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Unattached Parenting

April 1, 2012

Towards the end of my pregnancy with Ryan, a very good friend said to me, “Don’t feel badly if you don’t feel attached to him at first”.  Because there is no better parent in the world than the one who is not actually a parent, I smiled politely and inwardly doubted her words.  What did she mean, I might not feel attached?  This baby was intentional; we had planned for him, we were excited, there was no way I wouldn’t feel anything but unabounding and overwhelming love for this child.

Then he was born, and I learned exactly what she meant.

For months, I vacillated between resentment and indifference for this tiny creature who entirely upended and ruined my life as I’d known it.  No one completely understands the phrase ‘a baby changes everything’ until said baby actually arrives.  I didn’t neglect my son – I fed him and bathed him and rocked him to sleep – but those actions were born more out of obligation than any kind of warmth or love I felt for him. I did not feel that deep seeded love and adoration that so many mommies speak of.  I did not miss him when I left the house; I was only annoyed that I would have to return by a designated time to nurse him again.  While my husband couldn’t wait to return home from work to be with Ryan, I couldn’t wait for him to get home so I could escape.  Escape the house, escape the baby, escape my life.

I recently spoke with another friend who put it perfectly: I loved Ryan, but I was not IN love with him.  I loved him because I was supposed to, but I did not feel that love for him.  And I was so ashamed of that feeling.  I was convinced that there was something terribly, terribly wrong with me – I mean, what kind of mother doesn’t adore their baby?

I write about this today because at some point during this dark, dark period, the advice I received during my pregnancy popped into my head and I realized that I’m not the only one who feels this way.  In fact, I bet there are many more mommies than we know about who feel like this.  And it’s not something to be ashamed of.  When you really think about it, when baby arrives, he/she is essentially an unbearably needy stranger who cannot communicate in any way, shape, or form.  It is incumbent upon an incredibly sleep-deprived you to interpret every cry, sigh, yawn, eye rub, fist clench or any other movement unique to your baby to tell you what he/she needs.  There’s no handbook that tells you exactly what your baby needs so he stops crying for the fifth hour on end – it is process of elimination at its best.  For the first several months of Ryan’s life, he would scream and scream from 4pm-7pm, and every night it was the same routine: rocking, singing, swaying, diaper changing.  And every  night he needed the same thing: to eat.  And every night, we would forget that this was the solution.  Parenting is an incredibly overwhelming task not for the weak-willed.

It took eight months for me to fall in love with Ryan.  Part of that can be attributed to taking forever to seek help for post-partum depression and anxiety.  And don’t get me wrong – there are still times where I consider trading him on the black market for a good bottle of wine and some dark chocolate.  But now, I understand what other moms mean when they describe how they feel about their babies.  The love that I thought I was missing is there.  The only thing I wish is that more moms were open and honest with each other about our feelings – that we didn’t feel the need to hide them from each other, that we didn’t get the ‘inferior mommy’ look from others when we admitted them.  Then maybe we’d all be super moms :o)

3 Comments leave one →
  1. ChanaMaya permalink
    April 1, 2012 12:54 pm

    I’m very proud of you Bri. You are a wonderful mother and a strong woman. We learn as mothers that in order to give our best to our children, we must be our best – and that means taking care of ourselves.

  2. amy permalink
    April 1, 2012 7:29 pm

    Bri, you are so amazing and strong and have grown so much. I am so proud of the mommy you are for Ryan and the person you are today. It takes strength to share your fears and I am here for you any time!

  3. April 12, 2012 6:03 pm

    Word. Major kuddos for this one. I remember these exactly feelings with Arman once upon a time, not so long ago. As soon as the nurses handed him to me I was conflicted. I would have jumped in front of train for that kid….but I didn’t exactly like him. It was a strange place to be; to be constantly in the company of this little being and yet feel so lonely. And it’s especially difficult for a perfectionist, no? On top of feeling so crappy about the whole thing you need to expend additional energy to make sure that everyone is convinced that you’re on top of the world; that dinner is 100% organic and local, your hair is freshly washed, and that this adorable baby has best thing for your marriage to date. Ha!

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