By Denice Sy Munez
They say nothing compares to a mother’s love. Yet when it was my turn to show my love, I felt nothing. I had planned to have my first baby in my thirties, but Jake ended up coming four years earlier. Thus, when I learned I was onemonth pregnant in June 2018, I didn’t know how to react. I wasn’t prepared.
After my wedding in February last year, I had envisioned married life to be filled with travels, and continued advancement in my career as I grew Ever Bilena. I didn’t want to get fat, I didn’t want to change my lifestyle, and I didn’t want to lose myself.
My fears realized as I approached my last trimester. When my protruding belly started becoming more apparent, friends and strangers alike started calling me “mommy.” Not sure if it was just hormones, but I felt hurt and offended. The baby hadn’t even been born yet, and people no longer acknowledged me by my name. After all my effort to build my own identity, but simply because I am with child, now I’m limited to just being a mother.
Family and friends told me how excited they were for me, “You’ll be a natural. You’ll be a great mom! Holding your bundle of joy for the first time will be life changing!“ I would nod in thanks, but, deep inside, I was far from enthusiastic. I figured since they all thought it’s going to be all good, I might as well hold on to the promise that I will feel pure bliss when I finally see Jake. Surely, my motherly instincts will kick in then.
On Feb. 12 this year, I gave birth via Cesarean section delivery to Baby Jake Dean Munez. I looked at my baby as the doctor placed him on my chest for a family photo with my husband Jacob in the delivery room. The experience of holding one’s newborn baby has been described to me multiple times throughout my pregnancy. You’re supposed to feel warm and fuzzy inside, to be overwhelmed with so much love and joy that you wouldn’t be able to contain it. I was waiting for those emotions to manifest. Unfortunately, I did not experience any of them. Aside frombeing drowsy from the epidural, I only felt exhausted and terrified. I remember thinking, I am now responsible for this fragile little creature. How am I going to do this?
There was no instant connection at all. While in the recovery room, the hospital staff and a lactation consultant brought Baby Jake to me so we could bond. Nursing him directly should have made me feel attached to him. Instead, I was counting the minutes until he released so that I could sleep again.
My relationship with him didn’t really improve either, even when we brought him home. He was always bawling, literally crying over everything. There was no cooing or cuddling, only screaming. I found no fulfilment in breastfeeding him, just my nipples in pain. The only saving grace was that Jacob was so hands-on, plus we had the assistance of Jacob’s Yaya Lina from childhood. They would let me rest and catch up on sleep. Regardless, Baby Jake was constantly hungry, so it was not less traumatizing whenever Yaya Lina would wake me up because he needed feeding. My internal reaction was, “Again?!” I longed for this nightmare to be over.
Days passed, and motherhood was still a confusion. Jacob had a better grip of parenthood. He’d help me to put Baby Jake to sleep. I had to consult him about what he thought Baby Jake was asking for when he cried. Was he hungry? Sleepy? Uncomfortable? Does he have colic? Are his rashes itchy? I was clueless.
Washing baby bottles as often as he fed (which was every one to two hours), my boob leaking simultaneously, no quiet moments. I thought to myself: “Is this how my life will be like forever? Why wasn’t I more careful?” Baby Jake was tiny, delicate, with Jacob and I were his sole source of survival. I wanted to escape my situation, but I had to suck it up.
Days passed, and there was no progress at all in my sentiments towards Baby Jake. Guilt would take over me as I questioned why I could not feel anything for him. I took care of him because he was my obligation. But beyond that, I did not sense any emotional connection. I thought I was numb. In my head, I had premeditated how I can fake it once I reenter society so they wouldn’t judge me for being such a bad mom.
Then that fateful day came. Baby Jake was about eight weeks old when his chubby little face let out a smile. Then I felt my heart flutter. Jacob and I were giddy in pleasure as we tried to make crazy noises and funny facial expressions to get him to repeat his smile. My heart softened for Baby Jake as he continued to slowly become more responsive to me.
Baby Jake will be nine months old next week, and I could not imagine life without him anymore. He is the apple of Jacob and my eyes and brings so much joy to us and our family. It took me two months to be endeared to him, and the adjustment period varies for each mom. Moms tend to feel pressured and tense in distress of being judged, and this does not include the major changes and transformations that occur in the mother’s body from pregnancy to delivery. But there are many seasons in our lives, and seasons take time, and at their own pace. So when they say that the connection will come naturally, it is important to recognize that it may or may not come sooner. And it is okay.
I am still learning to become a better mother as I go, but I am thankful for my husband, for Yaya Lina, Yaya Grace, my dad, and our relatives for being there for me throughout my journey as a parent to Baby Jake.