I’m not sure how to preface this post with something catchy and interesting because the subject matter is something that is causing me great grief. As a newish mom—my daughter is almost a year old, so Im not exactly writing books on my expertise—I’m dealing with something I hadn’t expected … the feeling of rejection and not being the “favorite.”
My girl, the one I grew, birthed, nursed and jumped out of bed for again and again (she just now started sleeping in her own room!) has developed a preference for what feels like everyone other than me. Although my routine with her has not recently changed, she seems to recognize others as her primary caregivers, which isn’t the case. After my husband and my mom, I am definitely not feeling the love lately. I am pushed, fought, screamed against and looked at instead of reached for. It’s truly heart wrenching—I cry every day. What mother expects to experience feeling unwanted by her baby?
After arriving home one day last week, I went to scoop Bellamy into my arms (removing her from her dad’s) after being away for what seemed like forever. She harshly objected and reached for Matt. He looked at me, and I essentially lost it. I tearfully mumbled through heavy sobs, “I just really don’t think I deserve that. Why am I so different from you? Why does she not want me in the same way? I don’t know what I am doing wrong.” He reassured me as best he could, reminding me of his commitment to helping me get through these last few months and the anticipated hard season of adjustment to follow. Not wanting her to be confused by my reaction, I agreed to hand her back and tried to join in with them verses taking her from him. Humility at its finest.
Part of me wonders if being pregnant has created a dissonance between us, and she is latching to people she knows can fulfill her basic needs for food, shelter, diaper changes, etc. while I am temporarily unavailable (in her eyes). A friend gave me great advice when she said to focus on the fact that babies will prefer the people catering to their current need, and it has nothing to do with how she feels about me in any given situation. She reminded me that at some point in the near future, all my kids will be (as she phrased it) “up my butt” all day long and to not worry about these minor instances.
It’s easier said than done, but I am really trying to not take it personally. It’s so easy to try and find a source of blame to make sense of the disconnect. I started to beat myself up for not breastfeeding longer, for going to work and for getting pregnant so quickly … as if I am doing something to her, causing her pain by carrying this other child. I started to believe I failed at some point along the way in how well we bonded. I can feel so guilty at times for things I shouldn’t, and if left unchecked, it can wreak havoc on my emotional sensibility.
I want her to be independent, and she is! I want her to feel comfortable with her family, and I want her to have healthy relationships with others. I just didn’t think it would seem to be in lieu of our connection. I guess I always assumed I would be her No. 1 person. I thought that was a natural component of mothering a child, and I didn’t plan for the times when she behaved differently. I find myself between a rock and a hard place knowing I can’t look to my daughter for fulfillment, while feeling so affected by her response. Being a parent is a mind game sometimes.
I really don’t know if this is common or normal. A million “me toos” probably wouldn’t make me feel better, anyway. It’s just something I am going through and have to learn to thrive within. Shedding light on something painful is therapeutic for me, and I like to be an honest voice for the uncomfortable and the unflattering. If you’re in a storm of baby playing favorites and you’re experiencing anguish, just know you’re not alone! I know it’s tempting to let it alter your identity, and to be honest, I am in the thick of it, trying to constantly talk myself down off an emotional cliff.
Sometimes I will look through photos of my maternity leave and remember how sweet our time felt and how there was no one at that point other than me. This angel that came from my body will always be my special girl, my firstborn. She may not relish those titles when she’s a teenager or ever understand the depth of my love, but I know looking at these images it was originally the two of us.
As we continue to grow our relationship and work through this (hopefully) temporary distance, I am reminding myself to be oh-so thankful for my husband and my mom! These two people love her and help me have the opportunity to develop other parts of who I am through working outside the home. Their gift is invaluable, and my sadness is in no way pointed toward them.
With this new baby arriving soon, it’s intimidating to think of how the dynamic may shift once more. I am trusting this plan that’s been put into play, trying to keep my heart pure and protected and my eyes facing upwards toward the One I receive my true significance from. I think that’s also part of being a parent … swallowing your pride and being willing to receive your children again each day, without reservation and despite any hurt you may feel, loving them unconditionally. I am learning what that looks like and becoming someone new.