When You Don’t Feel a Bond to Your Baby

When my first kid was born, the bond was immediate. The labor was induced, due to preeclampsia, and it went quickly: six hours after the Pitocin drip started, I was holding my tiny, squirming little bundle in my arms. I had dreamed of a natural labor and delivery, in a birthing center, and worried that the change to a hospital birth with medical intervention would impact the bonding process I had read so much about. Instead, my heart broke open and I never loved someone so intensely as I did the moment I saw my precious boy.

Eighteen months later, to the day, I was in labor with my second boy. I had taken all the precautions this time, doing all the things my midwife had advised to avoid preeclampsia, and was actually going to be able to have a home birth this time. We would be in our safe space, without medical intervention, and it was going to create the ultimate bonding opportunity between my child and me. What I couldn’t anticipate, though, was that eighteen hours of back labor, a much longer period of time pushing than the first delivery I experienced, and a baby that was 50 percent larger than my first resulted in me feeling exhausted, pained, and hollow. I looked at my second baby, perfect in every way, and though glad he was safe and healthy, I felt little more than appreciation that the entire process was over.

At the realization that I was not over the moon as I had been with my first, that appreciation was suddenly replaced with a crushing sense of Mommy-guilt. Why didn’t I feel the euphoria I felt before? Why didn’t I feel that bond the second I saw him, as I had before? I had checked all the boxes, done everything right—what was wrong with me?

Turns out, the immediate bond with your child isn’t something that everyone experiences. In fact, 20 percent of new parents don’t feel that intense attachment the second they lay eyes on their new baby. Those feelings are even harder to come by if your birth is traumatic in any way, as having a child doesn’t remove the part of you that is human. Experiencing pain, emotional and/or physical, requires healing, and your brain may require that to happen first before a bond can occur with your child. Worse yet, there is immense pressure to suddenly have an entire identity shift with the birth of a child, so in addition to dealing with the difficult transition to parenthood, a lack of bonding can be accompanied with a giant helping of shame. Those negative feelings, isolation, and other biological factors can spiral into developing postpartum depression, and it’s important to recognize when extra support is needed. In the meantime, removing the pedestal we place motherhood on with all of its attached expectations of perfection allows for more opportunity to talk about the times where we don’t meet expectations.

Four years later, that second boy of mine is full of more goodness than I could ever ask for, and I am fully over the moon for all the things that he is. It took some time to get there, but that doesn’t make me less-than—it makes me human.

Keighty Brigman is terrible at crafting, throwing birthday parties, and making sure there isn’t food on her face. Allegedly, her four children manage to love her anyway. 

Tags: baby, bond, bonding, maternal instinct, motherhood, postpartum depression

Comments are closed.