure it’s hard to read. How can a mother not want to care for her baby?! If I wasn’t angry or panicking, I was indifferent. And, really, baby care seemed like work to me. I was relieved when anyone else took care of my baby. Thank goodness my husband was a total natural at fatherhood. He was so willing to do the late-night feedings and snuggles, bathe her, and spend as much time with her as possible. I know he was probably wondering why I didn’t feel the same, and if he was ever judgmental, he never showed it. Bless him.
I was rejecting my new life because I was so scared: I had completely lost myself, my old life, and was hopeless. Every act of parenthood reminded me how different my life was, and I wasn’t sure I could handle being a mom. By rejecting my new life, I rejected my baby.
However, PPD is tricky. If I wasn’t feeling completely indifferent, I felt like a total failure and there was no middle ground. This is especially true with breastfeeding.
I struggled with breastfeeding and ultimately stopped
Breastfeeding is one of the cornerstone ways mothers bond with their babies. A strong bonding and breastfeeding relationship is a beautiful thing. M and I were far from that! I tried to breastfeed for two weeks and failed miserably. The details don’t matter. Then, I tried pumping for six weeks to ensure M got some benefits of breast milk. This ended when my husband went out of town for a few days. I couldn’t find time to pump with a screaming baby and my supply tanked.
When I stopped pumping, I was so relieved. Every time I pumped, I had a panic attack. It’s hard to bond with your baby when you are dreading every attempt at breastfeeding, feeling like failure, and then whenever you pump your body panics. I am a firm believer that babies look to their parents for how to respond and feel. If every few hours I was panicking and maybe crying, then M was feeling anxious too (and often cried).
My experience with breastfeeding is reminiscent of the classic “chicken or the egg” scenario. I’m really not sure if I failed at breastfeeding because of my PPD, or if my failure at breastfeeding magnified my PPD. It’s probably a little of both. I’m sure buying a house, moving, and a dozen DIY projects her first month of life didn’t help either!
I listened to the PPD lying monster in my head
PPD is a lying monster. The Bloggess says it best, “depression lies”. In fact, PPD lied to me every day for the first three months of M’s life. At the 2am feeding (if I actually did it), PPD whispered, “You are a terrible mother”. During the long days of maternity leave, PPD told me, “You are never going to be a good mom!” And, worst of all, if M was crying inconsolably and I felt like, PPD screamed, “Your baby is better off without you.”
It’s really hard to bond with your baby when a voice in your head tells you that you are worthless to her.
Bonding has been gradual. Through the treatment process, I felt myself slowly becoming more confident as a mother and actually feeling like a mom. I no longer believed the lies, and eventually felt like myself, but with a new identity too! As M has grown, I have also grown into motherhood.
Today, she’s my mini-me. I love new adventures with her and seeing her interpret everyday life. Snuggles with M are my favorite, and lately, she’s enjoyed snuggling in bed watching Mickey with me.
I cherish these small moments everyday because I know that I missed so much at the beginning.