When You Don’t Fall in Love at First Sight

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Once upon a time, a mama had a baby.

She held the baby, looked into his eyes, and fell in love at first sight.

They lived happily ever after.

We have all heard this fairy tale. In fact, we all expect this fairy tale. It seems so easy and so . . . natural, right? We see it in the movies, and even the mommy elephants on Animal Planet instantly take to their babies. What kind of mother wouldn’t fall in love with her baby at first sight? What kind of mother wouldn’t burst with happiness hearing her baby’s first cry? What kind of mother wouldn’t bond with her baby instantly?

This mother. Me.

On January 15, 2016, I gave birth to twin boys on an operating table — precaution in case I needed an emergency Cesarean delivery. I was nauseous from the IVs, numb from the epidural, and nervous as all get out. I had read all of the books. I “nested” and hand-made art for the nursery. Heck, I even gained 60 pounds for these babies (thank you, McDonald’s). But in that moment, I felt unprepared.

Baby A came out at 5:35 p.m. He was small, covered in white goop, and seemed unreal. Did I really make him? Is that my child? They put him on my chest for “skin-to-skin”. Thirty minutes later, Baby B came out. The doctors put both babies on my chest. I looked at them and felt . . . nothing. 

I smiled and posed for a picture.  

The first time I held both babies

Don’t get me wrong, I was happy. But I did not experience an overwhelming emotion of love or joy like the fairy tale promised. I did not feel like a mother; in fact, I didn’t feel any differently.  

The next few weeks were spent healing and learning how to breastfeed (more on that later). Almost immediately, my Type A brain kicked in and I began to view the babies as tasks to be accomplished every three hours:

Change diapers. Check.

Tummy time. Check.

Forced boob feeding. Check.

Supplement with formula. Check.

Burp babies. Check.

Pump. Check.

Cover my ears while they both screamed. Check.

Rinse and repeat.

These tasks could be accomplished by anybody. I began to resent them because they robbed me of sleep, self-identity, and friends. Amidst the difficult transitional period, I felt like a failure because I did not feel a bond with my babies. I spent hours holding them, doing skin-to-skin contact, and while they were cute and squishy, I never got to the level of emotional attachment I felt like a mother should have. The harder I tried, the more frustrated I became.

Two weeks passed, then three, then four. Fast forward three months . . . I dropped them off at daycare at the end of my maternity leave, and I breathed a sigh of relief. I went about my day and did not miss them.

Was there something wrong with me? Or is the fairy tale a lie?

When I was pregnant, no one ever told me that bonding with my babies could be hard. Social media and Hollywood paint a rosy picture that a mother’s love is natural and instant. While this is true for some people, it was not true for me. I suspect it is also not true for some of you reading this post.  

Eventually, at around the four-month mark, I fell in love with my boys. I loved their gummy smiles and hearing their coos. I saw, for the first time, how kissable their fat cheeks were. 

Holy guacamole, my kids were fat!

I don’t think there was one thing that turned it around for me. I think I just needed time. By the by, I love them more than any human should be able to love another human. Sorry, future girlfriends.   

After my daughter was born in 2017, the time I needed was much shorter. 

Grey, one day old

I knew what to expect this time around. I did not put the pressure on myself to instantly fall in love with my baby. I bonded (probably a bit too much) with Grey in about two weeks. Now, it is impossible for me to un-bond with her because she is velcro and stuck on me at all times.  

Regardless of whether it takes you four months, two weeks, or two days, you will grow to love your child more than yourself. A mother’s love is the most selfless and beautiful love. It is a love that changes your view of the world and other people.  

But it can take time.

Give yourself time.

Did you have a hard time bonding with your baby? If so, how long did it take you?

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Born in China, Lisha moved to America at the age of 9. In her first few years here, Lisha became fluent in English, gained an abnormal love for boy bands and glitter lip gloss, and learned to love pizza. Growing up an only child made her realize she wanted a big family. After graduating from Auburn University in 2006, Lisha moved to Birmingham to attend Cumberland School of Law. While in Birmingham, Lisha met her husband (Henry) and they have been married for 7 years. In 2016, they welcomed identical twin boys into the word. Because they were not spending enough money on diapers, Lisha had a baby girl 22 months later, in 2017. Some might call them crazy to have had 3 children under the age of 2, but Lisha prefers to think of them as over-achievers. With a side of insanity. Lisha graduated law school in 2009 and works as a partner at a litigation law firm in downtown Birmingham. Being a full-time lawyer and a mom of 3 presents obvious challenges, but Lisha has found that the (very) occasional glass of wine with friends helps her through. In her spare time, Lisha enjoys playing the violin, cooking, and traveling.