I didn’t fall in love with my baby right away

The truth is, motherhood is a major adjustment that takes time.

I didn’t fall in love with my baby right away
Photo by Sarah Gillogly 

“You are going to be such a good mother! You're a natural," people said all the time during my first pregnancy. I always responded sheepishly, nodding like a bobblehead stuttering a quiet, Thanks."

I didn't know what being a “mom" really meant. I read books and even took classes on how to take care of a baby. I bought all the essentials (and way too many non-essentials) so that I could be ready the day I brought my baby home.

However, nothing prepared me for actually becoming a mom for the first time.

I remember the moment the midwife placed my son on my chest after he was born. I remember feeling extremely strange because I expected this wave of warmth and love for my baby to overcome me, but instead, I was petrified.

I didn't connect with my son right away.

He was this…alien who just landed on me and expected to feed off me. He cried A LOT. But so many family members and friends expected me to just embrace motherhood with open arms, so I smiled and played the part of a happy new mom, afraid that they would find out how I really felt.

After the hospital staff moved us to the recovery room, I was supposed to relax and take time to bond with the baby. Instead, this isn't happening, this can't be happening, kept running through my head as I nursed my newborn son for the 11th hour in a row.

I had just given birth and was exhausted from nearly 12 hours of labor. All I wanted to do was to catch up on sleep and rest. However, my son refused to sleep in his bassinet and insisted that I hold him and nurse him, or else he would scream. So I stayed up all night nursing him, jealous of my husband sleeping soundly in the bed next to mine because he was so tired from a day of labor.

I remember looking at my son in my arms, so tiny and helpless, and feeling the weight of the world bearing down on me because he relied on me to survive.

I didn't want that responsibility. I wanted things to go back to the way they were before I got pregnant—a life where having to wake up at 8 a.m. was way too early, sleeping less than 6 hours a night was unfathomable, and my boobs were my own.

I wanted to give birth and meet my son so badly the last month of pregnancy. Now my thoughts were more along the lines of: Why didn't I take the babymoon like everyone else recommended? Why didn't I take my time and enjoy the freedom I had?

I had this perfect picture of me holding a happy baby who cooed and smiled while I basked in the glory that is motherhood. I couldn't wait to make that image a reality, but it wasn't my reality.

My son was a fussy baby and the best answer I got from the (multiple) doctors I brought him to was that maybe he had colic. I didn't want to bring him out in fear that he'd cry in public, so I stayed home feeling like a prisoner.

I felt like I failed as a mom since I couldn't make him happy and stop him from crying. And when I did go out, I always ended up nursing to make him stop crying—and nursing in public as a new mom was nerve wracking.

I was stuck between my desire to rejoin society and my fear of embarrassing myself as a mom who couldn't figure out why her baby was fussy.

About three weeks after giving birth, I started going to support groups—desperate to connect with other adults and seek advice. While I found some moms who were taking motherhood in stride, others were struggling as well. We commiserated on the sleepless nights and painful, chapped nipples. We laughed over unfortunate blow-out moments and spit-up incidents. While I was still adjusting to being a mom, at least I then knew that I was not alone.

So no matter how difficult it was to get out of the house and drive 20 minutes to the support groups with my son screaming in his car seat, I looked forward to the meetings as if they were luxurious spa treatments or vacations on the beach.

Then it happened.

One day, when my son was about two months old, he looked into my eyes and smiled. It wasn't a huge smile, but it was definitely not an “I-need-to-squeeze-out-a-poo" smile.

And just like that, I was hooked.

I made it my goal every day to make him smile as much as possible, whether it meant doing jumping jacks or making silly cartoon noises.

We started bonding more and more as he became more responsive to me, and I started to get hints here and there of what that perfect picture of motherhood is all about.

One night soon after, as I rocked and nursed my son to sleep—I realized that I could no longer imagine a life without my baby. I didn't want to imagine a life without my son because I had fully embraced motherhood, and I was holding on tight and never letting go.

Many moms feel the pressure to immediately bond with the baby moments after delivery. The truth is, motherhood is a major adjustment that takes time.

As much as movies and commercials make you want to believe that you should be falling in love at first sight with your baby, it's actually very difficult to connect with a newborn who does not respond to you and needs you to take care of his every need 24/7.

So take your time to form the bond with your baby. It may not happen right away, and that's totally okay. With tons of cuddling, nursing and playing, you will eventually build a connection. Then finally, before you realize it, you will feel like a natural.

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    There are steps parents can take to keep their children as healthy as possible.

    When wildfires struck the West Coast in September 2020, there was a lot for parents to worry about. For parents of children with asthma, though, the danger could be even greater. "There are more than 400 toxins that are present in wildfire smoke. That can activate the immune system in ways that aren't helpful by both causing an inflammatory response and distracting the immune system from fighting infection," says Amy Oro, MD, a pediatrician at Stanford Children's Health. "When smoke enters into the lungs, it causes irritation and muscle spasms of the smooth muscle that is around the small breathing tubes in the lungs. This can lead to difficulty with breathing and wheezing. It's really difficult on the lungs."

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    Especially when the air quality index reaches dangerous levels, it's best to stay indoors as much as possible. You can find out your area's AQI at An under 50 rating is the safest, but between 100-150 is considered unhealthy for sensitive groups, such as children with asthma. "If you're being told to stay indoors, listen. If you can, keep the windows and doors closed," Oro says.

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    "Unfortunately, cloth masks don't do very much [to protect you from the smoke pollution]," Oro says. "You really need an N95 mask, and most of those have been allocated toward essential workers." To keep at-risk children safer, Oro recommends avoiding brisk exercise outdoors. Instead, set up an indoor obstacle course or challenge your family to jumping jacks periodically to keep everyone moving safely.

    Know the difference between smoke exposure and COVID-19.

    "COVID-19 can have a lot of the same symptoms—dry cough, sore throat, shortness of breath and chest pain could overlap. But what COVID and other viruses generally cause are fever, chills, vomiting, diarrhea and body aches. Those would tell you it's not just smoke exposure," Oro says. When a child has been exposed to smoke, they often complain of a "scrape" in their throat, burning eyes, cough, shortness of breath, chest pain or wheezing. If the child has asthma, parents should watch for a flare of symptoms, such as coughing, wheezing or a tight sensation in their chest.

    Unfortunately, not much is known about long-term exposure to wildfire smoke on a healthy or compromised immune system, but elevated levels of air pollution have been associated with increased COVID-19 rates. That's because whenever there's an issue with your immune system, it distracts your immune system from fighting infections and you have a harder time fighting off viruses. Limiting your exposure to wildfire smoke is your best bet to keep immune systems strong.

    Have a plan in place if you think your child is suffering from smoke exposure.

    Whatever type of medication your child takes for asthma, make sure you have it on-hand and that your child is keeping up with regular doses. Contact your child's pediatrician, especially if your area has a hazardous air quality—they may want to adjust your child's medication schedule or dosage to prevent an attack. Oro also recommends that, if your child has asthma, it might be helpful to have a stethoscope or even a pulse oximeter at home to help diagnose issues with your pediatrician through telehealth.

    Most importantly, don't panic.

    In some cases, social distancing and distance learning due to COVID may be helping to keep sensitive groups like children with asthma safer. Oro says wildfires in past years have generally resulted in more ER visits for children, but the most recent fires haven't seen the same results. "A lot of what we've seen is that the smoke really adversely affects adults, especially older adults over 65," Oro says. "Children tend to be really resilient."

    This article was sponsored by Stanford Children's Health. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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