No, I’m not auditioning the little dude to be the next Daniel Craig, although he is pretty much a complete daredevil and perfect for the stunts at just two and a half!
No, James Bond puns aside, what I’m actually talking about is the topic of whether or not you bond with your baby from the moment he or she is thrust up onto your chest.
If you’re a regular reader, you’ll know I’m now into my third trimester on my second pregnancy and I’ve been thinking a lot about what my second labour will be like… not so much the nuts and bolts of it, but more about the moment’s right after the baby is born.
Last time, I didn’t feel this much talked about wave of emotion when I gave birth to my baby boy back in December of 2016… in fact all I felt was paralysing fear.
You see, I didn’t bond with my baby from the word go and it was absolutely terrifying, because I had been programmed to believe this was what should happen… everything in society, every message, every Hollywood movie, every TV show, every celebrity who’d gushed about giving birth, everything in my frame of reference told me that I both would and should feel this magical, life-changing, world-shattering love for my newborn baby from the moment I clapped eyes on him…
Only I didn’t.
In truth, I had a full on panic attack when he was put up on my chest, covered in meconium after a traumatic birth experience. I was in shock, scared, felt completely unprepared and ultimately overwhelmed by emotions I wasn’t ready for and to top it off, I wasn’t feeling this wave of love I was told I would…
What was wrong with me?
I remember being too ashamed to tell anyone about my feelings. I felt as though I had done something wrong. I was a monster, wasn’t I, for not feeling this all-consuming love? Surely this was my fault, why was I not feeling this bond?
As the hours and days passed, the connection didn’t get any stronger and I felt huge guilt, shame and worry, as if there was something really wrong with me.
It was certainly a huge factor in my overall struggles in those first three months and I do believe it contributed to my post-natal depression.
But I think had I known that, in fact a huge number of new mums don’t feel that mystical ‘instant bond’, that in fact, it’s perfectly normal for it to take time to establish it, that I hadn’t done anything wrong, that I wasn’t some kind of monster for not feeling this instant wave of love… if I had known any of this, I feel as though my post-natal depression would not have been as bad. I wouldn’t have slipped so far under the waves, feeling like there was no way back to the light.
But, of course, I didn’t know any of this, because no one talks about it.
Society tells us this version of events and very much plants these accepted expectations on us, when the reality is so much more complex.
Of course, there are many mums who do feel this ‘instant bond,’ and when it happens that way, it’s amazing, but if I could get just one message out there to new mum who felt the way I did, it is this;
YOU HAVE DONE NOTHING WRONG.
YOU ARE NOT A BAD MOTHER
THE BOND WILL COME IN TIME
Here’s the thing about becoming a mum for the first time. New motherhood is of course amazing. We’re told this over and over. But nothing can prepare you for it. No amount of books, classes or babysitting experience can get you ready for the momentous change to your life. Sometimes those changes can fit seamlessly into your life and other times they can hit you like a truck. It can be raw, it can be overwhelming and it can take time to adjust; that’s normal. And putting pressure on yourself to feel head over heels in love with your new baby from the word go is not helpful.
Instead, you’ve got to allow yourself time to get to know this new little person, to adjust to these huge changes in your life and if it takes, days, weeks or even a couple of months to feel that life changing love, then so be it.
That doesn’t make you a bad mum. It doesn’t mean you’ve done anything wrong.
I think new mums need to hear that it’s perfectly fine to let this bond develop naturally and over time. It doesn’t mean you don’t care for and love and want your baby, of course you do, but you also need time to let those deep feelings develop and I promise you they will in time, and if you’re concerned then don’t be afraid to have a chat with a friend about it, or your GP, because there is no judgement.
You haven’t don’t anything wrong… I can’t say this enough.
As I sit here and type, with my growing bump, I can’t help but wonder how I will feel after I give birth this time around?
Will I feel the same as last time? Will I be overwhelmed again?
I truly hope I won’t feel as scared. I hope that being armed with so much knowledge and overcoming that awful time in my life will allow me to be calmer. This time I’ll know that if I don’t feel that instant rush of love, it’s absolutely fine… It will come.
If you asked me today, to sum up how I feel about my son, I don’t think even as a writer I’d have the words to quantity the magnitude of my love for him… it’s off the scale, it’s primal, it’s in my very DNA… that kid has me hook, line and sinker until my last breath. I now understand that life changing love I’d been told so much about and I really wish I’d felt that from the very start, but I understand that not feeling it was something out of my control.
I’m also aware that I may feel completely differently this time around. My labour will be different too and that will have a huge bearing on my state of mind.
Ultimately, the funny thing is that I’m going into this final trimester filled with a sense of excitement. And that’s something I didn’t have before. The last time, I was secretly afraid. Afraid of giving birth, afraid of caring for a baby, afraid of all the things I didn’t know. But this time, I’m so very excited to meet my new baby and I think that is going to make a huge different to my experience overall.