During my pregnancy, I often thought about my soon to be born baby in a happy and loving way. I was looking forward to holding my baby boy in my arms. Smiling at him. Watching his tiny feet and hands. Cuddle and play with him. Feeling fulfilled as a mum.
But it happened to be very different. After a very long 20 hour induced labour, I was indeed happy to see that my little baby has finally arrived and is healthy (and definitely that labour was over) but when I first saw him, I did not fall in love with him at that very moment.
Was I already a failure as a mum?
As much as it was a great moment it was also scary. Just for a second, I questioned myself – Why don’t I feel more positive and excited and why can’t I feel the big warm rush of love?
And I remembered what I had heard from other mums: “As soon as you see your baby, you will love him unconditionally”.
A couple of hours after, we arrived in our hospital room (my husband falling asleep next to me) but I wasn’t able to sleep as I had to calm down my boy and had my first attempts at breastfeeding. With only minimal success. And there and then I felt the desire to take care of this precious new bundle. I had the responsibility for my little vulnerable baby which I brought into this world. But still, it was not the overwhelming warm feeling I was hoping for and had expected.
Once we arrived at our home after four nights in the hospital, I was exhausted. My baby had a very hard time sleeping and so did my husband and I. With so little sleep it was contrary to enjoy spending time with my baby. I was tired and I only felt like this little baby was a massive burden.
So I did what I had to do, as I just had to. What mattered was that I had to be there for my baby and fulfil all his basics needs as I have read in my pregnancy books. Changing nappies and breastfeeding non stop those first couples of weeks. I was a robot but not a loving mother.
Breastfeeding – burden and joy at the same time!
Breastfeeding was very hard. I had to use a nipple shield as my son wasn’t able to latch properly. The nipple shield was annoying but at least it made me continue breastfeeding which was important for me. But he was not putting on enough weight as he should have and so I was also worried that my milk supply wasn’t enough. I thought that I was not even able to feed my baby. Not even this I got right. And breastfeeding was supposed to be natural. Still, I continued breastfeeding but additionally started pumping when he was four months old.
At that time, breastfeeding was the only connection I had with my baby. When breastfeeding, he was calm, he was happy. And me too, actually. I couldn’t give this up, I otherwise had nothing to offer him. I had no other way to connect with him.
Even after all those months, I wasn’t able to feel any love towards my baby. I didn’t enjoy him but still felt very guilty about this. It felt so awful that I just tried to ignore those thoughts. But in the back of my mind, I couldn’t. I doubted myself and my abilities to be a good mother and felt like an absolute failure. There were many occasions, in which I just wanted to leave them behind. Leave. And for just a quarter of a second, I even thought it was better for all involved if I was dead.
My husband could raise him, I convinced myself, they would be better off without me anyway!
Thinking back at those times now. It is hard to believe that I actually had that kind of thoughts. Now, the situation between me and my baby is quite the opposite.
The First Feeling Of Falling in Love
The first time I felt positive towards my baby was at six weeks when he looked at me. He finally seemed to notice that I was there. After all those weeks of giving – day and night, day and night without getting anything positive in return. There it was, I finally got something back and this was the slow start of bonding with my baby. This flicked the switch.
I realised I wanted more of those happy feelings and opened up to my Maternal Child & Health Nurse (MCHN) during our 2 months routine visit. But I had the feeling that it didn’t come as a surprise to her. She must have suspected something before.
Opening up and admitting the non-existing feelings I had towards my baby – this was really, really hard. Not only to myself (as I tried to just ignore those thoughts earlier) but also to the outside world. One reason was that I was afraid they would immediately take him away from me. And no, I didn’t want that. What would they think of me? How can a mother not love her own child in an absolute obsessed way? And what would my husband think?
Actually, everyone around me must think I am crazy for not loving my child. He is so tiny and innocent. He is cute (when he is not crying). I was so scared.
Much to my surprise, no one judged me. No negative words at all. Only encouragement from my MCHN and so important as well, from my husband.
Although having difficulties bonding with your baby does not necessarily mean you are suffering from postnatal depression, I learnt that it was the case for me. The delayed bonding with my baby was one of the factors of it.
I felt good that my MCHN and husband supported me so much.
Bonding Happened After All
Honestly, it took me eight months until I actually bonded with my baby. This means really feeling this unconditionally love towards my baby. Looking at him and just being happy. Enjoying all the little things. And actually enjoying his company. Never wanting to let him go (until he is of course grown up and makes his own decisions).
We both have a very deep connection now and he is a “Mama’s Boy”, always wanting his mum and it makes me happy and proud.
Give Yourself Time
In saying all this – if you do not instantly fall in love with your new baby. That is OK. Do not be so hard on yourself. It doesn’t mean you are a failure. And it doesn’t mean you are a bad mum.
You have to get to know each other. We are all unique and there is no need to force this. The love and special bond between you and your baby will happen in its own time.
And you know why I am pretty sure about that? Because it happened to me. It just took me a while longer and I like to call this – Love on Second Sight.
In The Meantime – What Can I do to Bond With My Baby?
Some of those tips may help you on this journey towards bonding with your baby.
Spend lots of time with your baby and actively pay lots of attention to your baby’s body language and their facial expressions. This can help you to get to know your baby better and makes you both having a fun time together. Find out what your baby loves and what not so much. For example, watch how he reacts when you read a certain book or play with a certain toy.
Cuddle, hug and hold your baby. This has several benefits for you and your baby, for example, the release of Oxytocin (the ‘Happiness-Hormone’).
Play with your baby and enjoy watching him having fun and learning new things. For example, I love playing pick-a-boo with my baby. And since he was able to sit, we are playing with wooden blocks. I am stacking them up and he loves knocking it down.
I love giving my baby a massage before bedtime when he is still alert and not too tired yet. It became part of our bedtime routine and we are both enjoying this. It is also said that it calms the baby and aids in making them sleep better.
I did a course with my mother’s group to learn how to correctly massage my baby, but if you want to start reading into it, see this Step-by-Step Guide.
TAKE TIME FOR YOURSELF
Do something just for yourself. Something which makes you happy and relaxed, e.g. going to the gym or having a massage. Overall, if you are happy, your baby will also pick up on your positive energy.
Hi Mums, When Did You Start Bonding With Your Baby?
Please comment below, I would love to know.