August 19, 2006

"I have the feeling [my baby is] not very fond of me..."

This is a very touching Ask MetaFilter.
I don't think this is a normal way for me to feel, but on the other hand I have no idea what I should do about it. I don't feel depressed - more just disapointed in myself, and jealous of the relationship other people seem to be able to build with her. Are some people just not cut out to be mothers? I love my husband, and my parents, and many friends, and my child is, by all accounts, beautiful, but I don't ever seem to have "bonded" with her - I don't find any trace of the feelings I have for them when I look at her. I keep hoping that perhaps when she's hold enough to hug me, or even respond in some way to anything I do that things will change, but I don't hold out much hope.
Now that we have the choice whether to have babies, we rely so much on over-the-top descriptions of baby love. An honest person living a normal life quite sensibly wonders what's wrong with me?

The same is true of love, isn't it? We aren't assigned a husband or wife and required to deal with it. So when we go ahead and pair up, we're disappointed that it's not the big thrill it was promoted as. We think everyone else is in ecstasy, and we're puzzled by the flatness of our own lives.

It's hard to get the truth out, that with freedom comes ordinariness.

23 comments:

Maxine Weiss said...

What is your definition of unconditional love?

Sounds like the mother in the above isn't practicing it, but waiting for the baby to provide the right conditions.

Peace, Maxine

chuck b. said...

I have a friend who struggled with feelings that her baby didn't love her as much as she loved him. She anxiously watched the calendar waiting for that period to arrive when the baby should start smiling back at her and stuff like that. I felt so much pain for this friend, but I couldn't think of anything sensible to say to her. I didn't even know if being sensible was the right answer. The friend's sister wasn't having any of it tho'. She'd say, "Maybe he doesn't think you're funny." Or, "Get used to it." Ouch.

P. Froward said...

I don't find any trace of the feelings I have for them when I look at her.

Sounds more like she doesn't like the baby, than the other way around.

I've known a couple of people who had one or the other parent lose interest (or turn hostile, in one case) after they turned five or so. But it's hard to imagine anybody not liking a baby.

Shanna said...

Even though she says she's not depressed, I wonder if there is some post pardum hormone issue to account for this. Either that, or she didn't really want a baby to begin with.

onelmom said...

My clearest memory from the time my son was 6-weeks old was sitting in front of the computer going through online job postings- sobbing because I wanted so badly to get away from him, and because I wanted so badly for him never to be out of my sight.

Hopefully the writer of that post felt some sort of release after getting her thoughts out, and seeing the responses from parents who have been there and done that. Hopefully she has enough wits about her to recognize the cruel and idiotic posters for what they are. Most of all, I hope she re-read her post a few hours later- after a good nap- and thought, "that sounds a lot worse than it really is."

It is a tricky thing that fourth trimester. Some of my friends have come through it better than ever, and some have been shells of their former selves. I was the latter, for more months than I care to admit. But, I was luckier than many, because I was raised by parents who knew and made sure that we kids knew that with freedom comes ordinariness. In fact, they took it a bit futher. "Sometimes life sucks. Carry on- but if you can't we're here." That about sums it up.

I was also lucky because "fake it til you make it" worked for me. I was able to see the perpetual caretaking tasks as just another really hard, but temporary job. I set a goal of not going back to work for a year. I forced myself to really think about what kind of mother I wanted to be.

I barely remember any of that year, but it stands a very good chance of going down in history as the best and worst year of my life.

Jason said...

It's also the personality of the child.

My first, a daughter, was a daddy's girl. She latched onto me from the first second and wanted little to do with her mom. My youngest, also a daughter, was exactly the opposite. She would tolerate me, but to this day is attached to her mother. (Though I have noticed lately she's been voluntarily giving me good night kisses and hugs [she's ten].)

Jennifer said...

Oh, this makes me want to cry. And that's not just because I'm an emotional wreck, recovering from a chick flick.

The baby is only six weeks old! Of COURSE she has not developed a relationship with her child that has the depth of adult relationships. But she's bought into the crap about love at first sight, and unconditional love, so she feels like she's falling short.

Thank god this woman is reaching out for help. And thank god she's getting answers from actual parents.

Jennifer said...

And, Ann, I completely agree with you. I will throttle the next friend that complains they're heading into their thirties with no good prospects for marriage while simultaneously projecting the most RIDICULOUS criteria for true love.

nedludd said...

I have a 3 1/2 year old son. Honestly, the first few months I don't think he really gave a shit about me one way or the other. He wanted fed and a clean dry diaper. If I gave him that he was cool with me, if I didn't he wanted whoever would. Quite frankly I was just hoping he would let me sleep for more than three hours at a stretch at this age.

Now the boy is constantly underfoot and asks Mom to call me at work. I can't imagine life withour him, but the first few weeks, eh, not so much. I was Dad and did what was needed, but more from obligation than desire.

It's tough, no one wants to admit this stuff, but if you let it get better it usually does.

Some folks may have deep bonding at six weeks, mine was probably closer to six months.

Johnny Nucleo said...

I am not a mother, so take this with a grain of salt.

But it seems to me that good mothers are full of doubt, while bad mothers think they are doing a great job.

Aspasia M. said...

Depression can be hard to identify, especially for people who are depressed.

Remember the Judith Guest book Ordinary People? At one point the psychologist tells Conrad that depression is more an absence of feeling.

This woman sounds numb - my guess is some degree of post-partum depression. She's still only 6 weeks post-pregnancy.

Dr. Melissa said...

Clearly this mother is projecting her beliefs on her kid. Her baby doesn't like or dislike her. But an anxious mother can make for an anxious baby. Babies are remarkable in their ability to pick up the vibe around them--especially their mothers.

And romantic baby notions are just that. The first three months are ridiculously challenging physically, hormonally, and emotionally. And first time moms don't know when it will end.

It took me 'til the third kid to know "okay, this is normal, this will pass, it will get better." This lady doesn't have perspective, but other parents do. I hope she gets lots of support and sleep.

Love grows. It's a choice.

miked0268 said...

I thought that what she is describing was widely understood to be normal. With all three of my kids, it took a few months for my feelings towards them to develop to full intensity. I think it is just a matter of time, rather than the difficulty of taking care of an infant. Some infants are actually kind of easy - my middle one, for example, slept all night almost immediately and was usually pretty content, definitely easier to deal with than an argumentative 3-year old - but it still takes time before your feelings towards them reaches the level of your feelings towards the other kids.

I'd bet 90% of people, when their second is born, secretly believe for the first few months that it would be impossible for them to ever love that second child as much as the first one. Until they wake up one morning, and find that they do.

knoxgirl said...

And romantic baby notions are just that. The first three months are ridiculously challenging physically, hormonally, and emotionally. And first time moms don't know when it will end.

Yes! I really think hospitals should have some sort of exit-interview with mothers before they leave with their first newborn, just to reassure them, if nothing else, that it's temporary! The first three months really is more like a "Fourth Trimester" where the baby happens to have left the womb a little early.

Gahrie said...

I'm struck with this woman's incredible selfishness.

Jennifer said...

I'm struck with the number of people who have never had children but are certain they know what to make of the crazy first few months of parenthood.

Jennifer said...

I'd bet 90% of people, when their second is born, secretly believe for the first few months that it would be impossible for them to ever love that second child as much as the first one.

Absolutely. And these are all people who've already dealt with the - Gee, why am I not passionately in love with this needy bag of poop? phase.

Super-Electro-Magnetic Midget Launcher said...

Geoduck2,

Remember the Judith Guest book Ordinary People? At one point the psychologist tells Conrad that depression is more an absence of feeling.

It isn't.

Maxine Weiss said...

"Remember the Judith Guest book Ordinary People? At one point the psychologist tells Conrad that depression is more an absence of feeling."----from above

What I remember about 'Ordinary People' is when the mother whooshes that sorry piece of French toast down the garbage disposal.

"You can't save French toast."---said Beth Jarrett.

Ha. Beth has never been to my house and seen the leftovers piled up in the fridge!

Unconditional love, people.

It's all about unconditional love!

Peace, Maxine

Harkonnendog said...

You would think evolution would have bred out women like this a LOOOOOOONG time ago, wouldn't you?

bianca said...

my daughter is 1 year old and two weeks I love her to death stay home with her wanted her more than anything was a nanny when I was younger and felt I was born to be a mother... however I love her so much yet sometimes do not like her, she is not soft and sweet she is rough and aggressive and loves to push me, I pray this is a phase and I wonder how truly bonded we are, although we do sleep together I play with her most of the day and I take excellent care of her and those feelings make me feel horrible as a mommy and I feel like she knows how I secretly feel... she cries if I she is left alone in a room but she is not crying for me just for anyone..

Ann Althouse said...

bianca: You sound like a very sensitive person and a good mother. I hope you have other adults to talk to about your feelings so you don't get sad and lonely.

Special said...

Bianka: I have the same situation. My daugter is 13 month. She is home with a babysitter all day so when i finally get home she hardly looks at me to acknowledge that she noticed my arrival. She doesn't like when i kiss her or hug her she constantly pushes me away.
My point of telling you this- you are not alone in that.
I'd like to think that i am a good mother it is just a temporary phase that my child is going through.
I hope one day she will realize how much i love her and how much I need her to love me back, until then i will be there for here everyday of her life just in case it is going to happen tomorrow:)