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I feel like a babysitter, not a mom. Is this normal?

If you're having difficulty bonding with your baby or feeling detached, you might be experiencing postpartum depression.

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Dear Is This Normal,

My daughter is 8 months old and I still don’t feel the bond or the all-consuming love all moms seem to talk about. I had a c-section and was out of it for hours after due to medication and I was not able to breastfeed. I feel like not seeing her immediately after she was born and not breastfeeding really hindered my bonding experience. I feel so guilty when family members talk about how much they love her and I, as her mom, don’t even feel the overwhelming love. I have no problems taking care of her or playing with her but I feel like her babysitter and not her mom.

Signed, 

Disconnected

Dear Disconnected,

Oh, mama. I know this must have been such a hard letter to write, but I am so glad you wrote it. Because you are definitely not alone! These are the kinds of questions and worries that so many of us don’t speak openly about—they’re whispered in confidence, downplayed, or ignored altogether. We’re so conditioned to expect motherhood to go a certain way that when it doesn’t, we feel like an outlier. The one not doing it right. And that just isn’t the case. Motherhood looks different for everyone, and your experience is no less valid or no less important because it doesn’t fit the mold of what you were *told* it was going to be like. 

Having difficulty bonding with your baby or feeling detached from your baby can absolutely affect how you feel as a mom, but recognizing that and asking for help is such an important first step.

My immediate reaction to reading your letter was one of concern, not for how you’re bonding with your baby (we’ll get to that), but for the possibility that you’re suffering from postpartum depression. You described some markers (not being able to bond, feeling detached) and some risk factors (c-section delivery, not seeing her or holding her after she was born, not being to breastfeed) that can contribute to the development of PMADS. Postpartum depression can affect anyone, and it’s far more common than I think a lot of parents realize. It’s not something you can control or could have controlled in the days and weeks following the birth of your daughter. But considering your daughter is 8-months-old and you’re still experiencing these symptoms and lack of bonding with her, I would be less likely to fully assign this to your birth experience, and more concerned that you have undiagnosed postpartum depression. I strongly encourage you to speak to your partner, family, and doctor about how you’ve been feeling—with their help and support (and appropriate treatment), there is light at the end of this tunnel.

But I also wanted to touch on this idea that bonding is this innate, natural occurrence and that all parents feel overwhelming love for their children the second they lay eyes on them. It certainly makes for a great soundbite, right? Parenting is hard, but loving your kids is easy and natural’. Except … it isn’t always? We shouldn’t be afraid to admit that, and we certainly should never be ashamed when our experience veers from that. 

I’m going to let you in on a little secret: you caring for your daughter, playing with your daughter, prioritizing your daughter, nurturing your daughter—that is you LOVING her. That is you being her mom. That is you making sure she is happy and healthy and warm and fed. That is love! And while it doesn’t feel like it now, every time you make her laugh or she smiles at you or you soothe her cries or interact with her as her mom, SHE is bonding to YOU. And I know it shouldn’t feel so one-sided—I understand so much that this is a concern. But while you go through the process of talking to your doctor, leaning on your support system, and finding help for what you’re feeling, just know that your daughter is thriving with YOU as her mom. 8 months seems like an eternity in baby time, but in the grand scheme, it’s a drop in the bucket of your journey together. Bonds don’t necessarily form overnight, but in the weeks, months, and years you have with your kids.

Connection in Progress,

Is This Normal

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