More than two months has passed since I gave birth, when I pressed post on an Instagram caption that began, “Today I fell in love with my baby – at 10-weeks-old.” Since writing it, strangers have said I was courageous for sharing the unspeakable. At the time, it felt like a mixture of a journal entry and a public service announcement.
A week earlier, I’d cried to my husband – sobs of guilt and sadness – because I felt like I didn’t love our little boy in the same way I had instantly loved our first born. I loved our son, Zephyr, in a way you love any human in your care, but not in the way you ‘should’ love a part of yourself that you co-created.
A friend said to me, “One day you’ll look up and say, ‘Oh, there you are! One day, maybe not today, you’ll feel it.’” But, for ten weeks my heart ached for the feeling, it was missing.
Amy Molloy has lived a big life. She’s survived anorexia, was widowed at 23, divorced her second husband in her late 20’s, forged a new career, married for the third time and has had two babies. And she’s only 33. She talks to Mia Freedman about it on the latest episode of No Filter.
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On Tuesday 10 July – a day I’ll always remember like my son’s birthday – I walked into the crèche at our local gym to collect Zephyr after a workout. He was sitting on a carer’s knee, wrapped up in a blanket ‘watching’ Peter Rabbit – and in that moment every piece of my heart belonged to him. Forever.
After I shared my unloving feeling on Instagram, within a day my inbox was full of messages from mums (and dads!) saying thank you, me too and ‘I needed to read this’.
One mother said she felt ‘robbed of what motherhood was supposed to be’ after it took her weeks to experience a ‘falling in love feeling’ with her first born. Another mother talked about the embarrassment she hid after initially feeling ‘neutral’ towards her premature son.
Today I fell in love with my baby – at 10 weeks old. . Last week I cried to my husband – sobs of guilt and sadness – because I felt like I didn’t love our little boy in the same way I had instantly loved our first born. I loved him in a way you love any human in your care, but not in the way you ‘should’ love a part of yourself that you co-created. . With two babies – and a book to promote – I’ve felt like I’ve just been keeping him alive rather than adoring him—going through the motions, ticking off naps and finding any excuse to put him down so I can have a moment of solitude. . A friend said to me, “One day you’ll look up and say—oh, there you are! One day, maybe not today, you’ll feel it.” But, for 10 weeks my heart has ached for the feeling it was missing. . Today, I walked into the creche at the gym and he was sitting on a carer’s knee, wrapped up in a blanket ‘watching’ Peter Rabbit—and in that moment every piece of my heart belonged to him. Forever. . To the mama who doesn’t feel ‘it’ yet, whether its your first, second or fifth baby, its okay. Trust. One day in a moment where your to-do list releases you, you’ll see him or her. “Oh, there you are.” . Until then, love yourself enough to forgive yourself. ???? . #postpartum #fourthtrimester #maternalmentalhealth #maternalmentalhealthawareness
The mother of two adopted children wrote about the moment she instantly fell in love with her first daughter, born at 28 weeks, and how different it felt the second time around: “She was full term and came into my care at four-weeks-old, totally independent from the beginning. Our bond took time but, when it came, it overwhelmed me.”
A lot of parents spoke about the regret, shame and embarrassment they felt when their feelings didn’t match the perception of parenthood shown in movies. Who, like me, couldn’t pin their lack of passion to a traumatic birth, a colicky baby or an unplanned pregnancy. Who felt like they had no-one to blame but themselves.
When it comes to romantic love, we accept that every experience is differently. So why do we feel so guilty for growing into love with our babies?
When my first child, Pasha, was born 18-months before my second I was hit with a thunderbolt of unconditional love straight away. However, her brother entered the world at a time when our family life couldn’t have been busier. My husband had been promoted and, six weeks before giving birth, I launched a new book. With ‘two under two’ and publicity commitments, I felt like I was just keeping my son alive rather than adoring him – going through the motions, ticking off naps and finding any excuse to put him down so I could have a moment of solitude.
It didn’t help that, in retrospect, I noticed the negative consequences of my unbreakable bond with my daughter. After Pasha was born, she became the pivot-point of my world. At the time, I was working on the final edit of my book and it was a blissful love triangle – me, my baby and my creativity.
However, it didn’t make a lot of space for the other object of my affection – my husband. I was determined that when Zephyr was born I’d find a more balanced approach and not get lost in love. Unfortunately, I veered too far in the opposite direction.
I was happy to leave him in the car with my husband, rather than taking him into our local café when I grabbed a takeaway. With my daughter I leapt on an excuse to parade the magical creature I’d created.
Compared to the library of photos I have of my little girl, I found myself taking photos of my son and then deleting them because they didn’t cause a warm fuzzy feeling – and that in itself hurt my heartstrings.
A sense of disconnection from your baby can be a sign of postnatal depression, however I didn’t display any of the other symptoms. Instead I waited and put faith in the words of my friend: One day you’ll look up and say, “Oh, there you are!” I tried to make more space in my world, multitasking less and going for walks at nap time instead of car drives.
I imagined love would strike in a fairytale scene – as we walked by the ocean with the sun beaming down. I didn’t think it would hit me on a rainy Tuesday morning, after I stumbled off the treadmill. But, there he was!
Clinical psychologist, Renee Mill, author of No Sweat Parenting says mothers can get hurt by the hype of instant love. “Love is a verb and grows from doing things for our family,” says Renee. “It comes from sharing time, making space for them and see them as a separate being – on the knee of someone else for example. I question if love is ever really instant at birth, or a culmination of weeks – if not months – of preparing for your child.”
After my heart-opening moment, everything changed. I’m still tired, I’m still busy, I still cry with frustration at the logistics of juggling life’s commitments. However, every time I feel on the edge, I imagine my son’s face that morning at the gym – the day we ‘met’ for the first time.
To the mother who doesn’t feel ‘it’ yet, whether its your first, second or fifth baby, its okay. Trust. One day in a moment where your to-do list releases you, you’ll see him or her. “Oh, there you are.” Until then, love yourself enough to forgive yourself.
Amy is the author of The World is a Nice Place: How to Overcome Adversity Joyfully. You can follow her at on her website here.