“I waited for maternal love to overcome me – it didn’t… After my baby was born, I didn’t feel anything…”

Sharing an email and an opinion.

“IHM, I would like to share my experience.

My pregnancy wasn’t planned… I’m not a baby person and I never felt the need to have a child… Neither did my husband…Then some yrs. after marriage I got pregnant… I was scared… My husband wasn’t very happy… Anyway, there I was pregnant so we decided to have the child… I waited for maternal love to overcome me – it didn’t… After my baby was born, I didn’t feel anything… Neither did my husband… All the stuff about how a mother falls in love with her child at first sight was rubbish… In fact, when I saw my 2.5 kg baby,
I got scared… How was I going to take care of hen*? I didn’t know anything about babies… Anyway, to cut a long story short, the overwhelming maternal love came a few weeks later and now we are both so happy that we can’t imagine a life without our child… The thing is, we couldn’t talk about our feelings with anybody because it was a taboo subject… “

*Hen is the gender neutral term used in place of his or her.

And Sraboney Ghose shared these thoughts.

“Since motherhood has been the topic of discussion lately, there is
an aspect of it which is the ultimate taboo in most societies (and I
can’t understand why) – bonding… Mother-baby love is supposed to be love at first sight but a large proportion of new mothers do not bond immediately with their newborns leading to shame and inadequacy and since motherhood is put on a pedestal, these mothers cannot even talk about it…

Why is motherhood idolized and worshiped in all cultures but mothers not viewed as human beings in many? Why are mothers expected to bond with their newborns immediately?
Are images of motherhood a strategy to cover up oppression?
Does this idolization lead to many mothers being overwhelmed by guilt, blaming themselves for their children’s and/or their own shortcomings, feeling pushed to behave up to impossible expectations about what motherhood ‘should’ be?

From the moment they find out they are pregnant, expectant mothers are bombarded with messages all telling the same tale: that as soon as they hold their newborn child they’ll  experience a deep, unconditional love… So powerful is this love that it will make any monotony, isolation and exhaustion they may encounter on their journey into motherhood worthwhile… What if this doesn’t happen? Mothers are human beings and like all human beings they have their own individuality… Why is this not taken into account?”

61 thoughts on ““I waited for maternal love to overcome me – it didn’t… After my baby was born, I didn’t feel anything…”

      • What is considered manly and not manly in India is funny in general.

        I guess the problem people have is that one can actually enjoy being a father. People hate it when you enjoy your private life. Especially when you are a man, you should be this always grumbling, discontent parent. Then people are fine with it. But the moment you find happiness at home, that’s something to envy.


        • You’re so right — I didn’t think of this before.

          The Indian husband and father is supposed to live a harried, discontented life; pining away for lost freedom. He’s supposed to resent his harridan of a wife and annoying, bawling kids.

          It’s unmanly to confess to marital and parental bliss. It’s manly to grumble and complain about marriage and parenthood. We are a strange lot. 🙂


    • It is, just that not in India.

      In other places, father is a person who introduces the child to the world of adventure, sport, rivalry, self-defence, honor and responsibility. Fathers are portrayed as the apropriate figures to teach a boy how to be a self-made man and a girl how to be an active, independent woman.

      If you see a father as a “breadwinner”, guest at home, enjoying his peace and quiet with a newspaper and coffee/cigarette, refering to the kids only if they need to be punished, then there is nothing to glorify basically.


      • I don’t know about Europe, but I must say that I’m not too comfortable with the North American stereotype of parenting either.

        It’s less restrictive than the Indian one, no doubt, but at the end of the day, it’s just as tiresome and just as stupid. A father’s role extends way beyond teaching the kids to play ball and making tree-houses for them.

        A father’s role also involves changing diapers when they need changing, quieting the baby when she is agitated, dealing with allergies, dealing with doctor visits, dealing with school issues, dealing with all the daily trivialities that make parenting stressful. In this day and age of barely existent gender boundaries, a father’s role involves all that a mother’s role does. . Sure, there are some things that a father can do which would be harder for a mother (and vice versa), but such things are few and far between. For the most part, there’s really very little reason to have different roles for different sexes. Same-sex couples manage quite well, don’t they?

        Rather than glorifying fathers as well as mothers, I’d much prefer it if people just stopped glorifying parenting altogether and minded their own business. That would be much better for everyone, IMO.


        • Contrary to common belief American parenting, like many other areas of life, are extremely conservative with the gender role division. I’m talking about rural instances especially. And in such cases, a father has a list of “tasks” to perform.

          Eitherways, like you say, when everyone is doing their job without searching for praise or reward, life becomes much easier for both parents. Where I come from nobody cares who cooked dinner or changed a diaper because it’s normal for parents to be equally involved.


        • Life is perceived through the duality so glory comes with disgrace/shame. While we are are at the unglorifying groove, I’d like people to stop getting impressed with certain kinds of people. I know, I can as well say its none of my business who they are impressed by but most of the ills of our society come from one group or another glorifying something they think is impressive…so I would be all for unglorifying any job that is presently glorified…No sane person does something unless there is some kind of pay off from it…we arent that stupid. Just because we dont have the aptitude to do something doesnt mean that the one who has it is somehow Above Us.

          This doesnt mean you arent grateful for the things that the ones without your aptitude is capable of doing, but that you give praises and complements where they are due but dont over do it to the point of worship or fanship…I dont think anyone is that perfect to deserve it.


        • “Rather than glorifying fathers as well as mothers, I’d much prefer it if people just stopped glorifying parenting altogether and minded their own business.”

          Amen to that.


        • I totally agree that it is not much better outside of India. In US, when I switched to a new job which was demanding and had an hour long commute I couldn’t attend a single PTA meeting or any activity at school for almost a whole year. My husband took care of the kids school PTA meetings, doctor appointments etc. for the most part. While he was put on a pedestal for that, I was judged to no end. At the end of the school year when I went to meet the teachers, I had to hear things like they thought he was a single dad. I was openly scorned for not being active in their school.

          In general, my husband enjoys interacting with the kids more than me. He loves teaching them, making them do homework, playing with them etc. While I love my kids, I do most of the same stuff because I had to and not because I enjoy it. Both of us know it and we try to divvy up the chores based on what we enjoy the most, which means he does most of the kids chores. Now that we moved back to India, it is amusing to see how people react to our roles. I try not take offense at what people think about us, but sometimes I hope they minded their own business.


    • @GV, Yes, why not fatherhood?
      Btw GV, have you heard the song “Damalelya Babachi hi Kahani tula” (= Ballad of a helpless tired father)? Never fails to bring tears to my eyes.


      • Ooooooh! I love this song too! A must watch for any father. Or parent. Or child. My daughter loved it – she’s now old enough to understand the nuances, and this is in our mother-tongue, so it was easy for her.


        • It especially made sense to her as her father is the one who made up bedtime stories for her when she was little, and tried to spend quality time with her, even though it was just half-an hour or so everyday, because of his busy schedule. Although I’m the person she turns to for books, it is her father who can really ‘tell’ stories involving her and any motley group of animals that she comes up with.

          Thanks, Shail, for posting this song, and I have tears in my eyes as I watched it after a long time!


        • You are welcome Sandhya. I don’t know the language, but I loved it so much that I had it translated for me. I listen to it often.:)


  1. I appreciate this post for the reason that its not a repetitive discussion . I fully agree that its not necessary that expectant lady may immediately become a mother or have deep feelings . I also feel that giving birth to child after marriage is not a thing to be glorified but its a process or second step to making a family . Father and Mother both need their time and space to get aclematized .
    Also every expectant lady is given so many suggestions about the baby in the womb and each suggestion revolves around the fact “its good for the baby ” . I hardly hear any one telling her that its good for you . Even when they say dont stay hungry for long they will add ” its not good for the baby ” .

    Yesterday I was reading a ficitional series where the woman leaves are husband after physical torture and walks out on him with 3 children . Ok in this case the husband is used to inflicting physical torture but HWY ITS ALWAYS NECESSARY THAT A WOMAN IF SHE WALKS OUT OF MARRIAGE needs to take the children with her . Why is it necessary for her to get the custody of her children ? Just because she kept them in her womb for 9 months , she becomes the custodian .

    Somewhere down the line when we discuss { IHM I am talking with reference to last post also about she got pregnent so that she can eat etc etc} issues we now need to rise above the discussions on glorification of retrogessive / age old problems . Some where all of us need to sit and think that woman , her needs and her desires as an individual ALSO HAVE EVOLVED . And In case they have not evolved then its high time we start giving direction to evolve and grow .

    I very much liked this post


  2. It is not taken into account because the society believes that motherhood is all about unconditional love which in latest cases has gone on to be prove wrong. Love is not something that can be artificially manufactured by simply giving birth, and if love needs time to be generated in a relationship so be it. You cannot force it upon others and accept that different type of mothers do exist and they may not feel the same about their children.


  3. This could be a case of Post partum depression or the fact that she did not want the kid. We are taught to be ashamed if we do not love the baby immediately but it would be much more helpful if people were to talk about all these things openly. We are so bent on keeping up a perfect image of motherhood that nobody wants to talk of the shit that goes behind it.

    And mothers are individuals too. They are people with needs for their own space and time


  4. There is something called Reproductive rights.! I wonder how many women know about it and actually let it happen in their lives.! An unplanned pregnancy or a woman becoming becoming a mother who never wanted kids is a heartening situation.! The child is the sufferer in this case.! Even if for a few minutes and then I have known many young mothers who don’t do anything for their children as a repulsion to unplanned pregnancy they had to undertake.!


    • Between an unplanned pregnancy and women who “don’t do anything for their children” there is a variety experiences, which include not bonding immediately but being extremely bonded later which seems to be the case here. There are people would rather have the child than abort when faced with an unplanned pregnancy and that’s okay – it doesn’t necessarily point to lack of awareness of reproductive rights.


  5. I totally agree with this story… not falling in love at first sight with the kiddo happened with me too.. infact I also did a post on it sometime back.


  6. Estimates are that as many as 25% (up to 42% in some cultures) of new moms suffer ‘postnatal’ or ‘postpartum’ depression, so it is not that uncommon.
    Symptoms of PPD can occur anytime in the first year postpartum and include, but are not limited to, the following: guilt, overwhelm, anxiety, sleeplessness, anger, hopelessness, feelings of inadequacy & sadness.
    I’ve seen this quite a lot in new moms who formula feed (instead of breast feeding) and in moms that have undergone a Caesarian section- there has been speculation that PPD is correlated with the change in hormones after birth in some cases. Breast feeding & vaginal delivery tend to increase natural oxytocin levels.
    Women generally aren’t taken seriously when they try to describe these symptoms to others. PPD is completely understandable when you think of the high hormonal levels mom’s body has just endured the previous 9 months along with the emotional and physical strain of pregnancy & birth.
    Counseling & possibly drug therapy (with fluoxetine aka Prozac) are the preferred methods of treatment in the US.


      • I’d agree, but if the lack of bonding persists beyond a week I’d be concerned. Oxytocin evokes feelings of contentment, reductions in anxiety, and feelings of calmness and security. Thus it is often called the ‘love’ hormone. Oxytocin release is responsible for the ‘letdown reflex’ in lactating moms also.
        Alas, giving birth is definitely NOT always the warm fuzzy ’emotionally fulfilling’ experience as shown on television.


        • All boxes ticked for what is supposed to be required for high oxytocin – fully natural birth, baby never taken away from me, no epidural, no drugs of any type for pain relief, immediate nursing. However it took about 4 weeks to feel the love. And no I had no PPD.

          I think the whole birth and baby drama is just too overwhelming for any sudden gushes of love to happen. Takes time.


    • PPD is not something that only biological mothers experience. Research has proven that adoptive parents feel this too. There’s more to this, stuff beyond biology or formula feeds or c-sections.


    • Yeah in the US doctors are usually only too happy to push mind altering drugs along. I wouldn’t touch those medicines with a ten foot pole. There are plenty of non-medicating alternatives to treating depression and that’s what should be encouraged first. Unless maybe the patient is suicidal or an extreme case like that.


    • I didn’t have any feeling or bonding with my baby till very long time after delivery. Might be because of angriness and frustration as i suffered a lot of physical and mental pain due to child birth. Mine was an assisted delivery (with forceps) with 2 degree perennial tear. It took around 5 months for me to completely heal and think about baby. Even though i was breast feeding the baby, i used to feel very exhausted and cry during this time, so i never felt happiness when i had to feed the baby. If i see my baby’s old photos now, i feel like i missed that period and i didn’t enjoy any of those first moments. Now my kid is 15 months old and i have good bonding with him.
      I truly agree with the topic that it is a taboo in India to say that i don’t bond with my baby. Even, i couldn’t share these feelings to any one except to my mother, husband and close friend. No one else can understand the pain and they may also complain that iam not behaving like a mother.


  7. PPD is a very serious issue. But a new mum doesn’t have to have PPD to experience the baby blues. Anyway, I like the fact that from India, to Greece (my country) to the UK (where I now live), all mothers have the same story: motherhood is not easy and its joys come with a lot of frustration for all women. It is time to speak out and seek help from our environment if we are to bring up healthy children and sustain healthy lives for ourselves.


  8. Biological factors notwithstanding, I think a lot of this attitude stems from a formulaic approach to human behavior. Faced with situation X, you’re SUPPOSED to react a certain way. This is an irrational supposition. As a rule, people NEVER react the exact same way to the same situation and delivering a baby is not an exception to that.

    Everyone is bombarded with stereotypes, women probably a little more so than men.

    It is important to remember that you are not answerable to any stereotype. It is more important to be happy, more important to be proactive about your own needs, than it is to be responsive to social expectations.

    There’s nothing new under the sun; if you’re facing an issue, chances are that others have faced it as well. If you think something is amiss, talk about it to people you trust to give you good advice, society be damned. The fundamental need is to be comfortable with yourself, to have confidence in your own reactions.
    A patriarchal, sexist social system saps this confidence out of women (and a lot of men too, for that matter).

    I’m just glad that the email writer is doing great now. Best wishes to her.


  9. My comment vanished. But I feel strongly enough to make it again.

    I completely agree with this writer – know what she meant. I felt no maternal gush either. I felt scared too – this is a big responsibility. While we were ready to be parents, prepared mentally and happy to have my first born in my hands, it was the first time I ‘realized’ (on hind sight – ‘thought I realized’!) the real big deal this was. A life is our responsibility. The ‘real’ work started now! It was actually easier the second time around, even though there wasn’t a pregnancy involved then. Just more experienced, I guess. How does one explain the sameness of the experience when one child is biological and the other is adopted? Now we have to go beyond biology and take the person for who he/she is, right?

    It took me a few weeks to get to today’s ‘I will wrestle a tigress for my kids’ level. Part of it was just fatigue. Even nursing wasn’t this amazing process….I had to move furniture around to make sure I had something else happening…staring at baby for hours wasn’t happening for me.

    A lot of people feel this way and only opened up when I mentioned something. On top of the several ways I didn’t fit in or conform, this was made to be another thing to hush up. Men and women alike cringed when they heard something like this….it apparently does not fit into their definitions of feminity and this ‘mother goddess’ build up.


  10. Coming back to say this – giving birth is easily the most overwhelming and life-changing thing to happen to me. Nothing, nothing, nothing can come even close to it.

    It is important for a woman to have an identity of her own before the baby happens, so that she can hold on to it in the torrent of conflicting emotions (from herself) and flood of opinions (from others) that is bound to follow the birth of the baby. Else she is likely to get carried off with it.


      • I actually wanted to comment on the letter writer’s question where she asks “Are images of motherhood a strategy to cover up oppression”? I would say that not everything is a conspiracy to oppress women. Rather, I think societies all over the world seem reluctant to acknowledge reality, or any deviation from what they define as the norm. Most women do bond with their babies quickly, but many do not. I suffered from the “baby blues” after giving birth to my first child after a very hard labor, even though I was happy throughout the pregnancy. Nobody ever talked about such things with me. In fact when I was growing up, no one even discussed pregnancy let alone the process of childbirth. The real problem is lack of knowledge. We live in the information age, but know so little about things which matter.


        • I agree, it’s not a conspiracy, it’s more like social conditioning or indoctrination perpetrated and supported (without really thinking about it) by those who who either don’t give it a thought or generally accept this as a fact.


  11. I understand the author, for the simple reason that, our emotions are based on the chemicals our body produces. So yes, we can write a mile of literary fuzzy epic on how a mother feels about her child or a book titled “A complete idiot’s guide on how to feel what you need to feel”, completely ignoring the reality of our chemical selves. The reality will depend on what chemicals are released by our natural selves at the points of stress and how our nurtured selves reacts to it.

    I am glad she is doing well now…Glad she is able to talk about it. Wish she had someone to talk to while she was going through it.


  12. It takes parents varying amounts of time to feel that absolute love and bonding. Even eith no ppd it takes time. No two women are alike what works for one ay not work for another. When my kids were born my main concern was lack of sleep — for me :-). Even though I had plenty of help , it took me a long time. I’d say months to really enjoy and bond with my babies. For the first few mints it was constant feeding, changing and more feeding. God I was pissed at having twins. My husband bonded faster and to this day is closer to my boys. I love then but it grew thro the years.. I prefer kids when they can communicate my husband is the baby man – forever on the flor rolling around with them. Best not to judge. Have a baby when ready. And eventually you will bond. Don’t set time limits on it. Go with the flow.


  13. Marriage, kids are the biggest lie going around today. It is parents who never wanted kids who feel their children should sacrifice their lives for them. Popping out kids is fine if that’s what you want to do but remember you do not own them, they came from you but they are not of you.


  14. I agree wholeheartedly!
    It wasn’t love at first sight for me either. After 23 hours of painful labour, when the son was born, I was wanted to.. eat. While my sister was giving me some rotis and the newborn was sleeping, the nurse came in and “Scolded” us for not feeding the baby first and eating. That was the first of everything – Reading books was not allowed (the light will affect the baby), cribbing about his crying was not allowed (all babies cry), and sleeping in the afternoon was not allowed (if you sleep like this, when will you take care of husband?).
    It didnt help that mother around me were the gushing-in-love-with-babies types.. I watched one episode in desperate housewives where the mother goes through a mental breakdown, to realise that I am not the only one.


  15. I totally empathise with the writer here. I actually thought my baby looked like an alien the first few months that it was born. I was so totally tired of its poo-cry-feed-poo cycle that I just wanted to give the baby away to whoever wanted to deal with it. Getting up every 15-20 mins in the night to feed the baby … I almost felt like it was sucking the life out of me, especially when I got updates from all my single and married but childless friends about their vacations and escapades on FB.
    I guess, the minute that I actually bonded with the child was when my mom who was tired having to constantly help me, do the household chores and entertain the random guests at home remarked at how cranky my kid was – then the possessiveness kicked in.

    I had always felt scared about the huge responsibility that a child meant. How selfless should one be, to be a parent…. and if I was capable of being that selfless? I dont think I have lost the selfish streak in me. I still do get scared about the parenting part of it. Now, the daughter is just 18 months old, all she does is laugh and play all day long. When she begins school – how do I teach her stuff? when she grows up – how do I protect her? how do I teach her to protect herself? Will I be able to impart all the right values? Can I make her strong enough to fight for those values? Whom will she marry? Will her in-laws be as bad as mine? Umpteen questions to make you SO scared. And, then there is the question of having to let go of your life – My work needs me to socialize; but now, no more late nights. Compromise on office life – something I have never wanted to do. I have to lug a huge bag with loads of stuff wherever I go, earlier, a fancy clutch would have worked. No more “me time”, no more “quickie honeymoons” – everything is a “family vacation” Argh! she still frustrates me. I still hate her. But then, I have learnt to love her… like the writer says – it was never “love at first sight”. it is still a “love in progress”.


  16. It’s time I came out of hibernation!

    I’m really glad you posted this, IHM, because this is such a taboo topic that it is not discussed openly. Mothers are supposed to feel as if they are sitting on a rosy pink cloud and if one does not sit on said cloud, one is viewed as a circus freak.

    I had my baby in January this year and I did not feel the overwhelming surge of maternal love immediately. In fact I had depression throughout pregnancy but refused to take anti-depressants. Then my baby decided to arrive early. The birth was difficult: second degree episiotomy, forceps, no epidural. I held my baby for a few minutes after he was born, after which he was whisked away into an incubator, to the medium care unit, where he stayed for the next three weeks. Rather than feeling maternal love, I was filled with a sense of guilt for not feeling it. Besides I was in too much in pain too. Also it did not help that my ‘roommate’, for the three days that I was at the hospital, was this woman who was this picture of Perfect Motherhood: constantly cooing to her baby and who had this endless of stream of family who smothered her with chocolates and flowers and balloons and all sorts of nice things to eat. For a variety of reasons, I have do not have a relationship with my mother, so no one came over from India to help. At this time, I was full of self pity and jealousy towards women who had their mothers pamper them after delivery. At home my partner and I do everything for the baby by ourselves. It was very difficult in the beginning, caring for our very small and colicky baby, but today we feel immensely proud for handling it all by ourselves.

    And yes, the maternal love came, but in degrees, over several weeks, and is still growing 🙂


  17. I had the same thing, due to a c-sec and my baby had a mild shock during the birthing process, she was taken to the neo-natal section for checkup. Also she had issues with brest-feeding and never actually did much brest feeding, my daughter grew up on pumped milk and is as fine as she can be. Btw, she is a 2.5 yrs now and is super active.
    I took a long time to bond too. My mother stayed awake with her for atleast the first 2 months, husband had too many rules during that time, though he was a first time father. Like he cannot stay awake and feed her as he had office, my daughter cannot stay with mother, i shud take care of her, this changed after few cranky days. He used to call multiple times to check how much and often she feed. Anyway, having mom here helped keep me sane.
    First year, everybody (mostly relatives) commented how close my daughter is to her father and how much he takes care (unsaid or rather said behind my back is – how i am not taking care of her, or how i am is not a good mom), now she is more attached to me, though she has phases and can be more comfortable with one of us. It is more of a guess work.
    Why every mom needs to be supermom from the minute the baby is born is beyond me. To be frank, i was more scared intial few days than anything. Had a infection with the c-sec which made recovery longer and irritated me no end.


  18. I wrote about a similar issue a few weeks ago in honour of Mother’s Day. I feel like there are many, many people who have a child just for the sake of having one; as in, they’ve been married for a certain amount of time, or ‘elders’ in the family with the whole ‘I’m old, have a kid’ spiel. Or maybe they look at it as a goal. Have been married for ‘x’ number of years, have earned ‘y’ amount of money/reached a certain career goal, now the next level is having a kid. . In my opinion, if the parent doesn’t really want a child or has it for the sake of it, it shows in every single aspect of the relationship, which then becomes more like some sort of obligation than anything else, and that is felt by both parent and child and can only cause hurt. Nobody can really control who has a kid and who doesn’t, but people should think twice and make an informed decision to do so, as they’re bringing a new life into the world that will,itself, grow, and needs to be loved. 🙂


  19. Well I was also quite numb and neutral when i saw my first kid. I just felt relief ..end of labour 😛 The doctor had to remind me to kiss the baby. For the next 24 hours i did not feel love. I felt some kind of amusement. A full baby out of me and end of pregnancy is what I could think of 😛 And fear of handling such a small life.

    However second time I felt love instantly. Loads of it.

    Perhaps the amusement part was over after first one and I knew that I will have a baby out of me.


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