You'll look into those amazing little eyes right while you experience this wonderful oxytocin rush, and you'll instantly be bonded a love that you felt instantly will last a whole lifetime. At least... that's what's expected of modern mothers. Does it really happen that way?
The myth of instant bonding
Some mothers truly do experience the instant bonding described above. It's great if that happens to you too, but it doesn't work that way for everyone. You're not a terrible mother if you don't instantly feel bonded, and there is no reason to be scared that warming up to your baby a little more slowly will affect your relationship with that baby in any way later down the line. Kathryn had a stressful labor and delivery, during which more interventions were needed than she had anticipated.
For a few terrifying minutes, she even wondered whether the baby would make it at all along with the medical staff attending her birth. The baby was whisked away for tests right after he was born, and Kathryn was left empty-handed. As the baby spent a few days in an incubator, Kathryn felt empty and didn't experience that rush of joy she had read about at all.
"I didn't really bond with him for a few weeks,"
"It was OK, because I knew why."
Kathryn just kept on acting as if she were bonded with the baby breastfeeding, having lots of skin to skin time, and generally looking after him. Slowly, she started to get to know her little guy. Today, he's a teen she has an awesome relationship with. Those first few weeks did not determine what the rest of their life together would be like. At all. After my first baby was born, I felt very protective of her right away.
Wendy, another of my friends, explains it well:
"I'm not really a people person anyway. Some folks call people they meet their friends almost immediately. For me, that takes years. My babies were no different. I had to get to know them before I truly felt bonded."
The moral of the story? Simple. If you don't feel any kind of positive feelings towards your baby, and especially if you feel depressed, sad, and prone to crying, you may be struggling with postpartum depression. If you just didn't experience that Pink Cloud thing people talk about and need some more time to truly start bonding, that's completely normal. Don't fret.
What can you do to encourage bonding?
Don't force things. Do spend lots of time with your baby. Talk to them, sing to them, change diapers, do baby baths, show them around town. Carry and cuddle your baby. Also try to get enough sleep, look after your own basic needs, and make sure you have the opportunity to talk to adults you like during the day, rather than isolating yourself into this pressure-cooker like new mom environment that just has to blow up after a while.
Some women really enjoy newborns, and parenting newborns. Others simply do better with slightly older children. You don't have to wait very long to get more interaction out of your baby either. You can expect that first smile at around six weeks, and that can make a big difference. With time, you'll realize that those very early days are now behind you, and that you're getting good at this parenting gig. You'll realize that those worries about bonding have evaporated, and that you're actually very bonded already. It will happen. Honestly. Enjoy the ride there as well, even if there are some hurdles along the road.