Our youngest turned two last week.
There are a million things about sweet Caroline that I adore. I love her ringlet curls, long eyelashes, inquisitive nature, free spirit, gravelly voice, and willingness to try any food put in front of her. I love the weird habit she has of chewing the noses off of her favorite stuffed animals. I even love that she loves to make messes. I could go on and on. If you know Caroline, you could, too.
I fell in love with my daughter the moment that she was born. Not a moment before.
I didn't bond with my baby while I carried her.
I couldn't say that out loud for a long time.
I so wanted to feel some sort of attachment to the little wonder inside of me like my friends did with their babies.
But I didn't.
When I found out that I was pregnant with Caroline, the feeling was euphoric. However, my elation settled after a few days and was replaced by an underlying worry that all was not well. Because so many things had gone awry in the previous 4+ years of infertility, I was sure that disaster would strike this baby. Subconsciously, I distanced myself from my growing fetus in an effort to shield my heart from disappointment.
As a former gymnast and recovering calorie counter, I struggled to accept my ever-changing pregnant body. The desire to care for my unborn child constantly grated against my fear of gaining weight. Often, I gazed into the mirror and cried, resenting the babe who was making me "fat" (a lie straight from the devil himself). I continued running, if you could call it that, throughout my pregnancy, but I was frustratingly slow and angry that my body could not obey my mind.
Furthermore, I never was able to reconcile how such a tiny clump of cells could cause me to be so ill that I vomited over the kitchen sink multiple times a day for 20 weeks and hated coffee and prime rib. I knew that I should be grateful for the opportunity to carry a child, and I was, but pregnancy itself was a generally unpleasant experience.
I thought that discovering Caroline's gender and giving her a name would help me to bond with her.
I continued to see her as a miracle and a blessing, but I could not see her as the person that I knew her to be in my head ... until I could.
On August 4, 2015, at 1:38 a.m., I fell in love with the daughter who I had carried for 40 weeks. The idea of her became a reality, and as I took in her tiny toes and full cheeks, I thought I might explode with joy.
I am a visual and auditory learner. Much to my husband's dismay, I connect very little through physical touch. This explains how I could feel Caroline's kicks and hiccups in my belly and simultaneously feel nothing. It also explains my lack of enthusiasm toward breastfeeding. (Maybe more on that another day.) But show me my kid's face or let me hear her tiny baby noises, and I'm undone.
I'm not less of a mom because I didn't bond with my unborn baby, and you're not alone if you don't, either. No need to fake attachment or carry guilt over a feeling that isn't there ... yet. Love will come.
It may just need a face.