There is a common experience amongst many mums who have suffered from postnatnal depression.
This experience is the feeling that "I don't love my baby".
If you start to look around at the influences from society and media about having babies, there is definately a hollywood style influence on how we 'should' feel when we first hold our babies as a new mother. It's not dissimilar to the hollywood fluff of 'love at first sight' and 'the happily ever after' scenes.
Yet how many of us who have partners/husbands now, actually fell in love with them the second you laid eyes on them?
The reality is that in many cases, there was a connection to some degree with your partner but the emotional connection grew over time as you got to know them.
This is the same as what can happen with your child. You cannot ever deny that there is a connection, because that is automatic when you have the child. Whether you consciously feel this connection or not, it is there, right in the DNA that they hold that is yours, physically passed down by you!
So you already have a connection to some degree with your baby and over time this connection will grow into love.
However we often hold these expectations of gazing into this little ones eyes when we first meet and being flooded with an intense emotion and overwhelming sense of love and connection immediately. We created this expectation before ever having been a mother at all, or even having any experiential concept of how life was going to change when becoming a new mother.
If you have had a traumatic birth, are having trouble adjusting to lack of sleep, pain from breastfeeding, juggling all the demands of this new life and complete change of lifestyle from what you are used to and generally feeling overwhelmed by everything, these are not very good grounds for falling in love.
Tell me, if you were single (in your pre-child days) and you had worked double shifts at work, were lacking in sleep, were recovering from a major operation where you were in pain but you couldn't take time off work, were constantly being hounded by your boss and trying to learn a new procedure that totally relied on you in order for the project to be success - would you even be thinking about another person, let alone having the energy to love them?
I think not!
We are inherently selfish human beings. Everything that we do is in the best interests of ourselves 100% of the time. So our mind's primary priority is going to be to protect our selves from pain. If you are having feeling stressed or exhausted by everything and have a mindset telling you how terrible a mother you are, this causes us pain, so our our mind's priority is going to try and stop this pain through emotion and irrational responses. This is going to impact on your ability to feel any sort of love and affection for this little baby (or for anyone else for that matter).
It doesn't mean that you don't love them, it just means that you don't have the capacity to feel love for them, because there is a whole lot of other stuff going on in your mind, causing you to feel a whole lot of other emotions right now.
But because of our expectations of the way we 'should' love our child from the second they are born, mums often feel like there is something wrong with them and that they have failed as a mum if they do not feel love for them, but the reality is that it is near impossible to feel that emotion, if you are feeling like you are not coping with this new transition.
The answer is not to beat yourself up over this lack of feeling, but instead, understand that it is how you are perceiving your motherhood experiences that is causing the wall between you and the baby, not because you are a bad person, or a useless mother.
What you need is some help in being able to get an accurate sense of reality in respect to this new motherhood role. Love is felt to varying degrees all of the time, not this warm and fuzzy love and joy that comes with the Huggies ads we all see.
Love is felt when we are at a place where we have the space in our minds to feel love, not when it's cluttered with stress, anxiety and uncertainty about a big change in our lives.
Perhaps you have an unrealistic expectation of what this mother/baby love 'should' feel like. Ask yourself, what exactly 'should' this mother/baby love look like. Am I meant to be feeling it 24/7 and everytime I look at my baby? Because that to me, sounds unrealistic. Do we look at our partners/husbands with intense love every time we see them or talk to them?
If you have this expectation in your mind of this beautiful, warm love for your baby, can you see that this is not possible if you are feeling stressed, run down, tired and basically feeling like this 'looking after baby gig' is a lot of work and no play, resenting the days that never end and sorely missing the easy, free life you used to have?
There is nothing wrong with you if you don't immediately love your baby, it is simply an indication that perhaps you have some bigger issues that are cluttering your mind and stopping you from accessing those feelings for your baby.
The answer lies in learning to change the way you are thinking about this new role and altering those expectations you are trying to live up to that are not realistic, rather than beating yourself up for this lack of feeling
These are the things that I teach in The Happy Mum Handbook. It's never the events that cause us stress, it's how we perceive these events and what we perceive they mean about me (I am a bad mother).
Please know that we are always learning new skills and having a child is a HUGE change from the way life used to be. This requires a complete change in the way we expect life to be like. We need to change the picture and make a deliberate adjustment in our minds, while also learning (over time), the best ways to do things.
You are always doing the best you can and your lack of love for your baby is not because you don't love them, it's just because you can't see it yet for all the fog in your mind. When you change what you look at, what you look at changes.
If you're feeling guilty about not loving your baby the way you think you 'should', please give yourself a big hug (yes I mean literally), and remind yourself to take it easy - you have got a lot going on and you just need to give yourself the time and space to find your new sense of 'normal'.
Lots of love and hugs to you and your babies