Expecting Mum Guilt

I told myself, it will eventually come. In the first few weeks, I was understandably overwhelmed trying to ensure everything is as it should be, that too in the middle of the pandemic, without an appointed family doctor. So I told myself once the initial dust settles, it will come.

Then the first trimester blues hit and it hit hard; I couldn’t eat and was always hungry, I was exhausted and nauseous most of the time. I missed being around friends and family who would care and provide for me. I was acutely aware of the strain this was putting on my relationship with my Hubster. We were both in unchartered territory and tried to navigate the best way we could. So I thought, it will come once I feel a little better.

And I did feel better after that Alhamdulliah- enjoyed my pregnancy to the fullest, made an epic road trip in the Canadian east coast, cherished the beautiful Toronto summer and fall after an extended pandemic lockdown. I waited all the while, thinking now it will surely come.

I listened to your heartbeat for the first time at my midwife’s; we saw you in the first ultrasound with your father beside me (how lucky we felt because a lot of places weren’t allowing anyone in except the patients due to the pandemic); it felt surreal then and every single time after that, a life growing in me by some miracle of God, BUT it still did not come.

Many in my friends & family circle call me “motherly” because I suppose I do have a caring personality, the kind you usually expect mothers to have. So imagine my shock, when I realized that I wasn’t feeling any maternal instincts towards my first child growing inside me. Make no mistakes, I feel immensely grateful for having a smooth pregnancy so far, without any complications in conceiving Alhamdulliah; and yes even with my two life sciences degrees, I still had my doubts, because I am 33 years old and according to society have crossed the timeline of a healthy pregnancy. I am fiercely protective of our baby and made significant changes and life decisions for the baby’s well-being- things I would have never even dreamt of doing for my own sake. I am completely invested and committed on the safety and well-being of our baby, BUT I honestly couldn’t tell you that I feel motherly towards the life growing inside me.

I never felt that motherhood instinct till I got to know my kids. You can probably only love what you know.

High School Teacher, Department of Education, Tasmania. Australia;
Mum of Two

Books, blogs, influencers, even mothers I knew personally, all seemed to have these maternal instincts from early on or later in their pregnancy that they can’t stop talking about, and I felt like the only one who somehow missed the memo. I questioned myself, my sanity, my desire to be a mother, even went as far as to doubt whether I was “mum material” after all. How could my personality be so at odds with my predicament at one of the most important junctures of my life?

I let myself slip into a dark corner for a while, limited my interactions with people and spoke to my midwife who recommended an appointment with a mental health social worker.

I didn’t feel anything with my first (while I was pregnant). Even after the birth, I didn’t want to hold him for too long (I was exhausted). For some, it just takes a bit of time. It’s normal.

With my second, I was less exhausted, so felt more maternal instincts.

Every reaction is normal.

Communucations Officer, Toronto Public Library; Blogger, Food & Motherhood;
Mum of Two Who Recently Gave Birth to her Second

Our society has romanticized every aspect of motherhood- the pregnancy, bump, labour and birth, breastfeeding- you name it, but not all women feel the same way for each of those stages equally as I have later learned through personal experience, others’ accounts and professional help. For some, the pregnancy journey is a breeze, while others are unfortunately caught up with a nine-month period of nauseousness; some are able to connect to their child at its first heartbeat, ultrasound or even movement while others, like me, wonder where those maternal instincts are. I freaked out when I felt the baby move for the first time. I didn’t have any point of reference on how that was supposed to feel.
Breastfeeding is a brutal process that thankfully mothers are finally opening up about now. It’s not all pretty. Yes, pregnancy and motherhood are miraculous, beautiful and one of the most rewarding experiences and no mother would probably want to trade those days away, but at the same time, they are also excruciatingly painful, exhausting, difficult, even lonely.

I am a week away from my due date and I have stopped waiting for the maternal instincts to kick in. I am also prepared that I might not be able to connect with my child at first glance and yes it is a reality for a lot of mothers. And that is COMPLETELY NORMAL. We just don’t, unfortunately, share it openly or talk about it, for the fear of sounding ungrateful somehow and being labelled as a pariah. I have personally discussed it with bloggers who would admit the same in DMs but wouldn’t write publicly about it. I wish more people did. There is a lot of talk and discussion about mum-guilt these days and rightfully so. It’s great to see mothers coming together to support each other on mum-guilt. Can we extend the same for the mothers-to-be? I, for one, ironically was given the hardest time by mothers (of course, with a few exceptions). One would think because they were on the other side not too long ago, they would be your strongest advocate and understand you the best. Instead, somehow, mothers are very keen to offer advice when not even asked, quick to dismiss your doubts and unfortunately not creating a safe environment for mothers-to-be to share their minds.

So, if you are a mother or any human being for that matter, the next time you see a mum-to-be, don’t be quick to jump to advice and draw conclusions for her. Just listen to her, sometimes that’s all that it takes to put an unsettled mind at ease. If you are a mum-to-be reading this, please know that all your feelings are justified. You are not alone and don’t let anyone make you feel any different.

I hope this reaches any mum-to-be who needs to hear this. I wish someone told me the same.

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