It Took Months For Me To Bond With My Daughter

by Heather Shurina
Originally Published: 
Heather Shurina, with brown hair, is smiling while her child sitting next to her on the couch
Heather Shurina

I am grossly obsessed with my daughter. I smell her breath when she sleeps. I watch videos of her when I put her to bed because I miss her. I stare at her while she watches TV. I kiss her 9,000 times a day and physically bite her toes on the regular.

When I’m away from her, I literally feel like a piece of my body is missing. I take photos and videos of every tiny thing she does, convinced it’s the greatest thing any child has ever accomplished. I am completely consumed by my love for her. I’m aware that I’m 100% creating some sort of attachment issue, but I can’t help myself.

I share this “swim fan” behavior, because our relationship didn’t start out that way. As much as it absolutely kills my soul to admit this, it’s the truth. I did not feel connected to Mickey right away.

Granted, I didn’t have a normal labor and delivery. I didn’t get to hold her for over 24 hours after having her. I didn’t get to feed her for 48 hours. I didn’t take care of her for the first six days of her life. And when I finally had the chance to, I was back in the hospital and unable to.

However, I know many women who had an “ideal” labor and delivery who have experienced the same feeling. And guess what? Those women are some of the best moms I know. They have incredible bonds with their children. They just didn’t get that fairy tale beginning we all expect.

I’ve written about “mom guilt” before, but being unable to completely connect with you newborn is the ultimate form of mom guilt. And, on top of wild hormonal imbalances, I’m sure that can definitely contribute to postpartum depression and anxiety.

I remember sitting in the same spot of our gray sectional, in our tiny row house we were renting when Mickey was born. I physically broke in that part of the couch, because I NEVER moved. I was paralyzed with guilt, depression, and the feeling of failure. What kind of monster doesn’t have an immediate bond with her child? This was exactly why I wasn’t able to get pregnant naturally. Because the universe didn’t want a cold bitch like me to reproduce and fuck up my kids.

After about three months, once my body was starting to recover, once I sought out help for my postpartum depression, and once my hormones were slowly beginning to balance out, that’s when I was finally able to enjoy being a mother.

And let me tell you, my God, it was worth the wait. I fell so head-over-heels, in all consuming love for this child. It was like a light switched on and all of the sudden, I realized that I was truly meant to be a mother. This was the love that everyone talked about. This was what I was missing. It was truly like I was reborn. I was exactly who I was meant to be. And I was everything this baby needed. I could provide her with all the love and care she deserved. And I haven’t doubted that once since.

I’ve been thinking about that period of time a lot lately. I’ve been thinking about it more often than I normally do, because those feelings are surfacing again. This time it’s a feeling of being disconnected from this pregnancy.

When I was pregnant with Mickey, I was hormonal, I was sick (not this sick), I dealt with bouts of depression, but I was connected to the experience. I was so incredibly excited to finally be pregnant after endless failed attempts for years. So as shitty as I was feeling, the excitement was the overwhelming emotion through those nine months.

I don’t think it’s one specific thing that’s holding me back from connecting to this baby, but I am desperately trying to figure it out. I want to feel excited. I want to take photos of my growing bump, without panicking that I’m getting too big already. I want to watch the corny weekly videos and be amazed that I’m creating life. I’ve thought about this a lot over this past weekend and here’s what I’ve come up with.

First of all, I need to accept that this is how I’m feeling. And, it’s okay for me to feel like this. I felt this way with Mickey once she was born and it passed. And once it passed, it made for the most beautiful life I could ever imagine. So there is 100% a light at the end of the tunnel and it’s bright AF.

Second, I think I’m dealing with a little PTSD from my first experience of labor, delivery and adjusting to motherhood. I’m way more afraid of something going wrong again than I wanted to admit. My body almost killed my daughter. What if that happens again?

What if it doesn’t? What if everything goes smoothly and I get to hold this child on my chest immediately after delivery? What if this child is actually able to breastfeed? How will I deal with things going the way they’re “supposed” to? How is that fair to Mickey that she didn’t get that experience?

What if my epidural or spinal doesn’t work again and I physically feel them cut me open? I keep having recurring dreams that I can feel my entire C-section. I’m convinced I’m going to feel it and the doctors won’t believe me.

The fear has taken over my excitement. I am so fearful of not being capable of successfully delivering another baby. I’m fearful of feeling disconnected once the baby’s here. I’m fearful of postpartum depression hitting as hard as it did last time. The fear is consuming me and making it extremely difficult to be happy.

Another reason I think I’m having a difficult time connecting to this pregnancy is the presence of testosterone. I found out on Friday I’m having a boy. Which, is freaking amazing. BUT, that’s not what I was prepared for. Because we transferred the exact same looking embryo as Mickey, I was convinced this baby was going to be another girl.

I’m fully aware of what that sounds like. Am I disappointed? No. No. No. Not in the least.

Am I nervous for something new? Yes.

To put things into perspective for you, I arrived at this coffee shop this morning, prepared to order my normal breakfast sandwich. When the barista informed me that they were all out, I had an internal panic attack and almost began to cry. The idea of having to order something different than anticipated threw me into a spiral. So you can imagine finding out that I’m having a boy, when I’m used to having a girl might set my anxiety off just a bit.

So there’s my ugly truth. I didn’t bond with my daughter right away. And now I’m not bonding with my son and he’s not even out of the womb yet. What can I do to fix this? Be honest. Talk about it. Write about it. Process it. I don’t know. I’m making this up as I go along, but I’m trying.

I’m incredibly jealous of the women who share an instant bond with their babies. I’m incredibly jealous of the women who enjoy being pregnant and genuinely feel connected to the experience. I admire you girls. Because for me, that just isn’t my reality.

No matter what your experience is getting pregnant, being pregnant, delivering, or adjusting to motherhood, there’s one thing that we all share in common. We all have the knowledge that every single part of it, even the bad, is completely and undoubtedly worth it.

Because these little humans not only rip open our vaginas and abdomens, but they rip open our hearts too.

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