Learning to Love My Son
This post isn’t exactly fun to write, but I am making it public in the hopes that it might help someone who may feel similarly. I’ve been seeing posts written by other women about the topic of postpartum adjustments and it feels important to add my voice to the mix.
If you’ve been a reader of this blog, you’ll know that I endured 4.5 years of infertility. What you may not know is that I suffered through a difficult pregnancy plagued by large fibroids and little appetite. But I prayed and prayed that I would get to see a healthy, happy baby.
And I did. But once I met him, I didn’t love him. I didn’t hate him either, but I felt as though he weren’t real. That he wasn’t really my son. That I was never pregnant and being in the hospital with a baby in my room was a complete and total fraud. When I held him for the first time, I thought he was a doll. I could not believe he was a real human being. It seemed as though everyone banded together to play a mean trick on me to try to convince me that I had this great responsibility now. And I didn’t want it.
I cried every day for four weeks since the birth of my son. I cried when the Velcro strap came off the diaper, I cried myself to sleep, I cried when he cried. I simply just cried for no good reason. You could have told me that hormones were making me crazy, but I didn’t feel them. I just knew my mood would crash deeper and deeper and deeper. My depression seemed to be a bottomless pit.
I tried to look at the positives about my newborn son: he was adorable and he was healthy. But I still grappled with the reality that he was really mine and that he had really come from my womb.
I had never really interacted or taken care of newborns before my son was born so I was nervous about holding him properly, ie, supporting his head, not hurting his arms, not crushing his feet. I tried my best to care about him. I told myself that he was what I had been waiting nearly 5 years for. That I was supposed to love him. But all I could feel was a sense of detachment that barely bordered on obligation.
If you’ve read my son’s birth story, you’ll know that I had a Caesarean section. I don’t know about other women, but I can tell you that the first two weeks were the most difficult weeks I’d ever experienced. My newborn son did not cry in the hospital, but once he came home, he let my husband and me know that he had some lungs. Moving was painful. Holding my son while he cried was painful. During those first two weeks, my husband did everything. He got up in the middle of the night to feed and change the baby. Quite honestly, I was so tired and in so much pain, I couldn’t even hear my baby cry.
I told myself to love my son but how do you force yourself to love someone when you don’t feel it? I loved him in an obligatory way. I would feed him, change his diaper, and burp him. I did this consistently. But I did not love him as I thought I ought to.
Five weeks after his birth now and I’m realizing that love is a process for me. I was not awash with instant, overwhelming love for my son upon first sight. Each day, I slowly learn to love him a little bit more. Maybe one day I’ll be totally head over heels for him but that day isn’t today. But I am learning to love him and care for him beyond obligation.