This Article is written by Mariam Zeineddine
Mariam is a wife, mother of one and author of the Motherload blog. Living in Africa, she has learned to take pleasure in the little things in life and the mundane day to day. You’ll most likely find her playing with her toddler, or sitting in her garden, coffee in hand. Mariam is sharing her postpartum mental health experience here to assure that we are all in this together.
My entire adult life I was obsessed with babies and kids, picturing how it would be when it finally came time for me to be a mother. I imagined it would be days of pure bliss and love right from the get go.
And so there he was, a precious baby boy, delicate and fragile, soundly asleep in his crib. The mere sight of him sent every family member into frenzy. He was my son, but I didn’t recognize him. I understood I was now responsible for him but that responsibility brought with it overwhelming feelings of anxiety, doubt, uncertainty and isolation. Despite having a baby by my side 24 hours a day, I had never before in my life felt so alone.
You would think 9 months of pregnancy would prepare you for motherhood, but it doesn’t. Nothing really does. After my delivery, literally overnight, everything changed. Life as I knew it was over. I didn’t feel like myself. Who was I? It was like stepping into unchartered, dangerous territory with no way back and zero direction.
What kind of mother doesn’t feel a connection to a baby she carried for 9 months? Where was that ‘love at first sight’ everyone talks about?
I certainly didn’t feel it. In the days following his birth, there was no emotion, just the physical acts of motherhood. I fed him, changed him, bathed him, basically everything that was expected of me as his mother. But that was it. I wondered if I would ever feel the love everyone describes so vividly.
I had read my fair share of articles about postpartum depression and postpartum mental health, enough to know that I was definitely experiencing a mild form of baby blues. This gave me some consolation, and validated my feelings.
Taking it day by day, I focused on the little things, like how his eyes seemed to stare into my soul, or how his little fingers grasped at mine.
I insisted on doing the things I loved, on making the most of whatever free time I had, even if it meant forgoing a much needed nap. We hired a night nurse to look after our son, so my husband and I could enjoy a romantic dinner together. Outside the house, away from the baby, things felt familiar and I was myself again. So, I did anything to help keep the old me intact, just so I could still recognize myself and maintain some normalcy in a world that suddenly felt extremely foreign.
As time went on, little by little, the feeling of isolation began melting away. The physical acts of caring for a baby were slowly cementing feelings of motherhood. We were getting to know each other and as my son began displaying love and affection, I started to reciprocate. His need for me, and only me, triggered a drive to fulfill my new job in the best way I could. The baby that had felt like an intrusion was now becoming my entire world.
I believe the turning point was a quote I had come across that’s been with me ever since-
“Bonds that last a lifetime, take a lifetime to build”
I realized I wasn’t a bad mother; in fact I wasn’t a mother at all yet. You don’t magically morph into a mom overnight, simply because you delivered a baby. Becoming a mother is a long journey filled with trials and triumphs, and with every milestone the bond between the two of you intensifies. So don’t expect love at first sight. Instead, wait for a love that slowly grows day-by-day, everyday, forever.