It seems really simple, right? You're pregnant for nine (which is really ten) months, you labor, produce a child and boom! You're instantly in love, your family grows, and you spend the 12 months of the baby's infancy looking lovingly in his/her eyes.
Except... That's not how it happens. Like, not even remotely how it happens.
I had Henry at 36 weeks, and LAWD was I thankful to him for saving me a whole month from a very tough pregnancy (pre-term labor, bed rest, dislocated ribs level tough). I planned a natural birth at a birth center; I got an emergency c section with a breech baby. At that point, I honestly didn't care because I was SO relived to no longer be pregnant!
For the first two weeks of his life, I remember just being so dang happy I wasn't pregnant, I didn't mind waking up every two hours to nurse him. I loved picking out what onesie I'd dress him in that day. I was also on painkillers from the c section, so... You know, there was that.
Then motherhood hit me. After three weeks of maybe four hours of sleep at night, I no longer cared what onesie he would be in. It turned out he had a tough time digesting dairy, since he was a month early (and most babies in general have a rough go with lactose in the beginning. Ironically, milk is his favorite thing now!). I had to cut out dairy from my diet so that the lactose didn't get in my breast milk. Have I mentioned that I'm largely vegetarian, and most of my calories come from dairy? I felt like there was nothing I could eat. And man, was I ever tired.
In those early days, I would look at Henry and smile. I loved him. But I didn't KNOW him. I wasn't IN love with him. We hadn't bonded. He was little and needy and goodness sakes, he was exhausting. I wanted to be in love with him. I wanted to spend hours cooing over him, looking into his eyes and feeling the mother-baby bond. But it didn't happen.
I distinctly remember turning a corner when Henry was around six months. Suddenly, he could sit on his own! He interacted! He was learning new skills! He began to play, and observe, and smile and "talk" to me. That was an exciting time. I finally felt like I was getting to know my baby. He developed a personality. He didn't just stare off into space and cry when he was hungry like he did when he was a newborn, he was an actual little person!
It was between the six and nine month mark that Henry and I finally bonded. It happened gradually - there was no "Ah-ha!" moment, no fireworks. It was a slow, piece by piece process.
Now at 12 months, I absolutely adore and am madly in love with Henry! He is so calm, pleasant, playful and smart. I feel 100% differently about him than when I did when he was a newborn.
My message is this: bonding with your baby isn't inherent. They don't come out of the womb and BAM! You're in love, and you feel like a mom. Nope. Not at all. At least, not for me - possibly for some moms, I don't know. I haven't spoken to one mom who that was the case with yet. But don't worry mama's, it will come with time! When it does, it's a beautiful thing. And you're not a bad mom for not feeling the bond immediately.