There’s plenty of myths we like to perpetuate, especially when it comes to pregnancy and babies. There’s the one about the ‘pregnancy glow,’ well if by glow you mean breakout in acne, sweat like some kind of farm animal and pluck erroneous hairs from strange places, then yes… it’s a glow! And let’s not get started on ‘Morning Sickness,’ because anyone who suffered with it, will tell you it lasts all bloody day. I could go on and on, but the myth I want to bust today is the one about the so called ‘instant bond’ many women gush about right after giving birth. I’m calling bullshit on it, because for many women it does not happen like that.
Like me you probably cannot even count how many posts and articles you’ve seen from other mums and even celeb mums gushing about how they fell in love the second they laid eyes on their newborn baby and how they didn’t know love like this was possible, yada, yada, yada. And let’s not forget every Hollywood movie ever involving babies… in fact Hollywood has a serious problem when it comes to how it thinks labour actually goes. Hint, it is not like this ‘oh my waters just broke (cue a HUGE gush), a couple of sweaty pushes and hey presto baby is born! Wrong.
But I digress.
So there I was last December, on the precipice of giving birth and by that I mean my baby boy’s head was out. It was that surreal moment where your child is almost here, yet you’re still right in the centre of a complete maelstrom, as your body tries to cope with everything that’s happening to it. In any case, a couple of herculean pushes later and there he was. I won’t lie, I had my eyes closed for most of it, until suddenly this goo covered baby was put on top of my chest. I lay there waiting for this instant Hollywood bond to kick in; this bond I’d been told all about. This incredible, indescribable feeling I had been brought up to believe happened like clockwork. I expected trumpets and angels to descend from on high and everything in my whole life to realign as my heart made room for this new obsession which was to dictate my entire being this moment on.
But it didn’t quite happen like that.
There were no cherubs, no celestial music and no heart-bursting instant love. Instead, I began to have what I can only explain now, as a full-on panic attack. I began to hyperventilate and shake all over. The midwives kept telling me to breathe as did my gem of a consultant who told me to relax and that everything was fine as he poked his head above the stirrups while he stitched me back up. ‘The baby is fine Niamh,’ the midwife told me thinking this was why I was freaking out big time. But it wasn’t. I mean don’t get me wrong, I was relieved beyond question when they whisked my baby off for a quick once over and told me he was absolutely perfect, but that is not why I was reacting this way. I was scared. I was traumatised. I was completely overwhelmed. And that damn magical bond didn’t seem to be happening. So on top of everything, I began to wonder, was there something wrong with me? Why wasn’t I instantly feeling this prodigious, all-consuming love for my baby?
Now don’t get me wrong. When, I did manage to stop hyperventilating and they brought him back to me all cleaned up and wrapped in his blanket, I held him close and cuddled him and yes I certainly felt love, he was adorable, but it just wasn’t what I’d been lead to believe. I didn’t know him, it was as if he was a very cute, stranger to me, but because of what I had been lead to believe about this instant bond and I started to think I had made the biggest mistake of my life. I felt so guilty, what was wrong with me?
I’ve blogged before about how I went through a pretty rough couple of months after my son was born with what was probably some sort of post-natal depression and this complete sense of being overwhelmed. I nearly went off the deep end, but the second we began to bond, everything got better, day by day. The more time I spent with him, the more I got to know him, the more this little kernel of love began to grow. But that bond took time to develop and deepen. Today, I’m firmly wrapped around his little chubby finger and would happily walk face first into a bus for him. He is literally my world and I find myself gushing that clichéd line ‘I didn’t know love like this was possible.’
I know there will be some who will read this and say, ‘well I bonded with my baby from the first second I saw him/her,’ and to you, I say ‘that is truly wonderful and to be honest I’m more than a little jealous,’ but for those who felt like me, I want to say you’re not alone. New mums are under enough pressure and I think it’s important that we tell other new mums-to-be that the bond is not always instant. We need to get honest and say it’s okay not to feel that overriding sense of adoration the very moment they child is thrust into your arms. And it’s okay if the day after and the day after that and indeed the weeks after that aren’t filled with this Hollywood style bond. It will come, I promise. It just takes time.