When Bonding Isn’t Instant; Does It Make You A Bad Mother?
Don’t worry, your heart doubles in size, not halves
I lost count of the number of times this was said to me on the run-up to the birth of my second baby when I expressed concern about loving my second child as much as my first.
I think it’s always a real concern for second-time mums when they love their firstborn with such ferocity how could they possibly love another baby that much too.
I decided to listen to the women who had done it before me and trust that when the time came, I would look at my new baby and feel the exact same rush of maternal emotions that I had with my daughter.
Except that it didn’t happen
My son was born, I waited for the spark when I looked at him and it wasn’t there. Don’t get me wrong, I gazed at him and felt a rush of love for this tiny little person but it wasn’t the same as before. It wasn’t all-consuming and that worried me. How could it feel so different this time around?
I ended up having a ‘planned’ caesarean with him. When I say planned I mean I was 10 days overdue; they couldn’t break my waters and I was all out of options. I was desperate to try for a VBAC, to get a chance to give birth naturally but it just wasn’t meant to be. Looking back, I think my feelings at the time are most likely a resentment that once again I’d been robbed of a natural birth. In fact, a study shows that women giving birth via unplanned caesarean section are 15% more likely to experience postnatal depression.
When I came home from the hospital I looked after and cared for my son but I found it more of a challenge than with my firstborn. His cries intensified my headaches and I found myself turning resentful as he kept me upstairs and away from my daughter. With every day that passed, she stopped asking for me and would ask for Daddy which I hated. I needed to heal from my surgery and couldn’t have her jumping all over me and so it was another reason to be angry at how my pregnancy had ended.
I told my best friend my fears and she agreed, I was behaving differently towards my son. I didn’t seem quite so enamoured this time around but I had no idea how to change it. People kept asking me if I felt complete if it was lovely having two babies but I just felt sad about everything. Everything I’d feared had come true and I hadn’t felt an immediate bond with my baby. I couldn’t help but feel like a terrible mother, and the idea of talking about it made me feel even worse. Would people think I didn’t love him at all? Was I a bad mother? A despicable person for feeling resentful of a BABY?!
Then on Day 27, he smiled at me
The sceptics among you may say it was just wind but I knew differently. It was a proper reach the eyes smile and my heart swelled and I felt the tears prickle and finally, I felt what I’d been waiting to feel. That pure connection of love and protectiveness, an instant heart-wrenching panic at the idea of anything happening to him, I knew I’d throw myself in front of anything that endangered him.
Everything changed after that, I started talking to him, playing, singing, cooing. It was so wonderful loving him properly, the way I’d always hoped I would. I found myself staring at him more and wanting him to be closer to me whilst we slept. I hadn’t realised quite how distant I was until my feelings changed.
Those 4 weeks where I was so unsure of our bond were terrible and I feel so guilty for feeling that way. When I was contemplating what to write for this month’s feature post, I was originally just going to write a piece about c-sections. The idea that my son may one day read this and feel like he was anything less than completely in love right from the start breaks my heart. However, I know I’m not the only mother that hasn’t bonded instantly so if I can, I want to be a comfort to someone if they’re going through something similar.
If I’m honest, my connection with my son is still a work in progress, it’s not completely the same as it was with my daughter. I hate to say it, it’s not something you say, but at the moment I do love her more. I try and justify this with the thought that I’ve known her 2 years longer so, of course, I’m going to feel a closer affinity to her. However, I know that the more time we spend together the more my love for him will grow and strengthen too.
My heart may not have immediately doubled in size, but there’s definitely room for both of my babies there.