Where's the Love by Shari Washburn

When I was pregnant, people said things like, "Oh, you are going to love being a mom." "Wait until you see your baby--instant love." "Once you hold your baby, the things that you once thought were important will no longer be important." All of these women, members of that secret club of mothers, would smile knowingly, and, I, wanting to be a part of their society, would nod along with them, so certain my impending bliss.
 
Only, there was no bliss. In the first few days after my daughter's birth, I was too caught up in post-partum adrenalin and baby-gazing visitors to notice that something was amiss. Then, with my mother visiting for a week to "hold the baby," I nursed and napped and puttered, never once questioning why I didn't care if my baby rested in my mother's arms all day instead of mine.
 
It wasn't until the beginning of week three, when I was finally alone with this wee creature, who woke up every two hours to nurse and spit up all over everything and everyone that I began to wonder where the love was. What I felt had little resemblance to affection. Rather, I was floundering somewhere between ambivalence and outright regret. Between, "So, this is it? This is what everyone's so excited about?" and "What have I done?"
 
The things that were important to me the day I went in labor had magnified in their significance, so desperate was I to connect to a life that was rhythmic and interesting. Phone calls from friends were torturous, filled with details of yoga classes, endless meetings about budgets, the new cute guy at my favorite coffee place. I wanted to get into downward facing dog, plead the case for my department's huge budget, flirt with the barista steaming my latte. Instead, motherhood, like a ravenous beast, swallowed whole the woman and life I had created, and spit out this lumpy shell that lacked all feelings maternal whose daily distraction was laundry. When those same cheery mothers dropped by to coo and inevitably ask, "Don't you just love it?" all I could do was muster a non-commital "hmmmm..." and thinly smile. How could I admit that I was feeling was dread, not love?
 
Don't get me wrong; I took care of my girl. Nursed her endlessly, kept her clean and fresh, carried her everywhere, sang to her, rocked her at all hours of the day and night. There was some primal urge way down deep in my cells that made me tend to her even though I really just wanted things to go back to "normal" (i.e., life before baby). I just wasn't feeling that motherhood glow; hell there wasn't even a glimmer. My ministrations were more obligation than they were adoration.
 
Then one day, in the middle of a phone call with my no-nonsense sister-in-law and mother of (then) one, I decided to be honest and vulnerable, to admit that I made a mistake. I cried as I told her that I didn't really want to be a mother after all. Like in some childhood game, I wanted a "do over."
 
There was a silence on her end as I sobbed and clutched the phone, sure that she thought I was a monster, a horrible creature who didn't deserve that sleepy bundle of being who smelled like one part sour milk and two parts baked bread. Then her voice flowed over the line in one palliative expression of commiseration that brought me down from my ledge.
 
"The first year sucks. But it does get easier. And don't worry, you do love her; you just don't know it yet." That night, while the sedative quality of our rocker was having more of an effect on me than it was on my girl, I gazed down into her bright, wide-awake eyes and sensed a kind of slipping. As if my claw-like yearning for my old life had loosened. And then I felt it, in my heart, almost imperceptible at first but definitely there. A swelling, as the longing for the past made room for the love that was in my presence.
 
Shari Gallin Washburn lives and mothers her daughter in Berkeley, CA. When not writing content for educational websites, she writes about what she knows - motherhood, children, relationships, food and fitness. She hopes her daughter will want to grow up to be strong not skinny, powerful not pretty.