My baby was five days old when I realised something was wrong. The caesarean anaesthetic had long worn off, but I was still completely numb. When I looked at my newborn’s little wrinkled face I felt nothing.
“I don’t love my baby,” I said in surprise to the empty shell of a woman looking back at me from the mirror. “What the hell is wrong with me?”
Every time I logged on to Facebook I was bombarded with well-meaning messages. “You must be so happy,” they all said, but I wasn’t. I was prepared for exhaustion. I was prepared for chaos. But nothing had prepared me for not feeling anything.
In the lead up to the birth I’d watched endless videos where a baby slithers out in the grand finale and is held up triumphantly by beaming parents, plastered in blood and tears and smiles. I was so looking forward to that moment, like hitting the peak after a long ride uphill, like the audience going wild at the end of a guitar solo.
I was going to rock at birth. I wasn’t scared of the pain. In my prenatal yoga classes I would proudly announce that I was planning a drug-free homebirth, and roll my eyes at everyone else’s hysteria. But the long-anticipated euphoria somehow passed me by, and I was still waiting on that wave of elation that you supposedly get … It was like I’d been rehearsing a play for the last nine months and then slept through opening night. There was a massive sense of anti-climax.
Don’t get me wrong—I cared about this feeble little creature more than anything in the entire world. I would have given my life for theirs in a heartbeat, and I would have been completely and utterly destroyed for all eternity if anything bad had happened.
My midwife was confident I didn’t have post natal depression, and I was sleeping really well. I just hadn’t fallen head over heels the way I’d been expecting I would, and caring for a child I felt indifferent about was hard work. I remember years ago, gushing over a friend’s new baby and asking her if she was madly in love.
“I don’t know yet,” she’d shrugged. “I’m still getting to know him.”