From the time you begin to tell people that you are pregnant, new parents are flooded with comments from loved ones from parenting advice to how it feels to become a parent. One particular comment that I remember hearing a lot is how I would just fall in love with my baby. That I would feel immediately bonded and blissfully happy. I remember feeling so excited and longing for the day where I could hold her, kiss her, and feel like my heart would burst because I would love her in a way that I’ve never loved anyone.
Here’s what actually happened. I remember feeling happy when my baby was born. And I remember feeling relieved that she was a healthy and that my delivery had gone smoothly. But after the doctor finished what she needed to do, and the nurses left the room, I had this feeling of fear that at the time I didn’t understand. I didn’t expect it either. What I felt was this enormous responsibility for keeping this little person alive, and it scared me. Just seeing how totally helpless she was, knowing that she depended on me totally was overwhelming. And then came the feelings of anxiety and self-doubt. Could I really do this? Am I prepared? What have I actually gotten myself in to? I’ve since connected with other women who felt the same way, and we were all relieved to know we weren’t the only ones.
Taking a look at the feeling of overwhelming responsibility, it really does make sense. Here are some reasons to help you make sense of it and hopefully bring some relief.
You’re starting the biggest job of your life
Here’s another way to look at that feeling. Being a parent is the hardest and most important job there is. Think about it, when you start a new job, you’re always at least a little nervous. You maybe have questions like, “Will I actually like it? What will my boss and co-workers be like? What challenges am I going to face?” It makes sense to feel scared to begin your job as a parent, even more so because there are so many unknowns. You don’t know what you don’t know. It’s ok to be afraid of the unknown. Give yourself a lot of grace during this time.
You just brought a person you don’t know home with you
Hear me out on this one. You really are trying to get to know your baby. You’re learning baby’s different cries, what helps to soothe, what helps to sleep. And to be honest, your baby is getting to know you too. You might have known what time of day while you were still pregnant when your baby would be most active, or what foods you ate that would cause more activity. But now you’re getting to know your baby in the outside world, which is dramatically different for them from inside the womb. And the baby sleeps a lot and is probably awake just long enough to eat. I call this the crying blob stage. Although you don’t feel that mushy love yet, you are bonding to your baby just by meeting baby’s needs. One of the biggest developments emotionally for a human is establishing trust. The baby cries, you try to figure out what needs have to be met (food, diaper change, cold body temperature, sick, just wants to be held, etc). By meeting the baby’s needs, you are laying the groundwork for trust and connection. And you won’t get it right all the time because you are really just getting to know and figuring out how to take care of baby. Also, don’t worry if you don’t get it right all the time. Baby will give you plenty of chances to figure it out. And you will!
Your Body is Going Through Major Changes as Well As Your Life
Your body has just been through a lot, and it will continue to go through many changes over the next several months. You are recovering from giving birth, you’re sleep deprived, and you are might be trying to get the hang of breastfeeding. Let’s not forget those crazy hormone changes that are happening too.
The fact that even in this physical condition are able to bring yourself to take care of your baby can only come from one place; LOVE. Before having a baby, most of us didn’t rush around taking care of others if we were injured or sick. But we do this immediately after having a baby. I remember my own therapist telling me that I would be so tired, but I would get up in the middle of the night when my baby cried. You will continue to do many things that are challenging, and that you may not feel like doing, even when you’re sick. And it’s because you love your child.
Eventually, I did fall in love with my daughter. And I do love her unlike I’ve ever loved anyone. She eventually emerged from being a crying blob to being an adventurous, loving, sassy, and active girl. I have been privileged to be able to see the person that she has become. What I’ve learned since giving birth to her was that the overwhelming feeling that I had when she was first born was my own understanding that raising her and other children I might have would be the most important job ever. It was the feeling of wanting to protect her. It was my desire to provide her with the best life I could. It was my desire to not fail her. While it wasn’t the mushy feeling I was expecting, it was love.