From labor to love: A more realistic timeline of parental love

I heard my daughter before I saw her. My first thought was, “Oh yeah, that’s her.” I had a connection to this body that grew within my own body for the past nine months, but it was more a sense of recognition than immediate love.

When my husband showed her to me, I recognized her eyes as my own. “Yep, that’s my daughter.” Then I turned my head away because my neck hurt.

I was in labor for fourteen hours then had an emergency c-section. My whole body was convulsing, even though I was numb from the neck down.

There’s a period after birth called “the golden hour” where the nurse places the baby on your chest and you just hang out for a while. I was barely conscious but I remember thinking, “When will the nurse come to take her off?” I wanted to roll onto my side so I could go to sleep.

It wasn’t that I didn’t love her, I was just so freaking tired. This predominant feeling of fatigue lasted for, oh, about three months. Maybe it was a coincidence that we started sleep training and I started taking Zoloft around the same time.

Sleep training just means we let our daughter sleep for twelve hours at night instead of getting up and panicking every time she moved. Turns out, she preferred to sleep without us butting into her life every few hours.

To my surprise, insomnia and chronic fatigue were symptoms of postpartum depression. I thought PPD meant you felt like you didn’t love your child. I didn’t feel like I didn’t love her, I just felt like I wanted to sleep every second of the day for several weeks.

I was too tired to have any feelings, if I’m being honest.

“What’s it like being a new mom?”

“I’m tired.”

“What’s been the best part so far?”

“I’m tired.”

“Who does she look like?”

“I’m tired.”

All at once, she started sleeping better, which led to eating better and crying less. I, in turn, started crying less, eating better and sleeping better.

And by four months, I became absolutely head-over-heels, over-the-moon, obsessed and in love with my daughter.

I can’t wait for her to wake up from naps. I wish I could cuddle with her all night instead of her sleeping in her crib (but she hates cuddling, and I love her, so I respect that.) I take a million pictures of her all day so I can scroll through them at night while she sleeps. I smile when I think of her. I dream of her laugh and the way she looks up at me from the stroller.

She is the cutest, sweetest, most beautiful, intelligent, strong and capable little girl in the whole wide world.

I’m sure some moms got to this point before me. Others will get there after. Maybe some pretended to be there for Instagram. And maybe that made others feel like they were doing something wrong.

I see so many people saying—without a doubt—the best day of their lives was the day their child was born.

Was the day my daughter was born the best day of my life? No. In fact, it was easily one of the hardest days of my life, both physically and mentally.

But just like our first date wasn’t the moment I fell in love with my husband, the first second I saw my daughter wasn’t the best occasion of my life. It took some time, some nuance, some getting-comfortable-with-each-other. And slowly, but surely, we fell in love.