When Attachment Is Delayed

A week after Finn was born I shared this image + this caption to my Instagram page:

“Did you bond with your babies immediately? I did with Mabel. But with Abigail, and now Finn, it has taken me a little extra time to get there. I think that childbirth is so shocking and so surreal that it is nearly impossible to wrap my mind around the entirety of it. This meeting of my child, who I know that I love, but I don’t actually know at all. I kept telling Jim that I felt a bit detached- but that wasn’t quite the right word. Almost more just a state of shock that he is actually HERE and REAL and MINE. But with every snuggle, every nursing session, every coo, and every little thing I experience with him, I find myself falling completely head over heels for him.”

Here’s the thing. I lied to you guys. Because I wasn’t actually falling head over heels for him.

Not then, at least.

It’s no surprise that it has taken me over 10 months to write this post because, well, Mom guilt like whoa.

It’s true, it did take me a little while to bond with Abigail. If you were to ask me or Jim which transition was the hardest for us- we would both agree that the whole 0 kids to 1 kid thing was the one. And I think that played the most into my bonding with her. First time Mom and all of that. But, by six weeks? I was a goner- totally enamored and infatuated with my new baby girl.

And, as I mentioned, it was from the very first second with Mabel.

But with Finn?

I don’t know. I can’t explain it.

I was so, so glad to know that a little boy was coming. I have always wanted a son. I was so happy to have a son! But I was so scared about him.

I kept reading all of these things about what it is like to have a boy and to tell you the truth- I wasn’t particularly thrilled about any of it. Noise? Pee? Trucks? Dirt? Spit? Endless Energy? Like- I wanted HIM- but all of the stuff everyone told me was going to come with it just had me….really stressed.

And then he came- and it was shocking. Looking back- maybe some postpartum stuff that I didn’t recognize? I wasn’t emotional. In fact, I’d say the complete opposite. Totally void of any emotions.

At the time, I prided myself on that. I didn’t feel crazy, I wasn’t swinging back and forth with up and down emotions. But truthfully, I didn’t feel anything at all.

I knew that I loved him. but I didn’t FEEL like I did. I took care of him every bit as wonderfully as the girls (maybe even more!) but I was just meh about it.

I took the pictures and I wrote the captions and I chronicled his babyness. But I just wasn’t FEELING it. At all.

Until he got sick. He had just turned 4 months old and had an unexplained fever for a few days during the peak of flu season. I ended up taking him to urgent care (where there was absolutely nothing wrong with him???) and when I got home with him- I literally felt a cracking open of my heart to him. It was an actual physical sensation where, for the very first time, I felt that- rock you to your core, change who you are, love.

And shortly behind that came the sweeping guilt of the past four months of not having that.

I hadn’t realized it, really. Until then. And I didn’t want to tell anyone about it either.

What kind of Mom was I?? 

Jim told me that the fact that I took care of him the way that I did, particularly when I didn’t feel anything- shows just how much I love him. But that still felt irrelevant to me.

I wanted a re-do. To go back and feel all of the things I should have felt.

I can look at the pictures from that time and remember exactly how I felt. And I look at them now and feel something totally different. It’s so strange.

I remember reading my birth story a few times after I had him and feeling literally nothing. But I read it the other day and I cried. So, a pretty drastic difference there!

Basically I had an epiphany.

And it is this:

That I absolutely love and adore him because he. is. mine.

It doesn’t matter that he is a boy. It doesn’t matter if he loves trucks, hates trucks, pees on everything (or not), is loud or is quiet. It doesn’t matter whether I’m good at being a “boy mom” (because I’ve been super super worried that I’ll be terrible at it) but I have had to let that go too- because my fear of myself was keeping me from loving him fully.

It doesn’t matter if I don’t understand all of the sports, all of the mud and bugs (or not), the super heroes, or any of the stereotypical little boy things that I have read about (and have yet to experience, personally).

It matters that he is mine and that he is loved.

And he is both. 

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  1. I LOVE your honesty. I could have written this post myself….I bonded instantly with Sadie but it took me a few days with my other two. I can imagine the guilt you felt (and why??? We are moms with emotions and fears and hormones! And shouldn’t feel guilty about our feelings…but I totally get it). Thank you for sharing a bit of your heart with us!

  2. Yes, yes, yes, mama! I went through/am going through (???) some pretty nasty and hard PPA with Rhema girl, and it took me a long time to feel connected to her; regardless of what I KNEW to be TRUE in my mind and heart. The beginning was a lot of going through the motions on my part, and still such a hard thing to fully understand. I just thank God for grace and try to remember to give it to myself as much as I give it to other people and things in my life. Thank you for your honesty and openness (as per the uzsh!)

  3. Thanks for being so vulnerable and honest, Courtney! I had a bit of this with my daughter (one and only kiddo), but I knew I was struggling with a bit of postpartum depression and a LOT of postpartum anxiety. Her first year was HARD for me and I felt a lot of guilt about it for a long time: that I didn’t love her enough or that if I could go back and do it over again, I’d do things differently: I’d enjoy her more, take more pictures, etc. I finally had to forgive myself and let. it. go. I did the best that I could at the time and the mere fact that I felt guilty that it wasn’t enough was proof that I was a good mom. I reminded myself (and still do sometimes) that she’s still young and there’s still time to love her more and take more pictures – so I won’t feel guilty in another 3 years looking back on this time.
    You’re a good mom. Don’t doubt yourself or your love for your kiddos.

  4. I can relate! I always dreamed of having a daughter and when I found out that my second, and last, child was another boy I got pretty down. Knowing I would likely not experience all of the girly things I dreamed of my entire life was hard. It also caused some bad postpartum anxiety that I’m still dealing with two years later ? our relationship is much closer and sweeter now, I wouldn’t trade these little boys for anything.

  5. You’re not alone. I feel the same way as my little boy turns one in two days. I still am not confident in being a “boy mom” or feel ready for all the boy things I have been warned about!

  6. I think it’s great to share so others can know they aren’t alone in this. I’m sure that is hard. I can’t personally relate with either of mine, but I know this is common and hopefully someone will be encouraged by your story! Definitely doesn’t make anyone less of a mom to feel like this. Hormones make us all crazy people in different ways.

  7. I love that you’re willing to share this with us! I don’t know how many moms would be able to! With my first, I felt a little detached at first because she was in the NICU for a little while, so I don’t think I was able to bond as well because I couldn’t do much to take care of her. With my son and younger daughter, I think I had a better connection with them when they were born 🙂

  8. Oh Court! Thank you for sharing. I feel ya on the bringing home a baby thing…I’ve nannied mostly boys so I knew what I was getting myself into but the fact that one was actually going to be living with us…whoa. Thankfully I’ve bonded with Séamus just a quickly as with Ellie! However, my Finnley was a bit delayed as well – now I love her more than anything but I understand to an extent.

  9. Lady, thank you for being so brave and posting this. Being a child therapist, this is such a hard and touchy topic. I have worked endless hours with moms and families who for reasons out of their control were not able to bond. It is so hard an scary–and not talked about enough at all. But it can happen. And you are brave sticking with it, admitting it to yourself, and also for sharing. Seriously.
    I know I am unable to have babies but always wanted girls, yet somehow my caseload is boy driven and because I love superheros and cars and such, I don’t mind. I would be terrified of being a boy mom. ?
    And I can’t say it enough thank you for sharing.

  10. Thanks for your honesty. When my first (and only) child was born, my son, it took a solid 9 months to feel the love/bond. (I commented on your FB post about how difficult breastfeeding was for me. That had a huge part in it, I think. Just feeling awful and resentful and guilty all the time.) When it came, one random day, for no reason, it CAME. Just an all-encompassing love that I couldn’t believe!

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