I have been pregnant four times, each experience was unique to itself. I experienced happiness, disbelief, grief, heartburn, nausea, swelling, and much more. I remember lying on top of my covers with the fan and AC on full blast complaining about the heat as my husband hid under a down comforter and was cold. Sometimes I was mean and uncomfortable, and other times my pregnancy was wonderful.
I know I am not alone in these experiences. For many women, pregnancy is not an enjoyable time. Pregnancy is often much more challenging than women expect it to be. For many mothers, they love babies but hate being pregnant. Others love being pregnant but dislike the newborn phase.
All these feelings are normal. How can we cope with unwanted negative feelings? How can we choose to feel love?
1. Have realistic expectations
Pregnancy and postpartum are physically and emotionally demanding times. A woman’s hormones fluctuate daily, weekly and even monthly. It is not realistic to expect yourself to feel the way you normally would.
Yes, every pregnancy is different, it is true. No two pregnancies are the same even in the same woman with the same partner. Each baby has their own personality and needs and new mothers can recognize them in pregnancy and postpartum.
Even women who had pregnancy or infant loss, NICU stays, or complicated pregnancies can have radically different experiences with the next baby. Today in the pandemic, times are even more unsettling, increasing your stress and fears.
2. Be patient with yourself and your baby
Becoming a parent is a major life change. Some people adapt easily, and for others, it is a longer process. Your adaptability will also be affected by many factors: your health, access to your providers or support system, social distancing, etc. Needing more time to adjust to a new phase of life is not a sign of weakness or a sign that you don’t love your baby.
For some parents, this may make you question how you feel, especially if you expected to feel differently towards your baby or your pregnancy. This is normal. Not everyone is bonded with their child in utero or at birth. Each parents’ experience and relationship is different, normal, and their own. Not feeling a certain way is not a sign that you don’t love your baby or are a bad parent. It may just mean that you need more time to adjust.
3. Love is a choice, not a feeling
It is easy to love someone when you feel affection toward them, but that isn’t necessarily true love. The love of a parent is less about feeling a certain way. It is about the choice you make to care for and protect your child. Love is choosing to welcome a child into your lives. Love is getting up and feeding the baby when you are exhausted. Love is putting your baby’s needs in front of your own.
Remember, love is a choice, not a feeling. Love is the daily choice to care for yourself, your partner, and your child. Love is choosing to persist, even when it is difficult.