When I found out I was expecting, I didn’t feel like I was mentally ready to care for a baby. I had just aged out of foster care and was only beginning to learn how to handle life without the system.
I also have a mood disorder and I wasn’t taking my medication on a regular basis. I’d seen stories on the news about mentally ill mothers harming their children and I was afraid that I might end up on the news too.
Information and Skills
My boyfriend, Michael, and I both grew up in foster care. We hoped to give our baby all the things we longed for—a stable home and a loving mother and father to guide her and help her with whatever she might need. So during my pregnancy, I took many steps to set up a safe home for our child.
I got a referral to speak with a therapist who is experienced in supporting mothers. She talked with me about how to build the connection between mother and child. She said that breastfeeding is the best way to bond. I thought, “She is crazy!” I thought breastfeeding was gross until I learned that breast milk is the best milk for a baby.
I also started attending parenting classes and support groups for first-time mothers. I learned mother-to-be tools, like how to bathe a baby, create bedtime routines and set feeding times. I was glad to be armed with the knowledge.
As I hit the sixth month of my pregnancy, I began to catch overwhelming ups and downs. I tend to melt down when things don’t go as planned. At those times, walked myself to the pysch ER. I was losing my mind slowly. After about five hospital visits in a month, the doctors suggested I seek more treatment.
I talked it over with the hospital’s social worker, and she suggested I sign up for day treatment. I had my doubts, but I agreed to take a three-day trial. I found out that I felt safe and secure there. In the morning I had 45 minutes of counseling with a therapist I came to adore, and after that I had groups. I learned more about coping when things don’t go my way.
Usually I don’t stick with treatment because I don’t think it will work, or I find it overwhelming. My therapists are mostly interns and I get a new one just as I begin to trust the one I had. But this time, I found that my treatment program felt like a family and I love to be in a family setting.
When my baby girl, Emmanuella, came into this world, I loved her from holding her the very first time. That day, Emma made me feel like the happiest person on this earth.
Still, the first few weeks after we came home from the hospital, I felt distant and overwhelmed. I was afraid of the tasks of motherhood. Bathing Emma was scary to me, and I was confused about what size diaper to put on her and how often to change her. I didn’t want to hold her because I feared I’d drop her.
But I soon learned what the therapist meant by bonding with the baby through breastfeeding. Our special connection gave me a good feeling.
A Loving Mother
Now that Emma is 7 months old, I’ve learned that so much about motherhood can’t be taught, but I’m glad I did so much work to get myself set up to be a mother.
It’s been challenging for me to care for a baby that needs so much love and attention from me. Many times I feel I need mothering because I didn’t have much love or attention growing up. But I’ve been dealing with it by talking with my therapist. I’ve found that the more I show love and attention to my baby, the more I feel loved.
I worry that if I slip up, Children’s Services will come knocking at my door. But I also feel more confident that Emma won’t end up growing up like me, habitually feeling starved for attention. I am slowly becoming the kind of mother I longed for.