The bond between mother and baby is one of the strongest known to man. But when does it begin? Conception? Birth? Or a while later?
Mainstream media, television, films and celebrities will have you believe it’s something instant. That the second that baby is placed on your chest after birth, you feel a sudden rush of love like nothing you’ve ever experienced before. In reality, I don’t believe it’s a simple as that.
There are so many people who have extremely difficult births, for whom things are touch and go for mom/baby/both, who don’t get to see their babies for a while or sadly where there are mental health issues at play. Postnatal depression is extremely prevalent and there are a million things going on in those minutes and hours after birth. Having read many people’s stories during my pregnancy and since becoming a mother, I’m coming to the conclusion that instant rush of love isn’t as common as you might think and for many the bonding process is a lot more complicated and drawn out.
Personally, I think I loved Alexandra while she was still growing inside me, I loved her even more when I first met her but I definitely without a doubt love her a million times more now. When she was just born, there was of course an overwhelming need to protect her and an absolute delight that this baby we had made together was finally here and so utterly beautiful and perfect.
Circumstances dictated that I didn’t really get the chance to have as many newborn cuddles as I’d have liked to. I didn’t have the opportunities in the wee small hours to sit and hold her and take in everything about her. Yes I saw her and sometimes held her and sometimes fed her but I didn’t really get what you’d term a ‘normal’ first few weeks. Still, I think if you’d asked me then I would have told you I loved her and felt bonded with her.
I met her again when she was about eight weeks old and I probably felt a bigger rush of love and more emotional when I saw her then than I did at her birth. That sounds terrible but the only way I can rationalise it is that when she was born, we expected to meet her, we expected her to be healthy and although it was a magical moment it was one we always thought we’d have. When I became ill, even before I was on intensive care, part of me believed I’d never get better and never go back to ‘normal’ life and being a mommy. So to get the chance to hold her again, even to see her beautiful little face, was a huge deal for me when I knew how close we’d come to not having that moment, to me being a photograph Dylan showed to her and never a real person she could touch and talk to and know.
At that time, although she felt like my child and I loved her intensely, I didn’t feel like I was her mother. I hadn’t learned how to be yet. Her first smiles had been for someone else and it took me a while to figure out how to get any for myself. She responded to her daddy and her nanna’s voices most of all and they knew her routine and her little quirks much better than I did.
It’s taken months for me to get to know her inside out. And in doing so I believe we have developed that bond. She looks at me now if she doesn’t understand something as if she trusts what I’m doing – if I’m smiling she’ll go along with whatever’s happening. I know what songs bring the biggest smiles. I know that putting her arms into clothes often provokes a cry but only for a second or two. I know that courgette is so far her favourite flavour. I know her ins and outs and that’s where the bond has come. As her personality has developed, so to has the love between us.
I may have loved her at birth, but I truly adore her now. I just hope I feel the same way when she’s older: a strop at six months is still quite cute, a strop at 13 most definitely isn’t!
Harriet and Alexandra xx