If you are looking for judgment because you don’t love your child, you won’t find it here. I have a few things to share with you so that you know you are not alone, and these feelings are far more prevalent than you might think.
I have two biological children and two stepchildren. I know what you’re thinking, but give me a moment. I love all of my children equally, but it wasn’t always like that.
Let’s start at the beginning.
When I was 21, I had my first bio-child. She was an absolute surprise but wholly treasured once I got over the shock of that plus sign on the pregnancy test.
I loved her from the very first moment I felt her flutter in my tummy. I was in a terrible relationship that ended shortly after she was born, and I poured every ounce of love and protection I could into this tiny, defenseless human.
At the same time, I went to college and got a degree. She made me stronger in so many ways and set me on the path that is my life. Even today, twelve years later, my heart often turns to her for comfort and assurance, though she will never know that.
Three’s A Crowd
When she was two years old, I entered a second relationship that came with two children much older than her. They were eight and thirteen.
I went from a single parent of one toddler to a parent of three, including a teenager. It was an absolute trial by fire, but my two stepchildren instantly entered my circle as they had very few people in their corner.
Again, my protective instincts won out, and a mother’s love took over. Their mother wanted to have the freedom she missed out on, so I made sure they knew I was always available and would answer every call and be there for every school event.
Just. One. More.
Several years passed, and I continued in marital bliss. My husband and I never fought, and even when the kids got a bit out of hand, I wouldn’t have changed a single moment.
However, I had always wanted a very large family, and in 2017 I convinced my husband it was time for just one more child. After a few failed tries that resulted in absolute heartbreak, we got pregnant with a beautiful blue-eyed, red-headed little girl. She was everything I wanted, with a man I adored.
I already had three children, and I knew what those feelings of love should be like. I was so sure that instant connection was just one belly flutter, just one good night kiss on her fuzzy head, just one late-night breastfeeding session away.
I kept waiting and waiting for this overwhelming torrent of emotion to take my breath away as it had so many times before. I wanted that moment of clarity and bonding that I had experienced with the others. When it didn’t happen, I was crushed. I felt so guilty. This is the only child I had planned out, the one that I desperately wanted.
Therein Lies The Problem
I was a great mother. I’d spent years going to PTA meetings and substitute teaching to be as close as possible to my children. I’d completely given up any semblance of a career to be there for every call home and every dinner.
So what was wrong with me, and why didn’t I love my youngest the same way as the rest?
These feelings of guilt would hit me at the worst times, and for at least a year, I couldn’t figure out the problem or why I wasn’t feeling the way I should.
At that time, I cared greatly for her. I spent every minute of every day doing everything for her. I wouldn’t allow anyone to help me, not even my husband. I eco-breastfed, co-slept, and gave up everything that made me happy to care for this unique child.
Therein lies the problem. Subconsciously, I was resenting the changes in my life and channeling that into my feelings towards my child. I was doing it out of a sense of duty instead of love because I had no self-love to give back.
What I had completely forgotten was that love isn’t some crazy strange feeling without a source. It doesn’t come out of nowhere. Love is a chemical reaction in our brains.
Babies are stressful, but our bodies ensure that enough oxytocin hits our system to leave us feeling blissed with the burden.
That wasn’t happening for me at all. Why? The simple answer is that I was parenting from an empty well. I wasn’t practicing self-care or fulfilling any other part of myself.
I had cut off all friends and family in pursuit of being the perfect mother. I had quit substitute teaching, which I had enjoyed so much.
Even my husband and I no longer spent hours laughing together as we had before because I was too busy taking care of my youngest and trying to assuage my guilt. Any moment that wasn’t focused on her made me feel as if I was failing.
Can you read the spiral taking place?
If you’re reading this article, you probably have a good idea of how hard it is to admit that you feel this way. Reaching out to anyone feels impossible.
What kind of person doesn’t love their child? The judgment would be harsh and swift. It took me time to realize that I was judging myself more harshly than anyone else ever could.
My husband finally sat me down and told me I couldn’t continue. I wasn’t sleeping, I wasn’t eating, and he had noticed. He spent another year trying to convince me that it was okay just to let go of the control and live my life again. He suggested therapy, and so, after two years of battling with myself, I started online therapy.
It wasn’t easy admitting my worries, fears, and frustrations, but I am oh so glad that I did. My therapist helped me realize that there was nothing wrong with me. My body was trying to tell me that I was doing too much on my own and therefore not allowing me to be happy.
The guilt was compounding and keeping all hopes and all love from getting through. I had postpartum depression.
Slowly, very slowly, I started to see the light and make choices that were best for me. I realized that mother of the year on paper only gets you so far and that I needed to be happy with myself first and foremost. I needed to fill my social, emotional, and intellectual buckets or the cycle was never going to end.
The Future Is Now The Present
My daughter is now nearly four years old. She goes to school part-time, and we read books together every night. We create elaborate Lego structures during the day and cook together every evening.
I make time for myself, going out with friends once a month, and I got a job as a freelance writer to fulfill my intellectual needs. She is happy, she is healthy, she is whole, and she will never know the struggles that I had when she was born. I can now parent from a place of love because my duties lie with myself.
There are still times when I still struggle, but I know how to reach out when that happens. I don’t need to fight alone. I don’t need to parent alone. I can let go of absolute control and allow the people around me to help. I am not a failure, and neither are you.
If any part of my story resonates with you, it’s time to get professional help. Honestly, I wish I had done it so much sooner because I still feel guilty for all the times I held her because I knew I should, not because I wanted to do so.
Speaking with a professional to get an outside opinion of why you are struggling can clarify the situation in ways you haven’t considered. Please don’t wait, as I did. There is a whole life ahead of you, and it’s much brighter on the other side.