Monday, June 22, 2015

When motherhood doesn't go the way the baby books say it will

Having a baby is meant to be one of the happiest times of your life. That's what I thought. That's what the media {well everyone really} tells us. All of the images in the baby books are of happy mums and smiling bubs. The pamphlets they give you at the hospital are full of the same. And everyone always talks about the overwhelming surge of love and happiness you will feel when you meet your baby for the first time. What's not to be happy about?

I didn't have the easiest road to motherhood, but once I was pregnant I never doubted my ability to be a mother or to love my child. I'd looked forward to motherhood my whole life. I wanted nothing more than to bring new life into the world and have the privilege of raising a little person. I knew I'd love my baby with every ounce of my being. I just knew it.

I've always been drawn to babies. I had a very strong maternal instinct from very early on. I was always looking after my friends and making sure everyone was ok. I was very much the mother hen. Nurturing was in my nature so there was no reason why I should question what lay ahead. My dream was finally coming true. I knew labour was going to hurt {like a bitch}, but it'd be worth it and after that everything would be perfect. Why wouldn't it be?

Unfortunately I ended up being as far away from the perfect mum depicted in the books as I could of been. Through no fault of my own, my initial experience of motherhood wasn't warm and fuzzy. The first time I saw my baby I wasn't overwhelmed with love - I was in complete shock that I'd just undergone an emergency c-section. I was spaced out on a concoction of drugs that had been pumped into me in an incredibly short period of time. My teeth wouldn't stop chattering and my whole body was shaking. I was trying to comprehend the fact that I'd just gone through major surgery {and that it was over before I'd even had the chance to process that it'd be happening in the first place}. 

There was no lovingly staring into my babies eyes. No skin on skin contact and surge of happy hormones. Only shaking and disbelief. I couldn't even hold her because I was shaking so badly (a side effect of Pethidine). Then she was whisked away to recovery while I was stitched back together. I'd just given birth in a whirlwind of activity, people {so many people}, drugs and on a sterile cold table and then she was taken away from me a few minutes later. It didn't even seem real.

That's when the sadness started creeping in. I was mourning the fact that I didn't get the natural birth I wanted. I didn't have a preconceived idea of how I wanted my birth to play out, just that I wanted to at least try and have a natural birth. Going into labour there was no reason why this wouldn't be possible, so to end up having an emergency c-section without even being allowed to attempt pushing was a real shock. I felt robbed of my evolutionary right to birth my own child. I muddled through all the midwife checks under a thin veil of mock happiness whilst keeping my sadness hidden inside. Sleep deprivation and plummeting hormones weren't helping. The whole time I kept thinking "I finally have my baby I always wanted, how dare I be unhappy".

I was desperately seeking the strong bond that everyone says is natural. For some reason it just wasn't there. How could I not feel an instant bond to my baby when she was my own child? I most certainly loved her, that was never a question, but I just didn't feel that bond that I was supposed to feel. Because of this I felt incredible guilt. I thought I was cheating her out of the mother/daughter relationship she deserved. I'd only been a mum for a few days and I already felt I'd failed at it. I was certain I was a bad mum. I didn't dare tell anyone incase they thought I was a bad mum too.

I eventually opened up to one of my closest friends and admitted that I thought I couldn't cope, that I didn't know what I was doing and that I felt horrible. She didn't tell me I was a bad mum. She didn't brush me off either. She came over and helped me. She listened to me. She saw me at my lowest and hugged me while I cried. She didn't judge me, she supported me. She played a pivotal part in helping me to deal with my depression.

Over the next few weeks I sought help from numerous people and professionals and I went back to feeling like me. I now have an incredibly close bond with my baby. It wasn't instant, but it grew very, very strong over time. She's an extension of me and I don't feel whole without her.

{Photos taken by Katharine Maree Photography}

I want other mums to know sometimes you don't feel an instant bond with your baby. It doesn't mean you're a bad mum. We shouldn't feel pressured to live up to social stereotypes and expectations, or feel bad when we don't. Life doesn't always go the way the books say it will. And that's OK.

I still love her more than anything and she loves me and that's all that matters.

Did you feel an instant bond when you gave birth?

Toni x

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31 comments:

  1. Not a mum but I basically lived with my brother and SIL after my niece was born (for the first six months) as they had some problems.

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  2. I had a natural bond with 3 out of 4 of my kids... I still feel guilty about this and struggle mostly wih the one I didn't bond with straight away...

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    1. I still feel guilty about it even though she won't even remember it.

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  3. Thanks for sharing your story. I did feel instant love for my babies but I struggled terribly with breastfeeding. It was never this lovely, natural, bonding experience for me like it seems to be for a lot of Mums. I felt like a total failure. Even now when I see a breastfeeding mother out and about it can stop me in my tracks and bring back the feelings even though my boys are (almost) 14, 11 and 6, completely healthy and it doesn't even matter any more! I'm glad you feel that bond now and she is just gorgeous. xo

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    1. Its amazing how quickly those feelings can come back isn't it. I still wish I had the picture perfect photo of her on my chest after birth, us staring into each others eyes and every time I see people post pics of their new babies I get a tiny pang of jealousy that I didn't have that.

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  4. Oh those photos! Just gorgeous!! I did bond instantly with both of my kids but realise that this isn't guaranteed, and consider myself very lucky.

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    1. I never knew it wasn't guaranteed, I think that's why I felt so bad when it didn't happen. Glad that you got to experience it :)

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  5. Oh Toni, I can really relate to this post! My daughters birth was very similar, she was 8 weeks pre and in foetal distress, delivered by emergency caesarian and whisked away to NICU before I even had a chance to process that she was really here. So many people talk about the day their child/ren were born as the best day of their lives, yet for me is what one of the most terrifying. I truly believe that women should be offered counselling after traumatic births. I'm so glad you had your friend for support, and got some help. Those photos are absolutely DEVINE! xx

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    1. Mine was one of the scariest and definitely one of the most traumatic. They definitely should offer counselling for women who experience traumatic births. Its the number one factor in PND {which I went on to develop}.

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  6. Such an honest post Toni. So important for others to read this. I wrote something similar once too because I wasn't overwhelmed with love and happiness when my number two arrived and I was really shocked at how detached I felt from my baby. I just felt like he was hard work. There wasn't much warm and fuzzy there and I felt less because of it. I didn't understand it. I think how we birth plays a really important factor in how we view ourselves as mothers going forward and definitely how we feel we bond with our babies from the get go. I'm so glad you reached out to your friend and they provided the support you needed. Bonds grow and that's what I've found with number two, as you have no doubt experienced too. Thanks for sharing this x

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    1. I think how we birth definitely has a HUGE amount to do with how we feel going forward. I'm glad I'm sharing it but I'm also freaking out bub will read this down the track and think I didn't love her which is not the case at all.

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  7. Having babies is so hard and I have been through the c-section twice with both my bubs being taken in to neonats and not with me for days with my first and weeks with my second. But the bond builds and soon they have your heart forever and ever. I love your gorgeous pictures.

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    1. Yep they certainly do have our heart forever :)

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  8. Great post. There's so many types of normal when you have a baby - from the birth to after...

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    1. That's such a great way of putting it Lydia x

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  9. I felt a bit like you with my second birth - it happened so quickly my body went into shock afterwards and I had the shakes and was sick. I was relieved I'd had the baby, glad it was a girl, but was just too sick to care about anything else! But as you know we grew to have an awesome bond that continues to this day!

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    1. I was in so much shock it was unreal. Totally the opposite to what I thought my birth experience would be. The great thing is the bond does grow regardless of the initial few hours/days.

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  10. I had an emergency c-section with my first and yes the birth experience was nothing like I'd imagined things to be. I avoided post-natal depression that time around but I suspect that I had it with my second child (it was masked by the fact I was on anti-epileptic medication that also act as anti-depressants). Ironically my second birth was my only natural one but Matilda had to be whisked to NICU with jaundice and I didn't feel the best of bonds with her as I spent a good portion of my stay in hospital alone while she was cared for elsewhere.

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    1. I think I would've felt just as disconnected if I had a NICU baby too :(

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  11. Such a raw and honest post. Society really doesn't prepare us for REAL motherhood, does it. I remember a colleague telling me that noone had told her what to expect her tummy to look like after birth - then she told me what to expect. I loved her honesty.. I also wish someone had told me how difficult breastfeeding would be. It's unbelievable what we put our bodies and emotions through as mothers. x

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    1. Yea I think everyone focuses on the lovey dovey version of things rather than the painful reality {probably so people keep having babies haha}.

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  12. It doesn't matter how you delivered. You grew a baby! In your own body! That is amazing enough :) This motherhood thing is hard, and challenging. No one ever tells you that, and it is not reflected in most airy-fairy baby books enough x

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    1. True it is pretty amazing. I think a lot of the books/people don't really focus on just how amazing our bodies can be.

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  13. No, I definitely did not feel an instant bond with my son and I'm not sure if that was because of my PND or not, but it took a while. It really annoyed me reading books telling me how I should feel. I have learnt not to read books on babies/children anymore because everyone has so many differing opinions and everyone's experience is so different.

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    1. I didn't read any books after I gave birth because I knew it'd put so much stress on me to be perfect and I was already feeling so inadequate.

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  14. Right! Medias, society, they all sell us this dreamy image of motherhood! Well somtimes it just doesn't go the way it was supposed to. You have a very good friend, She was so smart to help you and understand you. Even if I had 2 quite "usual" birth, I'm not sure I felt this natural bond at the first sight. I would say it was more something that we knitted all together. And the bond was also very different with my first daughter and second child (boy). They came with a different story in a different moment of our lifes. Don't feel guilty, easy to say I know. The very important thing is what you have now. xx cathy

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    1. Yep the most important thing is that the bond did develop :)

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  15. You write so honestly about this. Being a mother is tough, especially in those early days when we are learning so much about our baby and ourselves. Well done for being so attentive to your little one. From just reading this post I know you are an amazing mum.

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  16. What a tough experience you've had Toni. It was great that you had a trusted friend that you could confide that enabled you to get help!

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