What if I don’t love my child?

fear___monster_under_the_bed_by_fireleaper7772-d3d2yca
My monsters and me

I’ve got 8 weeks till Due Date. EIGHT WEEKS. I go through periods of intense panic about logistical things (kitchen is being renovated; we haven’t finished the nursery; the Christmas tree is still outside!) to intense calm (meh, we can move in with Mr Bug’s parents if we need to).

But, underlying all of this, is a deeper, more intransigent set of fears that are harder to express. When I try – when I give it a go – people say “Don’t be silly!” or “It’ll all be FINE”. And…that’s the end of the conversation.

Certain fears – and certain realities – are very taboo. I have the feeling that even voicing them can make people uncomfortable. It’s easier to dismiss the very idea as preposterous, ridiculous, the fears of a totes emosh pregnant lady freaking out 8 weeks before the birth of her first child.

I would like to express my fears around becoming a parent without feeling like I’m doing the equivalent of worrying about monsters under my bed. These fears are real; people actually have children and feel like this. If we talked about it more, we might fear it less.

So, after that dramatic introduction, what are these fears?

The scariest one – the one that can make me pause a moment and catch my breath – is the fear that I won’t love my child. I fear that I’ll give birth and someone will hand him over to me and I will feel nothing. Or, worse, I will feel revulsion or panic. That I will want to hand him back.

I’m quite good at loving people. I love my family and my close friends and I’ve had quite a lot of experience with how to love people. But this is totally different, this isn’t like any other relationship I’ve ever had, and I have zero guarantees about how my heart and mind will react. I THINK I’ll love him; I’m pretty SURE that I will; I see NO REASON why I wouldn’t. But.

Another fear – and they are all linked – is that I will regret having him. That he’ll come along and everything in my life will change and I’ll look back and decide that, on balance, it was better before he turned up.

Again – I have no reason to believe that I will think that way but I’m marching at light-speed into the unknown right now. I have absolutely no idea what the day to day struggles of parenthood are like or how I’m going to react to them.

The final fear I’m going to voice here is the fear that I won’t like my child. This has been something that has stayed with me every since reading “We need to talk about Kevin” (such an interesting book by the way!). The idea of nurturing a child, of investing everything into them, only for them to turn out to be a bit of an arsehole (or mass murderer in the case of Kevin – but something a little less apocalyptic would still be distressing) sounds pretty gutting. I know I’m naively foraying into the nature vs nurture debate here but the fact that there is still a debate going on means I can’t 100% assume that my amazingly awesome (obvs) parenting skills will ensure that Baby Bug doesn’t turn out to be a total wanker.

Ah. I feel better already. I don’t want to know that these things aren’t going to happen but saying them (or writing them down) means they are a lot less scary. It also means I can think about these things logically – both in terms of “this is probably not going to happen because x, y and z” but also (and importantly), “if it DOES happen, this is what you can do”.

The little monsters under the bed will still be there, and I’m very likely to spend the next 8 weeks having a little panic about them every so often, but confronting them makes them a lot less scary (and makes me feel a lot less like a crazy person).

ethannevelyn
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28 thoughts on “What if I don’t love my child?

  1. The feelings are different for people. So, no, you aren’t abnormal. You are being human. It can be an overwhelming thing but (smiling) ..it will all turn out better than you expected. One look at your baby and you will forget you ever wondered if you will love it.
    Hang in there lady.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. littlebug

      Thank you, and you’re so right about feelings being different for different people! I’ve always been a bit of an over-analyser – whereas hubby never worries about anything and isn’t at all worried now, haha. 😉 Thanks, despite what I’ve said in my post – I am SO excited to meet baby! Thanks so much for commenting. xx

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m sure that somewhere deep inside most mums share every single one of your fears. You are about to undertake the biggest change of your entire life…in my mind you’d be insane not to have fears! Who cares what anyone else says or thinks…you move through this last phase of your pregnancy journey however you damn well please! xx

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    1. littlebug

      Thank you so much, Sally – it’s nice to know that fears are pretty normal. I do like to over analyse most things I do anyway, but a bit of (pregnant) navel gazing is always quite interesting! xx

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  3. First, I love your post purely because you used the word “obvs” in it! (kindred spirits!)
    I think you’re brave for voicing your concerns. People don’t talk enough about these things.
    For what it’s worth, I didn’t feel immediate love for either of my kids. I felt a mothering instinct – so I looked after them – but the feeling of love came later as I spent time with and got to know them. And that’s ok.
    You won’t regret having your baby (probably!), but you will miss your old life. You might not want it back, but you’ll still miss it.
    And that’s ok too.
    Last, there are plenty of times when I have moments of not liking Little Miss A. She is a toddler, after all. And sometimes she can be horrid. But she can also be utterly delightful, so I try to nurture that side of her personality.
    And that’s also ok.
    Oh, one final note: if you do feel any of these things and the feelings don’t go away, talk to your midwife / health visitor as they should be able to help.
    For what it’s worth, and not to sound dismissive at all, I’m sure you’ll be a great mum 🙂
    Enjoy these last few weeks!
    #FabFridayPost

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    1. littlebug

      Thank you so much for your lovely comment, Ellie (and yay for ‘obvs’!).

      I was talking to a friend yesterday who went through a rough time with her little boy last year – and she said, looking back, she kicks herself for not asking for help but didn’t think to at the time because she felt she had to put on a ‘brave face’.

      I am SURE that I will find parenthood amazing and rewarding but I want to be able to talk about the frustrating/tearful times too because they are also important and also part of the journey.

      I can’t tell you how reassuring it is to hear different experiences of how people came to love their kids…it’s nice to know that there is no ‘right’ way and that, however it happens, is YOUR way. Little Miss A sounds super cute and quite a handful. 😉 xx

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  4. What a very courageous post! I became a mom through adoption so I can’t personally relate to the emotions of pregnancy but something tells me you are going to be an awesome mom just because you are so in touch and unafraid to deal with your feelings! Great post. Thanks for linking up with the #FabFridayPost. I look forward to reading more from you.

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  5. I think it’s brilliant that in sharing your thoughts you’ve given them enough clarity to feel a bit better already, yay to the power of writing!
    Everyone responds so differently to this don’t they. I’ve got friends or felt utterly in love straight away and others who had a less straightforward time. I can’t say anything that will alleviate your fears, as only the stomping of time and meeting your little one and facing whatever you feel will do that but I can tell you how I expected to feel and how I felt.
    I expected to feel an overwhelming rush of complete love when my baby was handed to me. I expected to feel full of joy.
    Actually I felt tired, disconnected and a bit like it was someone else’s baby (probably belonged to the hospital, I hadn’t quite worked out who’s baby!). And mostly I felt hugely disappointed that I hadn’t felt what I expected and terribly guilty that I wasn’t (as far as I knew) deeply in love. What I’ve come to realise is that I was probably deeply in love but in an instinctive, protective, anxious and primitive way that didn’t fit with my idea of the celebratory joy that is supposed to take place. I was about to be thirty when I had my son and I could NOT work out why people were saying what a wonderful birthday present he was!! Or how older people were saying that these were the happiest days of their life…what!?
    What I came to realise is that I was experiencing a completely natural response given my expectations, personality, labour and sleep deprivation! If I’d realised it at the time I’d have been a lot happier.
    Hmm so I suppose this rambling comment is to say look after yourself whatever you feel in 8 weeks time.
    And, I suppose it goes without saying that I have NEVER experienced love like the love I feel for my sonling. And even those difficult first days are now blurred with a sort of happy veil because they were my first days with him. And yes maybe I’ll be the annoying older person who says they were the happiest days of my life…hmm maybe!
    Lovely post X

    Liked by 2 people

    1. littlebug

      Thank you hun! And thank you so much for sharing your story – it’s SO helpful. I know exactly what I’m like, I generally over-analyse and worry about errrrything so it’s really helpful to know that not falling head over heels in love the second bub is born doesn’t necessarily mean that I will hate him for the rest of his life – hah.

      I also think it makes a lot of sense that, after going through the drama and craziness of giving birth, not all mothers are primed to feel all those feelings straight away. The fact that you felt disappointment and guilt is, I think, why I wanted to raise this – what you felt was totally natural and normal (as you say!) and you shouldn’t have had to feel guilty about that but I guess because people don’t talk about it that much, you feel like you’re the only one.

      I can’t believe it’s counting down so quickly, I do have to say – it’ll be nice when he’s out because he’s turning into a bit of a lug to carry around! 😉

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  6. *hugs* I think everybody has worries about this but even if it doesn’t come straight away, it doesn’t make you a bad person! Some people fall in love at first sight, some need a little time to get to know them, and that’s fine. I was put under for the birth of my daughter and when I came around I just felt relief she was okay and a kind of detachment. It wasn’t until she was discharged at about 3 weeks that I really think I totally loved her rather than just the idea of her, if that makes sense! x #FabFridayPost

    Liked by 1 person

    1. littlebug

      Hi Jess, it’s so reassuring to know I’m not the only one who worries about these sorts of things! I think it totally makes sense that you fell in love with her once she was discharged – because you had time to get to know her! Thanks loads for your comment. 🙂 x

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  7. Motherhood for me was scary, I swore I was not cut out for it and now I have two:)! There are days when I think I’m failing dismally then when the rewards come flooding in with the tiniest of achievements like that first step or first word and you’ll think wow, that’s my baby! I can guarantee you will be just fine. Enjoy every moment they do not stay babies for long.

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  8. I think it is great that you write these feelings down. It is a form for therapy. As you said – it is a process of clearing your mind as you write them down and have them in hand. It is great that you have face these fear. It show that you are human and that you have given the voice who are in the same position as you to be able to do the same. Thank you for sharing these feelings with us. 🙂 xx #FabFridayPost

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    1. littlebug

      Haha, yes I definitely found it helpful to just voice all those fears – they seem a lot less scary and more irrational when out in the open! 😉 Thanks for your comment. 🙂 x

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I’m due in June and have voiced similar fears to my hubby (with similar responses to the ones you’ve had!). I also have the (connected, I suppose) worry that I may suffer from post natal depression. So don’t worry, you are not alone! I’m sure we’ll both be absolutely fine xx #marvmondays

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    1. littlebug

      Hi Jules, congratulations on your pregnancy! My hubby is similar, he doesn’t get the ‘logic’ of worrying about things that haven’t – and may never – happened and it’s hard to explain it to someone who doesn’t have that sort of personality / thought process. I also worry about PND but I do think that being alert to that and knowing the symptoms can only ever be a good thing. I agree though, we will both be totally fine. Thanks lots for your comment. 🙂 x

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  10. I’m going to echo what everyone else has already said to you: that these feelings are different for everyone. With my first child, I bonded with him while he was still in my belly and loved him the moment I saw him, It wasn’t until I had my second child that I started feeling all of the things you’re talking about. I really worried that I wouldn’t love him as much as I loved his brother. I worried that I wouldn’t bond with him the same, which I didn’t. It took a little more time to bond with him. I loved him the moment I saw him, just like I did his brother but the bond itself took a little more time but I feel that had my circumstances been different, maybe I would have bonded with him sooner (I was in dire straights at that time – long story). Eventually, it did happen though and 9 years later, my youngest and I are very close. I hope this helps as I hope all of the encouraging comments are helping to alleviate at least some of the stress about this topic for you. Most people don’t talk about these things and maybe they should because it would go a long way to making us not feel so alone. #coolmumclub

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  11. I had this very thought i still remember lying on the operating table having a c section and thinking they are going to pass him to me and what if i dont feel how i am supposed to feel? Here is such a build up through pregnancy to the arrival of the baby…their name…how they will look…..their personality etc etc and then birth. Its pretty overwhelming. I think alot of parents think the same especially 1st time parents.
    Ive seen the movie. Pretty messed up! Im sure there are parents that dislike their children but id be suprised if it was newborns or young children…..more adults and their actions.

    Its pointless saying dont worry about it. As you said you think and feel this way but at least you are addressing it. I hope when you meet your baby your pleasantly suprised by your reaction and emotion.

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  12. min1980

    I still worry about how Piglet will turn out. I was reading an article today about a serial killer and how his mum still believes he’s innocent, and all I could think of was OH MY GOD WHAT IF MY SON TURNS OUT TO BE A SERIAL KILLER. I don’t think the worrying ever goes away.

    Oh, and I was worried about not loving the baby too. Due to him being conceived via IVF with donated sperm, I was terrified that maybe the clinic put the wrong embryo in, or the wrong sperm was used, etc, etc, and the baby wasn’t really mine. In fact I was still worrying about this when he was born. It is all a massive shock to the system and very overwhelming, but even if that first rush of love doesn’t happen, you will get there.

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  13. There is a load of scaremongering for first time mums. Probably because us mums love a moan about the tough parts of parenting. Did you notice though, how many of us have gone back for a second helping? Even those with PND still aren’t put off to have another. The reason is because the positives by far outweigh the negatives. Thank you for exorcising your demons with #coolmumclub, don’t worry in no time you’ll be worrying about whether you need to wind after every feed or if the room temperature is just right…. One worry always replaced by another! That’s motherhood xxxx

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  14. Though some of us won’t admit it, I think the majority of people have the same fears! With PND being very real, the possibility of not feeling as you thought you would for your child is a very real thing. The best thing is if we can all be honest and be met with love rather than judgement. Thanks for linking up to #MarvMondays! Kaye xo

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  15. Thank you so much for being honest and sharing these fears as I’m sure many women feel similar worries during pregnancy. I want to briefly share my story, not to scare you further, but to prepare you and hopefully reassure you too.

    I had the opposite experience during pregnancy. I spent way too long anticipating the immense joy and love I would feel the second I laid eyes on my baby. In truth, it wasn’t quite like I imagined. After a bad delivery I just felt tired, overwhelmed and anxious. To cut a very long story short, I was eventually diagnosed with PND and anxiety. I became convinced that I didn’t love my baby enough because there was no lightening bolt of devotion initially. In fact, I loved him all along but my illness and anxiety was disguising the fact.

    But the point I really want to make is that some women simply don’t feel instantly consumed by love for their child. For a lot of women it’s more of a slow burn, it’s just that this isn’t often talked about. I fell deeper and deeper in love with my son every day as he developed and we were able to interact more (and as I got better). He is 2.5 now and that love is still growing – every moment he grows up I love him a little bit more.

    I’m sure you will love your baby instantly, but if you don’t please try not to panic and remember that you WILL fall in love with them over the coming weeks, months and years. Just take it one day at a time and try not to put pressure on yourself to feel a certain way.

    I was very ill and had many moments where I questioned whether I should have even had a baby but I can assure you I don’t feel that way now. Despite everything I went through I can’t imagine my life without him. All fears and feelings are temporary and will pass.

    I have written a blog post about this that might be of interest to you (I’ll find you on Twitter and send it) x

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