It’s the moment every pregnant woman dreams of. After months of pregnancy, and oh, that little thing called labour, your beautiful baby is finally placed in your arms and you dissolve in a cloud of instant love, adoration and wonder, never to be the same again.
If the movies are anything to go by this is the experience that all of us will have at the birth of our babies. But what happens if that baby is handed to you and you feel…. nothing. You’re tired, overwhelmed, possibly still in a lot of pain and here you go, a brand new baby to call your own. Cue emotion?
That’s what happened to me with my first son. After spending three days in hospital trying to induce the little ratbag outta there, I ended up with an emergency C-section. It was a situation I wasn’t prepared for. I was overwhelmed and felt out of control. But before I knew it there he was. I saw my husband’s eyes flood with love and I prepared to lay eyes on my child and feel the wave of emotion that I’d been told about. But it didn’t come.
Don’t get me wrong. I was happy he was there, I thought he was beautiful and I loved him because he was my baby but my baptism into motherhood left me feeling like I was inadequate from the get go. I didn’t fall in love with him instantly, my world didn’t stop turning at the sight of his face and my heart didn’t swell just thinking about him. There must be something wrong with me.
As I adapted to my new role, the feeding, lack of sleep and complete upheaval of my world made it hard for me to bond with him. Because of everything I had heard about motherhood I felt hugely inadequate, I was a failure before I had even started and the pressure I was placing on myself was huge. I kept my feelings to myself, I couldn’t possibly reveal that I didn’t fall instantly in love with him at birth, people would think I was a bad mother, right?
But new research shows I was not alone.
A study of over 500 mothers, commissioned by WOTBaby, has found that 70 per cent of new mothers expected to bond with their babies instantly and over 60 per cent of them said it took a lot longer for that to happen. In fact, the research shows that it can actually take over six months for mothers to feel properly connected.
I tell you, this is something I would have loved to have known back then. I spent countless hours questioning my ability be a mother (the situation was also clouded by sleeping and feeding issues) but just knowing that I was actually the norm rather than the exception would have broken down some of the isolation and guilt I felt at not being hit with instant love for my child.
Jen Hamilton, founded of WOTBaby says: “It’s all you see in advertising and the movies. Mums are depicted as forming an immediate bond, when in reality it can take much longer to form a true rhythm with their baby.”
I waited for the rush of emotion but it didn't come. At least not in that moment. Image: iStock
“There are some key fundamentals that result in a successful bond between parent and baby, and so many out-of-control factors can affect that experience, including labour, health, support systems, relationships, personality and personal history or adjustment with things like feeding. In my experience, I generally find on average, mums truly bonding with their child at four to five months.”
The research was certainly right, at least for me. When my son was about seven-months-old I found myself staring at him in awe, finally hit by the all encompassing ‘mother’s love’ and that hasn’t stopped. Some women may experience it immediately but for me it was a gradual process of love building on love. My beautiful boy is now five years old and my love for him is unrivalled. He is everything I could have wanted and more. Together we overcame many obstacles and we share a bond which could never be questioned.
The research is powerful because it gives all new mothers the proof that whatever they are feeling is normal. Society has lead us to accept that our entrance into motherhood love should all be the same and if it’s not we are left feeling ashamed, inadequate and isolated. We are dealing with lack of sleep, post labour pains and injuries, feeding issues and more. It’s normal to feel whatever you are feeling. Just as the journey of motherhood is different for each of us, so too is the ways in which we bond with our babies.
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