I didn't bond with my baby.

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.

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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.  

It didn't.  

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.

 

And We Made It: Success Stories from a Parent with Imperfect Parents

I originally posted the essay below on Blogger in 2013, immediately following the birth of my oldest.  After reading back through it four years later, all I can say is that it's still completely true.  In fact, it's probably even more true with the addition of another child.  These years are tough and good and exhausting and beautiful, and the tendency toward feelings of inadequacy is ever-present.  But I made it through imperfect parenting, and my kids will, too.  There is grace for today.

*** 

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I'm only about twelve weeks into this parenting thing, and I already feel like a failure.

Sometimes I look at the piles of laundry sitting in our bedroom and think about how they never existed just a few months ago.  Before baby, I could get all of our laundry washed, folded, and put away in a day.  Now it takes me that same amount of time to deal with one load.  Never mind that I haven't made dinner in weeks (I'm not counting Stouffer's lasagna).  I blame it on the fact that the little one doesn't take naps for more than 20-30 minutes at a time.  (Did I mention that I also failed at BabyWise?)


I look at the other babies being dropped off at daycare and admire the tiny Ralph Lauren logos printed on their onesies.  I think about how we can't afford designer clothes, and I try to forgive myself for letting her run out of diapers last week.  
Every now and then, I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror and wonder when I started wearing messy buns every other day instead of fixing my hair.  Then I feel sorry for my husband, who didn't think he was marrying a slob four years ago.

Right now, she's just a baby, but soon the time will come when Piper is off to her first day of kindergarten.  And I won't be the mom who makes her a cute themed breakfast or cuts her sandwiches into dinosaurs.  There will be moments when I wish I was.  But for one, I'm not a crafty food person.  For two, I'm struggling to get both of us out the door on time now, and all I have to do is buckle an infant into a car seat.

I'm not SuperMom like I had hoped.  Mostly, I'm just super tired.  The house isn't as clean as a museum every minute anymore, I'm a hot mess 90 percent of the time, and we can't give our baby the absolute best of everything that the world has to offer.  On the days when defeat and inadequacy lurk around every corner, I remember how I grew up.  I am reminded of the way that my parents raised my brother and me, and I know that everything will turn out fine.

I wore hand-me-downs through at least elementary school, maybe longer...

...and I made it.

Sometimes, we ate amazing home-cooked meals.  But sometimes, when we asked Mom what we were having for dinner, she would tell us to go look in the refrigerator...

...and we made it.

We didn't eat gluten-free, sugar-free, or any other kind of "free" that otherwise restricted our diets (although eating for free was always good)...

...and we made it.

Occasionally, Mom was running behind (probably because she was doing something for us), so I would be late to gymnastics practice.  I would have to do extra push-ups or crunches...

...but I made it.

There were days when a friend of mine would come over while the laundry was still sitting on the couch in piles.  My friend and I would joke about "whitie-tighties" and "granny panties" and then we would move on with our teenage lives...

...so obviously we made it.

I drove a mini-van in high school and didn't get a cell phone until I was sixteen.  100 percent not cool all the way around...

...but I made it.  

We lived in a smaller, one-story house for our whole lives, and my brother and I always shared a bathroom.  I hated that he left water spots on the mirror, and he hated that my hair got stuck in the shower drain...

...but we made it.  

My parents couldn't afford to send us to the most expensive private schools where we would get the very best education.  Regardless, my brother was a National Merit Scholar...

...so you can see that he made it.

The thing is, I'm probably going to keep feeling like a failure, but only as often as I let myself.  My mom and dad weren't perfect, but they did a darn good job.  So, at the end of the day, there will always be parents who are doing all of this better than me, parents who can provide more for their children.  I can't do it all and I can't be everything I want to be.  But I know the One who can.  And I know that because her life is in His hands...

...she is going to make it.
 

Breakfast on paper plates with bedheads ... because that's how we roll.

Breakfast on paper plates with bedheads ... because that's how we roll.