“You are going to be such a good mother! You’re a natural,” people said all the time during my first pregnancy. I always responded sheepishly, nodding like a bobblehead stuttering a quiet, “Thanks.”
I didn’t know what being a “mom” really meant. I read books and even took classes on how to take care of a baby. I bought all the essentials (and way too many non-essentials) so that I could be ready the day I brought my baby home.
However, nothing prepared me for actually becoming a mom for the first time.
I remember the moment the midwife placed my son on my chest after he was born. I remember feeling extremely strange because I expected this wave of warmth and love for my baby to overcome me, but instead, I was petrified.
I didn’t connect with my son right away.
He was this…alien who just landed on me and expected to feed off me. He cried A LOT. But so many family members and friends expected me to just embrace motherhood with open arms, so I smiled and played the part of a happy new mom, afraid that they would find out how I really felt.
After the hospital staff moved us to the recovery room, I was supposed to relax and take time to bond with the baby. Instead, this isn’t happening, this can’t be happening, kept running through my head as I nursed my newborn son for the 11th hour in a row.
I had just given birth and was exhausted from nearly 12 hours of labor. All I wanted to do was to catch up on sleep and rest. However, my son refused to sleep in his bassinet and insisted that I hold him and nurse him, or else he would scream. So I stayed up all night nursing him, jealous of my husband sleeping soundly in the bed next to mine because he was so tired from a day of labor.
I remember looking at my son in my arms, so tiny and helpless, and feeling the weight of the world bearing down on me because he relied on me to survive.
I didn’t want that responsibility. I wanted things to go back to the way they were before I got pregnant—a life where having to wake up at 8 a.m. was way too early, sleeping less than 6 hours a night was unfathomable, and my boobs were my own.
I wanted to give birth and meet my son so badly the last month of pregnancy. Now my thoughts were more along the lines of: Why didn’t I take the babymoon like everyone else recommended? Why didn’t I take my time and enjoy the freedom I had?
I had this perfect picture of me holding a happy baby who cooed and smiled while I basked in the glory that is motherhood. I couldn’t wait to make that image a reality, but it wasn’t my reality.
My son was a fussy baby and the best answer I got from the (multiple) doctors I brought him to was that maybe he had colic. I didn’t want to bring him out in fear that he’d cry in public, so I stayed home feeling like a prisoner.
I felt like I failed as a mom since I couldn’t make him happy and stop him from crying. And when I did go out, I always ended up nursing to make him stop crying—and nursing in public as a new mom was nerve wracking.
I was stuck between my desire to rejoin society and my fear of embarrassing myself as a mom who couldn’t figure out why her baby was fussy.
About three weeks after giving birth, I started going to support groups—desperate to connect with other adults and seek advice. While I found some moms who were taking motherhood in stride, others were struggling as well. We commiserated on the sleepless nights and painful, chapped nipples. We laughed over unfortunate blow-out moments and spit-up incidents. While I was still adjusting to being a mom, at least I then knew that I was not alone.
So no matter how difficult it was to get out of the house and drive 20 minutes to the support groups with my son screaming in his car seat, I looked forward to the meetings as if they were luxurious spa treatments or vacations on the beach.
Then it happened.
One day, when my son was about two months old, he looked into my eyes and smiled. It wasn’t a huge smile, but it was definitely not an “I-need-to-squeeze-out-a-poo” smile.
And just like that, I was hooked.
I made it my goal every day to make him smile as much as possible, whether it meant doing jumping jacks or making silly cartoon noises.
We started bonding more and more as he became more responsive to me, and I started to get hints here and there of what that perfect picture of motherhood is all about.
One night soon after, as I rocked and nursed my son to sleep—I realized that I could no longer imagine a life without my baby. I didn’t want to imagine a life without my son because I had fully embraced motherhood, and I was holding on tight and never letting go.
Many moms feel the pressure to immediately bond with the baby moments after delivery. The truth is, motherhood is a major adjustment that takes time.
As much as movies and commercials make you want to believe that you should be falling in love at first sight with your baby, it’s actually very difficult to connect with a newborn who does not respond to you and needs you to take care of his every need 24/7.
So take your time to form the bond with your baby. It may not happen right away, and that’s totally okay. With tons of cuddling, nursing and playing, you will eventually build a connection. Then finally, before you realize it, you will feel like a natural.
This post first appeared on Mother.ly