It’s the act of caring for your baby that builds the love of a mother.
I remember being wheeled into the OR for an emergency C-section. I called for my husband, and when I finally saw him come in, I went out.
When I woke up hours later, my husband brought in this beautiful, tiny, wrapped-up baby to my arms, and all I could think was, Are you sure she's mine?
Since even before I was pregnant I had dreamed of the moment when I would see my child for the first time. I imagined the love I would feel, the amazing experience of labor and birth, those first hours together in bliss.
Only... after an emergency C-section it had been nothing like I imagined it would be.
Recently I was talking to a friend whose first birth was long and laborious, and she confessed to me that the first time her baby was placed on her chest all she could think was, I'm so glad labor is finally over.
Or my mother-in-law's story. She also had an emergency C-section—hers at 26 weeks—and she didn't get to see her baby for days after the birth since she was recovering from her C-section while her baby was trying to survive in the NICU.
So what happens when your plans don't go as planned, and it's just not love at first sight?
Those first few days, even the first months, were really difficult for me since I felt guilt and sadness when I didn't feel this amazing, overwhelming love for my child the first time I saw her.
It was the first time I had ever experienced mom guilt. I felt like a bad mom. But the truth is, I wasn't a bad mom—I was just a first-time mom who had no idea what to expect, or how to bond, or even how to adjust to my new life as a mother.
At the time I really believed that since I didn't get to bond with her those first few minutes of life, I had somehow lost my mom card.
I worried she wasn't going to think of me as her mother.
It seems silly now, and I can honestly laugh about it from where I sit today. And I want other moms to know that if you don't feel immediate love and bliss, you're not alone.
The truth is that I have a lifetime to bond with my daughter. And now, six months later, just thinking about her makes my heart explode with joy and love and other feelings I cannot even explain. The truth about experiencing this overwhelming love for your child is that it is not always instant— it grows, like every other relationship, with time.
As more time passes, you share more experiences with your child and your bond grows stronger. Your child loves you more and recognizes you more, and the truth finally settles in:
As long as you both live, you are the only person in their world that will be Mom.
No one else in the world can replace that role. Not your caregivers, not grandparents, not anyone else.
You will always be Mom.
As for my mother-in-law, her son did survive after long months in the hospital and many surgeries. Today, I can promise you that there is no greater love in the world than the way my brother-in-law gazes at his mama.
He loves her so unconditionally; anyone can see it. She took care of him the minute she was able to and has taken care of her son ever since, with a beautiful love only a mother can give. A rough start didn't inhibit a lifetime of love.
I do get sad thinking about my birth experience, but that sadness goes away the minute my daughter wakes up in the morning with a beautiful smile on her face.
It can take time, mama, but with time you'll see that there is no greater love you will ever know than the love you will feel for your child.