Unexpected and Unexcited: Struggling to Bond with My Baby

It has taken me years to get to the point where I am comfortable discussing this. Even now as I type these words, with my youngest days away from turning six years old, I am still going back and forth about whether this is really something I want to put out there. But I’m going to do it anyway because there is some momma somewhere who needs to hear our story.

My oldest wasn’t even two years old when my husband and I found out we were pregnant again. We were both very shocked, as this was not the plan. But for me, it was more than shock. It was pure terror. We’d just moved back to New Orleans, re-established ourselves in our careers, finally gotten a handle on life with a toddler, and now this. It wasn’t that we never wanted more babies; we absolutely wanted to expand our family. Financially, things would be fine. We I just weren’t wasn’t ready. Then again, are you ever really ready?

The days turned into weeks, weeks into months, months into trimesters. I went to the appointments and wore maternity jeans, but other than that, I didn’t really feel pregnant. My heart wasn’t in it as I just went through the motions. I talked to my friends who optimistically told me things like, “Perfectly normal” or “You’ll get there.” But I wasn’t convinced.

It was almost Halloween, and I was due on Christmas. We hadn’t washed a single onesie. The nursery was yellow, a color left behind by the previous homeowners. We had some mismatched crib sheets and blankets. I couldn’t even bring myself to pick a theme or give our baby a proper nursery. Sure, he had the essentials to be cared for and safe—I could at least do that part—but I couldn’t do enthusiasm. My sister-in-law and mom came over for what basically amounted to an intervention (it’s worth noting that my husband had gently tried to nudge me along to no avail). I think they’d been giving me time for things to come together, but when they realized I was really out of sorts, they stepped up. They tackled the laundry and helped organize the nursery.

As the remaining weeks flew by, I tried so hard to get excited. I kept waiting for something to click as my due date approached. Because he was due on Christmas, I elected to deliver him one week prior. I did not want to do anything to upset my idea of a magical Christmas for my two-year-old, so I was determined to spend Christmas in my own home rather than potentially in the hospital. The night before delivery, we dropped our two-year-old off at my parents’ house. I say dropped off, but that’s not quite accurate. When it was time to leave, my husband had to pull me away. I felt so guilty about adding a new baby to my son’s life; it didn’t seem like we’d had enough time just us and him. Gosh, thinking of that night, I still get misty-eyed.

We arrived at the hospital before dawn, and before I knew it, I was sobbing into the arms of the nurse as she held me for the epidural. Worried that I was in pain, she asked me what was hurting me. And I distinctly remember telling her, “I’m not ready for this. We need to wait longer.” We both knew there was nothing to be done about that. I was having this baby in the next few hours.

Delivery went beautifully. Physically, I did well. Our baby boy was healthy and beautiful with a head full of black hair and the most perfect nose. I nursed him and cuddled him and kept him in-room. I did all the things to ensure that no matter how I was feeling, he felt all the love. He deserved at least that. And I know in my heart that I loved this baby, but I just kept waiting to fall in love. I was doing all the right things but was struggling to bond. At my follow-up appointment, my doctor asked how I was doing, and I burst into tears. I told her everything. She wanted to make sure that the baby and I were safe, and I was certain we were, that it wasn’t like that.

I cannot imagine their lives without each other. They are truly best friends, and I’m forever grateful for their bond.

While my anxiety and sadness had begun long before his birth, she would treat me for postpartum depression. I think it did develop into postpartum depression, so we definitely needed to deal with it. But, even with all the support in the world, the Lexapro, the books, it took me a while to get there. I feel so much guilt for that first year of my youngest son’s life. I did everything to make him feel nurtured and loved, but I didn’t feel that bond until he was almost a year old. Every year on his birthday, I tell him he was the best kind of Christmas present, the kind you had no idea you wanted or needed but now can’t live without. And I mean every word.

Alyson lives in Metairie with her husband, Patrick, their 8 and 6-year-old boys, and their Morkie, Beignet. After teaching for almost ten years, she left a career in education, earned her BSN, and now works as a pediatric emergency nurse. In her free time, Alyson enjoys flipping furniture, writing, dancing, and painting. She is always looking for a racquetball partner and loves streetcar rides and playing board games with her family. A good cook, she is constantly on a quest to answer the age-old question, “What’s for dinner?” but has thus far been unsuccessful.

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