Parenting

On my first Mother's day I felt like an imposter

I'm smiling in this picture on my first Mother's Day, but it's a lie. I was having serious bonding issues with my baby and didn't feel like I deserved to be celebrated.

My husband took a beautiful picture of me and my daughter on my first Mother’s Day. I’m all smiles, holding my two-month-old little girl. It’s a really great picture. I look so happy—but it’s all a lie.

A group of moms with their kidsThe strength of a mother I may be smiling, but inside I was anything but happy. I was exhausted from the lack of sleep, depleted from adjusting to being a new mom and dejected because I was having serious bonding issues with my baby. Mother’s Day is supposed to be filled with joy, but I felt none of that—and that just depressed me even more. I was starting to seriously wonder if something was wrong with me because all of my mom friends were in new-mom heaven, and I wasn’t at all.

I think I was more traumatized by my labour and delivery than I was willing admit to myself back then.

I was induced because of low fluid, then went through hours of labour, hours of pushing, the baby’s heart rate dropping, fourth degree tears—the result of her being turned with, and then delivered by forceps. Finally, my daughter was born, but she had inhaled meconium and needed her lungs cleared, plus she couldn’t regulate her body temperature. The problems just didn’t end. Then, an hour after my husband went home, while I was in incredible pain from the hectic delivery, the colic started.

My entrance to motherhood was no fun.

And motherhood itself? Well, that was difficult too. My daughter would only sleep in 45-minute bursts, and only when attached to me. Otherwise, she was screaming. All. The. Time.

On Mother’s Day, at my sister-in-law’s annual brunch, where I was finally one of the mothers being celebrated, I looked across the room at my niece and realized I felt more love her for than I did my own child. It hit me like a ton of bricks. What kind of mom doesn’t love her baby? It made me feel like an imposter. I didn’t deserve to be celebrated. At least, that’s how it felt.

Happy first Mother’s Day to me, right?

If I could go back in time, with the perspective I have today, I’d tell myself to cut myself some slack. I’d sit myself down with a GIANT cup of coffee and tell myself it’s totally normal not to love motherhood a few months in.

I would think about what my body had gone through, what my hormones were currently going through, and point out the amount of sleep (or lack thereof) I was getting. I’d tell myself it’s no surprise I felt so down, and that I was perfectly within my rights to be completely bummed out on my first Mother’s Day.

It did feel good that day to get dressed and put on a dab of makeup and look like my old self. But it was hard to put on a happy face and try to hold it together in a house filled with people asking me how I was adjusting.

What I needed most my first Mother’s Day was for someone to hug me and to tell me that I didn’t need to smile and pretend.

Leslie Kennedy holding her daughter on her shoulders

Photo: Courtesy of Leslie Kennedy

A year later, on my second Mother’s Day, my smiles in all of the pictures were real. I fell head over heels in love with my little girl as I settled into motherhood—and got some much-needed sleep. I finally felt like a mom and was more than happy to celebrate and be celebrated.

To the moms who about to celebrate their first Mother’s Day but are not really feeling it, I just want to say I see you. I feel you. You are not alone, even though you might feel that you are. I actually think far more of us feel that way than we realize. And, for the record, you don’t have to pretend today.

Read more:
Losing my mom just after becoming one
Two moms, with love: An emotional Mother’s Day