I'm not going to lie, when I was pregnant one of my biggest fears was bonding with my daughter. You see, I'm not really a baby/tiny kid person. Or at least I wasn't before Hallie came along. Before she came I really only knew how to entertain kids who were past the age of 5 or 6. But younger than that? I had no clue what to do with them. So, I kept thinking: what am I going to do with this little girl? How am I supposed to have a relationship with her when she can't talk or walk or do anything yet??
The day arrived and my daughter came a long after an excruciatingly long night of labor ending in a c-section. She was beautiful and she was all mine. I loved her enormously, but I didn't feel that unbreakable bond that so many new mothers talk about. Instead, I felt an overwhelming feeling of responsibility. "What the heck am I doing?! Who decided I could be a parent?! Am I even old enough to be doing this?!" kept rushing through my mind. But, Hallie was mine. I had waited for her, I had longed for her, I had carried her, and I loved her. I just needed to figure out how to connect to her.
A month after being home with my daughter I still didn't have that bond I was looking for. I told my husband a few times that, "you know, I had an entire year to date and get to know you before deciding if I wanted you to be in 'my family.' But with Hallie, it was just one night and then POOF, there she was! Suddenly a part of my family and I didn't even know what she was like. How am I supposed to bond with someone without knowing them?" I decided that I needed to get to know this little girl and figure out what made her tick.
Fast forward to now, when Hallie is a year old. That bond that was missing initially is so strong now! Her and I are buddies and she has the funniest and most random personality that no one can help but adore. That bond took a lot of work on my part though, so I'm going to give you a few pointers on what to do if you're struggling with that mother-child bond. There's a lot of crying, worrying, and anxiety involved. But, it's all worth it in the end. Promise.
1. The Best Advice I Ever Got: Being the Parent of a Newborn is the WORST.
Why is it the worst? Because infants eat, sleep, poop, pee, cry, and repeat every two hours AND they can't do anything yet, so you get very little in return for you hard work! Now, does this mean that they don't love you and you can't love them? Not at all, but it does mean that for those first few months you will be more exhausted than anything, rather than actually working to nurture a bond. I'm so glad someone gave me this advice when I was pregnant because it prepared me for what it would be like. Since I was prepared I think I was not as shocked as some mothers are. It helped me wade through that cloud of exhaustion a little better and actually enjoy having Hallie around, rather than feeling like she was a burden.
2. Look Ahead to the Milestones
One of the things that really helped me build a bond with my daughter was working with her on her milestones. It gave me something I could do with her that was at her developmental level. When she was learning to roll over I would work with her on it for hours. When it was time to start crawling we did a lot of tummy time and I urged her to move with fun things just out of reach. When it was time to walk I held onto her hand everywhere we went so she would have some support.
I clapped and hugged and kissed her every time she tried hard - and you know what? I think she enjoyed that and knew exactly what it was for! Even now, whenever she does something she couldn't before she looks to me and starts clapping - essentially saying "Mommy! Mommy! I did something AMAZING!" That is one of the best rewards of working with her on everything - that she knows I will always be there to cheer her on and congratulate her on something that was difficult for her to do! I would say that's a pretty good start for a strong bond.
3. Realize Their Personality Will ComeNow that we are at a year old with Hallie her personality has really come out! She runs around the house exploring everything, hugs the dogs at grandparent's, loves going to basketball games, is a popcorn fiend, makes funny faces, tries to tickle everyone, and so much more. I cannot tell you what it has been like to watch that little personality come out. It won't come very fast. It will just creep in little by little, but then one day you will realize that your child is seriously the most fun person on the planet and you'll wonder why you ever thought they weren't. I mean, look at that face. How could you not?
4. You Are Not a Bad Mother
I had this feeling a lot. I thought that because I didn't feel eternally bonded to Hallie right away that I was less of a mother. Or that I was ungrateful to be a mother. But I wasn't! Not to toot my own horn, but I think I'm a pretty darn good mom. I try really hard, I don't sweat the small stuff, and I do my best to give her at least an hour of my absolutely undivided attention each day. An instant connection does not equal a good parent. Time, time, and MORE time equals a good parent. When you start giving all of that time to your child you will soon find that bond that you had been looking for.
5. Don't Feel Like Your Life Has to Completely Change
But realize that not all of that time needs to be spent doing baby things. That time should also be spent watching you do productive adult things like cleaning up the house, paying bills, going to work, getting the grocery shopping done, interacting with friends, strangers and other family members, etc.
Children learn how to behave in situations by watching adults. When you allow your child to observe you across many different situations you are teaching them how to conduct themselves in life. So don't change everything - keep going on dates with your husband, keep having girls days, keep working out.
Just let baby tag along so they can be a part of the fun. This will also get them interested in things that you're interested in - which means that when they are one and fun you'll be able to do activities together!
I know that it is rough stuff those first few months. You want to be the best mother and you have all of these pre-conceived notions of what that means. Just hang back, relax, and take it slow. There's no owners manual for a baby because there's no one right way to be a parent! If you are loving them, spending time with them, and think about how to be a good mom then you ARE a good mom. The bond will come. It may just take a minute.