The birth and arrival of your baby is surrounded by pastel colors, baby showers, decorating the nursery and gift registries. It’s a time of excitement and anticipation. So, when mothers don’t actually like their baby, their feelings can seem completely out of place.
Many mothers are ashamed of and hide these feelings. Instead of feeling like a mother, they feel like monsters, like this UK mother did. It’s a very real dilemma that doesn’t get talked about enough. What can you do if you don’t like your child?
Is Something Wrong With Me Biologically?
If you don’t gush over your baby’s pudgy cheeks, or ooo and aaah over her, there must be something wrong with you, right?
Dr. Richard Woolfson, child psychologist and author of, How To Have A Happy Child, reminds us that, “the forming of a bond is absolutely crucial to a baby’s long-term emotional and psychological development, and there is a general expectation that a mother’s attachment to her newborn is instant.”
The biggest takeaway from Dr. Woolfson’s words is the keyword, “expectation”. There is a social expectation of the stereotypical, ideal mother. She is affectionate, nurturing and in love with her child. And for many women, it’s easy to fit into this social standard.
But for other women, it’s hard to fit into this social expectation. And since their real feelings are pretty negative, they feel twice as bad.
Why? First of all, it’s a hard thing to feel nothing or negatively toward your child. Secondly, it’s difficult when you know you “shouldn’t” feel this way.
Remember, society has come to believe that mothers should feel an instant bond with their child. But you don’t have to fit this expectation, and there are very good reasons for this.
Women who experience this type of clinical depression continue to be stigmatized by society at large. This is unfortunate because as anyone who’s suffered from depression knows, it is a mental illness that we don’t choose voluntarily.
Nonetheless, these women are judged for being bad mothers. Instead, they have a serious mental health issue that needs to be addressed. It can be reversed with the right attention and care.
Your Expectations Aren’t Met
During their pregnancies, many women look forward to having their child. They’re excited, hopeful and ready. Until the baby arrives, that is. And along with an enormous lifestyle shift, these mothers also have to face feelings they weren’t prepared to deal with.
Feelings such as anger, resentment, overwhelm, and insecurity can take a new mother by surprise. Plus, feeling this way only makes this transitional time harder to deal with. A woman’s inner perfectionist struggles to adapt to the new unpredictable lifestyle. And some mothers simply don’t understand their baby.
Some moms imagine what their child will look like, and what kind of personality he or she will have. It can come as a blow when the baby doesn’t arrive as you hoped or planned.
What’s worse, these “disappointments” take over your life and you feel resentful about this little intruder.
But try to be gentle on yourself. This doesn’t mean you’re a spoiled, selfish brat.
Your Fluctuating Hormones Are Messing With You
Once the baby is born, the mother’s body experiences a huge fluctuation of different hormones. This is particularly true of two hormones, estrogen, and progesterone. When they drop, you can feel weepy, sad and have a case of the baby blues. This makes it hard to feel love toward your little one.
Plus, if you’re sleep deprived, and have a sore and tired body, it’s hard to look at the little peanut who caused all of this and say, “Aren’t you the cutest thing?”
Your New Baby is a New Person
Your new baby isn’t just a cute little, squishy addition to your family. It’s a new person who’s around you all the time and needs you 24/7. This can be a lot to get used to, and you might not like this new lifestyle very much.
This crying, needy infant is the reason why your freedom and independence are nowhere to be seen. This can be another reason why you don’t like your child.
What Should You Do If You Don’t Like Your Child?
The most important thing is to be honest with yourself and partner. Denying your naturally occurring feelings will only make matters worse. Try not to worry about judgment or stigmatization. In order to fix the problem, you need to admit there’s a problem.
It’s easier to admit that there’s something wrong when you’re allowed to feel this way. And you’re not the only mother who’s had trouble bonding with their child. There are plenty of women who struggle with the same issue. You can find these women via forums, blogs, and support groups to feel less alone and isolated.
How To Create Loving and Bonding Feelings For Your Child
If it’s hard for you to be the sole provider of love and affection to your baby, get help. Enlist the love and support of your partner, parents, siblings, and friends to be your love team while you get back on track.
Give Yourself Time
Time may be all that you need. Some mothers describe it as a click, and from a certain, seemingly insignificant moment, something changes and they start to bond.
Skin to skin contact, holding your baby and breastfeeding all help to raise your oxytocin levels. This is the “love hormone”, or the “feel good” hormone, and increasing this gives you a better shot at bonding with your child.
Set Boundaries for Yourself
You’re not a bad mother for needing a break and a nice date with yourself. It’s impossible to give love to others when you’re not showing love to yourself. So, don’t let your well run dry. Fill it up with much-needed breaks.
If You Don’t Feel Infatuated, Try Feeling Curious
Your baby might not sweep you off your feet, and maybe you shouldn’t expect her, too. Instead, respect the fact that your little one is an individual who you can get to know.
Try to understand her cries, how she likes to be held, what sounds she makes, what color suits her best, what music calms her quickly, etc. Instead of feeling upset because you don’t like your baby, try to get curious about your child’s individual personality instead.
Being a mother is challenging in so many ways. Having trouble bonding with your child doesn’t make it any easier. If you don’t like your child, be gentle with yourself, get love and support and soon, you’ll be able to bond with your little one.