Being pregnant

How do I overcome my lack of maternal instincts?

When puppies are cuter than babies, Monica Reyes wonders if her maternal instincts will ever kick in.


Monica and her pup. Photo: Monica Reyes.

Monica Reyes resides in Vancouver with her husband and neurotic dog. She’s also a soon-to-be first-time mom who is excited and terrified about her new life. Follow along as she shares her pregnancy journey.

I’ve always lacked maternal instincts. This is why I had a hard time deciding whether or not motherhood was right for me. There are many cute babies in this world, but none made me want to have my own child. I’m awkward around kids. When people bring their newborn babies to show them off at gatherings, a small group forms and they fawn over the baby. Me? Most of the time I pretend to coo and adore them so I don’t look out of place.

Read more: Why I never wanted to be a mom >

I was never the go-to person for babysitting requests and so I didn’t have any hands-on experience taking care of kids. I’ve changed a dirty diaper once and my sister forced that upon me. She said it was a good skill to learn if I were to have kids. The only time I was trusted to babysit, my niece ended up tripping face-first onto the driveway. My babysitting duty was over.

Dogs are a different story for me. They’re infinitely cuter than babies and just like how some people know that they’ve always wanted children, I’ve felt that way about dogs. I care for my dog, Hagrid, as if he’s my own child. I smile at other dogs when I pass them by and it’s hard to be sad when I look at Hagrid’s furry face. Taking care of him has come pretty naturally. He’s one of the best things to come into my life. He does have his neurotic quirks like preferring to walk alongside the walls of buildings and his paws sweat every time he’s anxious. It’s not always easy taking care of him and because he’s not laid-back like a golden retriever, I do worry how him and the new baby will get along.

Read more: How do I prepare my dog for the new baby? >

As I approach my third trimester, I wonder when my maternal instincts will kick in. I still feel slightly disconnected from motherhood. One of the most common questions I get from people is “Are you excited?” and I’d answer them truthfully with, “Yes, but more terrified than excited.” I’m worried that because I don’t talk to my belly as much as other moms do, I won’t be as connected with my baby. I also have mixed feelings about my pregnancy experience. This wriggling, kicking and punching baby inside me feels alien-like, but also reassuring that the baby is still OK. My growing belly shows me that there’s a real baby inside, but sometimes it just feels unreal.

I know this pregnancy has slowly been changing me. Stories about children affect me and my husband in a deeper way that wasn’t there before. I can picture our family doing activities that I loved to do with my family. I’ve heard from others that sometimes a mother doesn’t instantly bond with her baby, that it can take time. After all, you’ve had nine months to get used to the idea of being pregnant, but as soon as you deliver, you’re instantly on call. There’s no real adjustment period. I’m preparing myself that my maternal instincts might not be there right away, but because society has ingrained that the bond shared between mother and baby is instant, I worry that I won’t feel that deep love that you’re supposed to.

Did you have to wait for your maternal instincts to kick in?

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