Before I had children, I subscribed to the theory that you would experience this magical, other-worldly moment when your baby was placed on your chest and suddenly the stars aligned, you became a mother and you loved this being more than anything else you’d ever seen or known. It’s a popular theory touted around by the media and, I hate to say it, often by other mothers too.
For some people I don’t doubt that’s what bonding with their firstborn (and all their subsequent children) was like. For some I suspect it all falls into place.
For me, I loved Alexandra from the moment we knew she existed. Despite hating being pregnant, I already felt protective over this little being growing inside of me. When she arrived, again I felt protective over her. I felt like she was my child and I needed to do right by her.
But I didn’t feel like a mother.
I felt like an amateur when I watched the midwives swaddle her and rock her to sleep. I felt like I should have L-plates on when other mothers offered advice or support. And ultimately I felt like a failure as I returned home after nearly three months to begin the process of becoming a mom, when my husband and others had stepped in and filled in that role for me as I lay in a hospital bed for the first weeks of Alexandra’s life.
As well as repairing myself, I had to repair my confidence. I felt scared to take her out, I felt scared to be on my own with her, I felt like I had no idea how to be her mother. She was (and still is) beautiful, precious and amazing. But I still didn’t feel like she was truly mine.
I’d say it took until she was about six months old for me to start enjoying her properly. Now, she’s 20 months and I genuinely enjoy every day (not all of every day, that would be ridiculous), I find her hilarious, she’s like my little friend who I can laugh with and have proper conversations with.
Sometimes I look at her and feel overwhelmed by how much I love her. It sounds cheesy but it’s true. What’s also true is that didn’t happen the day she was born, it was probably about a year before I ever had that feeling. That’s not to say I didn’t love her – I did. But I had no idea how all-consuming that love could be, that the bond could deepen to a point where it would fundamentally change me as a person, that one day I would feel truly like a mother.
This time round I wasn’t sure what to expect. Perhaps because I’d already been through that process with Alexandra, perhaps because I was well this time, perhaps because he was so poorly or perhaps because I got to spend so much one on one time with him in hospital, it was almost an immediate feeling with Max. And that’s not to say I love him more than her, I love them equally although in different ways (and at different times depending who’s crying!).
Of course during my second pregnancy I had times when I wondered how I would feel about this baby. They tell you your heart will expand and it does. There was a little part of me that never healed after our first experience – a little Max sized hole in my heart that doesn’t take away from how much I love Alexandra but reflects how much my heart needed two little babies to love!
Harriet, Alexandra and Max x