It was the night I, and the entire city of Boise, had been waiting for. Just for different reasons. Boise State was playing Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl in what would become known as one of the greatest college bowl games of all time.
By the 4th quarter I was sure those stomach pains weren’t from the bean dip. I was in labor with my first baby. By the time we got to the hospital I was beyond ready for my epidural. Unfortunately for me, the nurse informed me I had to wait an hour to see if I was progressing before she could admit me.
I wanted to grab her by her lanyard, pull her right up into my face and tell her, “If I’m not in labor, I’m DYING. There’s no way I’m going home tonight!”
Three hours later I was dilated to an eight and only then did I finally get that blessed needle in my back sent straight from the Gods of childbirth. I thought I was home-free! In the final stretch! Almost there! Then, it all came to a screeching halt.
After 17 hours of labor, a failed epidural and a baby that refused to come out straight I started pushing…and pushing…and pushing. I pushed for three hours and the nurse hadn’t even called the doctor yet to say I was getting close.
Until I puked.
That little bundle of joy decided the pressure of me throwing up was all she needed to make her way out- without the doctor’s help.
It was finally over! I didn’t care that I would need a million stitches following the 9lb 2 oz baby. I was ready to hold my precious love! She was placed in my arms, I looked down at her and… nothing. No swell of love, pride and joy. In fact, I distinctly remember my first thought was, “I hope that’s not really what her nose is going to look like.”
From there the next 24 hours were a blur. I said all the right things. “Isn’t she beautiful?” “I love her so much!” “I want to hold her all the time!”
What I was really thinking was “What is wrong with me?” “Why did everyone lie to me about what this feels like?” “I’m going to be a terrible mom!” “I’m so tired- take her away so I can sleep!”
I didn’t hate my baby. I didn’t even dislike my baby. She just didn’t feel like my baby. And no one had prepared me for this lack of feeling.
The love and bonding didn’t hit all at once but somewhere around day four I remember crying on the couch because the love I felt for her was so overwhelming. I instantly wanted to have 12 more babies just to capture this feeling. I knew there was nothing I wouldn’t do to protect her.
I did love and bond with my baby, just not right away.
In retrospect, I had just been through 20 hours of labor, pushed for three hours and puked out my baby. I had so many stitches I couldn’t sit up straight for 10 days and my nipples were bleeding from all the nursing! I think I was just too exhausted and traumatized by the birth process to feel anything.
While it only took a few days for the strong bond to develop I’ve since learned that not bonding immediately isn’t uncommon. It’s just one of those things we don’t go around announcing to mother’s-to-be.
“Just so you know, I totally didn’t love my baby right away. So don’t be alarmed if you don’t either.”
But it is something we should talk about! One internet poll of new moms reports 69% experienced “love at first sight” with their newborn, while 31% did not.
If I had known I wasn’t a freak of nature I wouldn’t have been in such a panic. Worrying about my feelings probably inhibited my bonding even further. If I had known it was normal, I would have given myself a break and allowed the bonding to happen.
And FYI baby #2 and baby #3 were completely different experiences. After smooth labors I did experience baby “love at first sight.”