When my first son was born, it took me a while to love him. I have to pause now and sit with that for a minute. I didn’t feel love for my firstborn son. It shocks me now to type those words because I love my son with every fiber of my being, but it wasn’t always that way.
Very soon after he was born, I knew something was wrong. It wasn’t even that I didn’t feel love, I didn’t feel anything. I was disconnected from him.
I remember when I tried to explain to my husband and his response was, “you don’t love him?”, and so I stopped talking.
I sank into a deep depression very quickly after he was born. It was like all the excitement and happy feelings left my body almost immediately after he did. When I was alone, I would curl up into a ball in my bed, cry and then fall asleep.
Fortunately, I knew something was wrong almost as quickly, and I called my OB who put me on anti-depressants. That was a great thing—I was on the path to getting better, but as someone who has been on and off medication much of my adult life, I knew that it would take a while. And so, I waited.
While I did, I sat, alone, and didn’t tell anyone what was going on. I knew I was depressed, but what I didn’t realize was that there was more to my depression than I thought.
I now know I should’ve sought more help and that I was struggling with postpartum depression.
I wish I would have talked to someone, found support. Instead, I dropped out of my prenatal yoga group and stayed alone, struggling to take care of myself and my newborn.
People tell you that while the baby sleeps, you should sleep too, but I ignored that advice and instead filled my days with any mundane task I thought needing attending to. I cooked, cleaned, watched TV. I became so tired that when I would step into the shower, I would imagine my son crying. There was one time I thought I had left him on the couch in his Boppy pillow and had a panic attack when I walked into the living room and it wasn’t there. I thought my newborn son had fallen when in fact I had left him safely on the floor.
I didn’t tell anyone because I was scared and ashamed. As a mother, how could I not love my child?
I cry now, typing that sentence, those emotions flooding back. But let me tell you (and me). I am not a bad mom. And neither are you. Pregnancy, childbirth and motherhood are the most beautiful and some of the hardest things we will ever experience. We are good mothers- great mothers—just trying to survive.
If you have a child and you don’t fall in love immediately, it’s OK. If you’re sad, it’s ok. But listen to your heart and mind and take care of you, mama. We will get through these days together. That mama tribe everyone talks about? It’s right here, waiting for you. Embrace it and let it pull you in. Taking care of your baby is not your only job. In fact, I would argue it’s not even your most important one.
You are important. Your health, your body and your mind, they are so incredibly important. Take the time, take the help and take care of yourself.
You’re going to love that baby, and that baby is going to love you. But first, mama, love yourself.
My son is now four and a half years old. He is the light of my life. In fact, if he could read, he probably wouldn’t believe my words here. But I struggled to get to this place, and I wish I would’ve gotten help sooner so I could find my joy again. But I did, and you will too.
This post originally appeared on I Dream of Naptime. It has been reprinted with permission.