I Didn’t Love My Baby – What it’s Like When You Haven’t Bonded Straight Away

Me holding the baby I didn’t love

When I was putting Girl Child to bed last night she asked me “Mummy, what do you love more, me or sleep?’ A perfectly reasonable question, as how much I love my bed is a running joke in our house. I explained that I loved her more, and that all mummies loved their children most. She then said “Did you love me best even when I was just born?” I was about to say yes, but stopped myself. I didn’t want to lie to her, I didn’t love my baby, not to start with anyway. I explained that while some mummies loved their babies straightaway, for other mummies, like me, it could take a while. In the way that only a child can, she took it in her stride. “That’s ok Mummy, because I know you love me now”. 

While the conversation took me by surprise, I was pleased it had happened. Not loving my babies is something that I’ve wanted to write about for a long time. The fear of my children stumbling across the post when they were older has always stopped me. Having seen Girl Child accept it without question gave me the confidence to broach the subject with Boy Child. He also found it if little concern and quickly changed the subject back to Match Attax.

Despite the difficult start, I love my children more than anything now. I hope the fact they are unfazed by my confession that it took me a while to get there, is a sign that they feel secure in that love. One of the reasons I want to talk about this more openly is that I  wouldn’t want them to feel as alone as I did if they ever experience not loving their baby. In fact I don’t want anyone to feel that way.

 

Not Loving Your Baby is the Ultimate Taboo

People often talk about postnatal depression as being taboo but I think the real taboo is admitting that you haven’t bonded with your baby. People just don’t talk about it. I think this is because, in addition to the worries that Mums with postnatal depression have about their child being taken away, mums who struggling to bond with their baby fear that will be viewed as a monster. What mother doesn’t love her child? Well, actually, quite a lot of mothers. While there is limited research on the subject, plenty of mothers I’ve spoken to have admitted that it took them time, sometimes a lot of time, to bond with their babies.

I have often wondered why I didn’t get that instant love buzz when my babies were born. Maybe to some degree it’s down to personality. I’ve never experienced love at first sight, I’ve never had a crush on a famous person. I’ve only ever felt love for people I’ve gotten to know over time. Maybe this makes me high risk for struggling to bond? I was depressed during the first half of my pregnancy, I had a difficult labour, I had very little experience of babies. Maybe these were contributing factors. I’ll never really be sure.

The months after I had Boy Child were the hardest and most unhappy of my life. I knew about postnatal depression. I knew that some Mums didn’t with their babies straight away. I just had no idea how hard those things would be to deal with until they happened to me. Looking after a baby is hard. Looking after a screaming colicky baby is even harder. When you are depressed and pretty much indifferent to the baby, it can feel like your life is over. I never hated either of them, I just didn’t really feel anything much at all for them. I didn’t want them to suffer, I fed them and changed them and held them. It just didn’t bring me any joy.

 

Getting Some Help

Just before my six week check I admitted to my mum how I felt. I said I hated being a mum and didn’t love my baby. She convinced me to talk to my Doctor. I told my GP I was depressed but couldn’t quite bring myself to say I didn’t love him. She prescribed me antidepressants and sent me on my way. 

The antidepressants helped, but what really helped was time. Time to adjust to motherhood and time to get to know my baby. I got through the early days with the help of my Mum, who looked after Boy Child for a few hours every afternoon to give me a break and my husband, who got up to support me with night feeds even though I was breastfeeding and he couldn’t really help. They both gave Boy Child the love he needed until I was capable of giving it to him. 

I couldn’t tell you the moment I fell in love with him, it was a gradual process rather than a bolt of lightening. I didn’t love him at six weeks, but I did by six months. I think I appreciate our relationship all the more because of its bumpy start. I do however desperately wish I could go back in time and hold him as a newborn, but feeling about him the way I do now. Whenever I think of his early baby days I feel a huge sense of sadness that I missed out on loving him as a baby.

 

Things Weren’t Quite as Hard the Second Time

Things were a bit easier with a Girl Child. While I didn’t fall in love with her straight away, I got there a lot quicker. I think that’s probably because I had already made the adjustment to parenthood that I had found so hard the first time. I made a conscious effort to get lots of pictures with me holding her as I knew that, even if I didn’t feel it then, I would end up loving her as much as I loved Boy Child and would want to remember what it was like to hold her when she was tiny.

If you’re reading this with a new baby asleep near by, thinking “oh my god, I don’t love my baby” then please be reassured, you will. Give it time and ask for help. Everything will get easier. For most new mums, the reward for the ruined body, the sleep deprivation, the being on call 24 hours a day, the cracked nipples and the lack of freedom, comes from the love they feel for their baby. If you aren’t feeling that love yet, you’re going to feel like you’ve just committed to the worst job in the world. One that you have to do 24 hours a day, for the next 16 years. That is exactly how I felt in those early months. I really, honestly wished I hadn’t had a baby. But it won’t feel like that forever. You will eventually love that baby and, while parenthood is still really bloody hard, the rewards will start to make it seem worthwhile.

Not bonding with your baby and postnatal depression often go hand in hand, if you think you might be suffering do visit The Pre and Postnatal Advice and Support Foundation for help.

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“I didn’t love my baby and lots of other mums don’t either”

20 Comments

  1. September 30, 2019 / 8:49 pm

    Lovely post. We really do need to normalise this so new mums do not feel alone if this happens to them.

    • Jo
      Author
      October 1, 2019 / 2:54 pm

      Definitely need more people to open up about it.

  2. October 1, 2019 / 7:12 am

    This is such an important post, and it’s such a thing that people don’t want to talk about or admit and yet statistically it happens a lot so obviously, those people are all there, just being quiet. Yet, talking about it, and seeking help sooner, rather than later is the best thing for everyone. Great work, and off to vote for you. It’s a generous post and a very important one. You are bound to help many people. #Dreamteam

    • Jo
      Author
      October 1, 2019 / 2:53 pm

      Thank you so much for your kind words.

  3. October 1, 2019 / 3:30 pm

    Really brave for you to put this out there, but so important that you did. We’re talking more about PND, but a lot of families still have no clue that not loving your baby could be an output of that. We need more women, and men, to speak up because the polite marketing leaflet language of “may struggle to bond” is just not enough.

  4. October 1, 2019 / 5:48 pm

    I had terrible post natal depression with my second.. her whole first year is a blur.. also suffered with my third but was the opposite and instead of not wanting to be around her, I needed to be with her every second of the day. Very tough first years but also such an important topic to speak out about 🖤🖤

  5. October 1, 2019 / 6:03 pm

    This is such an important topic to discuss! There is no one best way to experience parenthood. We are all different so the way we experience every aspect of parenting, including the love for our kids, will be different!
    Thank you so much for sharing the story!

    • October 5, 2019 / 9:19 am

      Thank you for such a brave and important post. I did get the rush of love with my daughter but I have met a few friends who have suffered with this after a difficult birth. It’s so important that new mums know that it’s normal and everyone’s motherhood journey is different xx

  6. October 1, 2019 / 6:56 pm

    Congrats on your nomination – have already voted for you. Hope it goes well.

    Well done for sharing your story. They prepared us for this possibility at NCT, but I think I was OK with the bonding (it’s all a bit of a blur!) Xx

  7. October 1, 2019 / 8:41 pm

    I don’t know how I would have coped if I didn’t love mine from the start. With 6 under 6 (last 3 were triplets) I would have not survived. I had no help (except husband during the day – he slept all night! ) and no family around and a business to run. Only love got me through. I can’t imagine how relentelss parenting would feel without that instand bond and admire all Mums who have to struggle with this in the yearly days. #DreamTeam

  8. October 1, 2019 / 8:49 pm

    What an honest post and I bet that took some courage to write. Good for you as many mum’s will be able to resonate. Whilst I was on a different journey it took me some time to adapt to motherhood so I can understand. Thank you for sharing 🙂 x

  9. October 2, 2019 / 9:22 am

    Agree with the thrust of a lot of the comments above … it’s great to see this expressed, and so many will relate. I’m not sure I experienced that instant bolt of love when our two were born, but it certainly gets there! Who is to say what’s right, or so-called normal? Love the comment form your daughter: “That’s ok Mummy, because I know you love me now” Kids are so pragmatic and forgiving. #itsok

  10. October 2, 2019 / 1:05 pm

    What a beautifully written, honest account. Good for you for saying what thousands of mothers are feeling and normalising it. This parenting thing is hard. #ItsOK

  11. October 3, 2019 / 8:48 pm

    The best advice I was ever given was not to expect to instantly love your child. So many friends had told me that I’d feel this sudden rush of love the minute I held him. I really did not! I have always been grateful to that friend as I think I would have felt like a failure right from the off if she hadn’t warned me that the bond takes time. #ItsOK

  12. October 4, 2019 / 10:50 am

    Postnatal depression is definitely something that needs to be talked about more and normalised. I think it happens more than people realised but people are too scared to speak out. It can even happen to dad’s but they chose to suffer in silence instead.

    #ThatFridayLinky

    Helen

  13. October 4, 2019 / 3:15 pm

    What a brave and honest post to share. I think there are so many parents that feel this way in the beginning and posts like these will help mums and dads to not feel so alone in those bewildering first few months. Thanks so much for sharing this with the #DreamTeam – lovely to have you. x

  14. October 5, 2019 / 9:04 am

    What a lovely post. It is so important to share and be open about our feelings and experiences. Thank you for sharing this x

  15. Renee
    October 5, 2019 / 9:34 am

    After a traumatic birth I struggled to bond with my first. It’s so hard admitting to people that something is missing. Well done for sharing and having the courage to tell your daughter x

  16. Lizzie
    October 6, 2019 / 7:42 am

    Well done for writing such a brave post. It’s so important that we talk about these things so people don’t feel alone.

  17. October 8, 2019 / 8:55 pm

    It took me eight months before I really bonded with my first daughter and to be honest I don’t have much memory of before then. I was just going through the motions with her, doing what I knew I was supposed to do but not really feeling anything. I eventually explained to my husband that I felt like I was just some woman taking care of her, not her actual mother. Talking through it massively helped and I realised that for me it was really down to a lack of confidence. I didn’t feel good enough to be her mother. It took me ages to get there. Thankfully when my second daughter arrived I was overwhelmed with joy and felt fully able to be her mother. We connected from the very first moment she was born. It is definitely something that we keep to ourselves, too ashamed to tell anyone we are having a problem. You’re right, we need to talk about this more #itsok

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