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When Postpartum Depression Makes It Hard to Bond With Your Child

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For a while, I thought I was the worst mother in the world because I didn’t feel like I loved my children. I had always looked forward to having children and the birth of my first son was a wonderful experience, but there was something missing. I didn’t feel attached to him when I first saw him. Now, I had read people don’t always have that overwhelming feeling when they meet their child for the first time, and that it’s quite normal with all the hormones and what your body went through. Yet, as the weeks went by, I struggled more and more with feeling attached to my son.

I was a normal mother in that I did worry about him and cared immensely if something happened to him, but it felt as if I didn’t wholly love him or that I hadn’t bonded at all. There was a huge strain and effort on my part involved. I did everything I needed to do for him and met his basic needs, but that was almost as far as I was able to go. I would play with him and talk to him, but I just wasn’t bonding.

What a horrible feeling! “What was wrong with me?” I always thought. “What kind of mother am I?”

After he turned 1, I realized my feelings were not getting better and that I needed to see someone about it. I was diagnosed with postpartum depression. I had known in the back of my head that I might have depression even before I had children, but I never really realized the impact it had on my life or those around me. I also never knew how much more susceptible to postpartum depression I was because of it.

So I finally reached out, which was hard, really hard. Yet, I learned never be afraid to ask for help because it can make a world of difference, especially if it impacts your children. It was difficult for me mainly because I was always trying to be the person who was strong and supportive. Now, I needed help and admitting that was, and sometime still is, one of the most challenging things I have ever done.

I talked to a therapist and got on antidepressants. Soon, I was feeling a little better. Talking through my feelings helped, which by then were quite consuming because of the guilt of seemingly not loving my own child.

Time went by and things got a little better, but the postpartum feelings were still there. By then, it was chronic depression. I had to make a considerable effort to try and build the bond between my son, and I was so strained in those early years. He was quite attached to me, but it just felt like I couldn’t reciprocate the feelings.

Eventually, my son and I started to get closer, and I was finally starting to feel a much stronger bond when I became pregnant with his little brother, adding a little twist. I made a vow to myself that this time I was going to try and make sure we didn’t walk down the same road as before with my oldest. I took time at night after my oldest went to bed to talk to my belly (the new baby) and to just lie there and feel him move.

We almost lost him at six weeks gestation, and I was devastated because at one time we thought he was gone with all the bleeding. When I got to see him at the hospital on the ultrasound screen, he was so tiny but alive. I instantly fell in love. I think that helped me bond earlier with him, especially since I had a child already, I realized how lucky I was to be still carrying another.

When he was born, I was more aware of the possibility of postpartum depression and the complications my depression could cause. Even though I got it again, I was ready and aware this time and I fought it. I recognized the feelings. I knew that even though I might have felt like I wasn’t bonding, as long as I hugged and kissed him and went over all the reasons I was thankful for him, our bond grew.

He was a fussy and colicky infant, which really tested me. Yet, when we got through the rough beginning, I knew it would be OK and I could handle it all. I’ve since realized I do love my children. Just because I have depression doesn’t mean I am doomed to not feel connected with my children.

I went on to have two more little girls and only experienced postpartum depression with my second daughter. It has been a long journey, but through time, a lot of self-awareness and asking for help, I know my children and I are bonded, in love and for life.

Yes, maybe I have to make more of an effort to show it, and I still struggle with self-doubt that they do feel loved from time to time. Yet, I remembered most when my 3-year-old son looked into my eyes when he woke Christmas morning and said, “Merry Christmas, mommy!” He looked at me with eyes that said “I love you mommy.” It was then that I knew I’ve done my job, and we were all madly in love.

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Image via Thinkstock.

Originally published: December 6, 2016
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