If you’ve read Aria’s birth story (from Dani’s perspective), you know that she was born at high speed. The gynaecologist didn’t arrive yet. The midwife was preparing something in our room, apparently unaware of how imminent Aria’s birth was. When she was born, Dani caught her, and not much later, we were both holding her in our hands. I was in shock. I didn’t know what to do. I was looking for confirmation that she was ok.

What happened next is a blur to me.

Someone took her. I thought the midwife had taken her to weigh her. I was confused. I knew that the hospital promoted skin to skin right after birth. They prioritized private time between the parents and their newborn over getting all the measurements and other practicalities. So why would they take her away from me? Other doctors and nurses started taking care of me. Time passed, and I didn’t see Dani or Aria anymore.

Due to respiratory problems, I didn’t see Aria for hours after she was born (read the full story here). When I finally saw her, her face was covered with an oxygen mask, and she was full of cables. Once I held her in my arms, I felt so scared. I obviously felt frightened because I was afraid of losing her. But there was another fear. I was scared I didn’t feel right. I felt disconnected from her. While she was in my belly, I had felt so connected to her. Now, I was holding this fragile baby, and I didn’t have the feelings I thought I would have. I felt like a horrible mother. This tiny human was having such a rough start to her life, and the one person she needed wasn’t feeling overwhelmed with love. Dani, on the other hand, couldn’t stop saying, “She’s so beautiful. I love her so much”. Every time he said it, it was a reminder that I didn’t feel that way.

Nine hours after she was born, she could breathe without the help of the mask, and I could try to breastfeed her for the first time. It didn’t work. Lactations specialists came and tried to help us. I did everything I could. Aria wasn’t getting any milk. It took us over a month to get her to drink all her feedings from my breasts.

The first weeks were hard.

I hated the words “I think she’s hungry”. That was the start of another cycle of alternating between attempting to get her to drink from my breasts and giving her a bottle of expressed milk. This process often lasted an hour, but sometimes more. Every cycle ended the same. I had to face that she wasn’t getting what she needed from me, and we had to satisfy her hunger with more expressed milk from a bottle. Then I had to pump to stimulate my production and to make sure I had enough milk for the next feeding. It was an enormous amount of pressure. I could barely keep up with the amounts she needed. On top of that, the pumping hurt a lot and the maximum time between two feedings couldn’t exceed 3 hours: day and night.

It was just so overwhelming. I was crying a lot in the first weeks. The failure of breastfeeding, the pain, the pumping, the difficult nights, the lack of sleep regularly caused breakdowns. At that time, I kept wrestling with my lack of feelings. It’s not like I didn’t care about her or that I didn’t love her. I did. But I wasn’t feeling the overwhelming, intense love that I expected to have for her. I didn’t dare to tell anyone. I felt ashamed and scared. What if I was getting postnatal depression.

I could see Dani was getting worried too. After a few weeks, I told Dani how I had been feeling. I was afraid of disappointing him. I didn’t, and he was very supportive (as always ❤️), but it was clear that I scared him. We shared such an amazing experience during my pregnancy, with so much love. I had not seen this coming.

Then one day, Aria was drinking well from my breast.

I felt this wave of love washing over me. As breastfeeding went from being a battle to being a special bonding moment, I started feeling more and more connected to my precious daughter. As I’m writing this, she’s sleeping on my lap, and I am filled with love when I look at her.

I was scared to write this down and share it, but since Aria was born, I have read that I’m not the only mother not to feel the connection right away. I do wonder. What causes this? Is it an unrealistic expectation? Or are the natural processes of birth interrupted too much? For example, when you breastfeed your baby, the hormone oxytocin is released, aka the love hormone. It helps a mother bond with her baby. The natural process is to start breastfeeding your baby in the first hour after birth. Isn’t it to be expected that interrupting this process has consequences, for example, on the connection between a mom and her baby? I’m not saying this to judge anyone, but we can’t deny the critical role hormones play. Clearly, fathers also connect to their babies, so breastfeeding is not the only way, but I believe that it helps.

I will never know for sure why I didn’t feel connected to Aria right away. I am, however, convinced that it was caused by our separation right after her birth and the resulting breastfeeding problems. Once the breastfeeding started going well, all the missing feelings came flooding in.

It took me a while to share this, but I hope it can help other mothers. ❤️