Truth time: it took me six months to bond with my babyNovember 12, 2017
Of all the motherhood myths (‘breastfeeding comes naturally’, ‘you’ll sleep when the baby sleeps’, ‘breastfeeding makes the weight fall off’ etc etc) the one that can do the most damage to new mums is that it’s love at first sight when your baby is born. There’s an instant bond.
You lovingly stroke your bump, you imagine life with your little bundle, there’s often a difficult labour, but you know it will be worth it when you see their tiny face, but for some (actually, many) women, this moment is a huge anti-climax.
Instead of a rush of love, it’s panic. Instead of awe, it’s fear.
Sometimes, it’s nothing.
I remember looking down at my firstborn and being blown away. All the feels. Her huge brown eyes staring into mine. A real connection. And it just got better. I’d stare at her for ages, crying happy tears as we snuggled in bed.
It was love. The purest love I’d ever known.
I mean, I was a leaking, sore, stitched-up mess, but a happy, loved-up mess.
The second time? Not so much.
It breaks my heart to admit this, but it wasn’t until my youngest daughter was around six months old – when we went to the UK this summer, just the two of us – that I really fell in love with her.
Before that? It wasn’t disinterest, but I wasn’t head over heels. It was more like apathy. I’ve just looked ‘apathy’ up on my laptop’s thesaurus and the words ‘unconcern’ ‘lethargy’ and ‘dispiritedness’ are there. Dispiritedness sums it up.
I felt protective over her, but I wasn’t excited to see her. There was distance between us, no matter how much I tried, or pretended there wasn’t.
It wasn’t like before, the comparison made me feel even more guilty.
It didn’t help that with a crazy toddler and a new job working for myself, I simply didn’t have the time to gaze at her all day. She slotted in. An easy baby. And in some ways that helped the situation, but in retrospect if I thought she needed me more, maybe I would have felt compelled to hold her more, to comfort her. I was going through the motions.
What helped? Baby massage, and being physically close to her – I did a lot of baby wearing when we travelled, and that really kick-started something in me, as did being away from our nanny, not to mention a two-year-old who could articulate that she wanted my attention, and was therefore harder to refuse than a baby who I could just hand over to someone else.
Now, at nearly nine months old, I feel like she wants me more than ever. She cries when we’re separated, and that seems to validate our connection. I don’t want to be separated from her either.
I feel like I know her now. She’s the sweetest little thing – she’s so easy to love. I just feel sad that it took us so long to get here.
What have I learnt? It takes time. Sometimes years. And the logic that you can’t be expected to love someone you’ve just met rings true. And it’s not your fault if you’re not there yet.