I’m worried I won’t bond with my baby
Studies estimate an expectant mother to have on average 7 million worries about their coming baby and impending motherhood.
Number One has to be the worry that you won’t bond with your beautiful baby when he’s born. What if you don’t instantly love him?
What if he doesn’t like you? What if you are quite literally the least qualified person to parent anything?
Then get yourself a cup of chamomile tea or a family size block of chocolate or both and then read on. It’s going to be ok.
First things first; It is sometimes true; you may not love your baby instantly.
If you are about to become a mother you are naturally pretty scared right now. But human beings face their worst fears every day. Because we are a generally pretty fearful bunch, there is a wealth of information to help us get to other side of those things that are terrifying us, such as speaking in public or getting on a plane without imploding. A wonderful technique for facing your fear is to turn your ‘What if?’ worries into ‘And then what?’ statements.
I’ll explain this a bit further.
You are thinking right now ‘What if my baby and I don’t instantly love each other?’ Now let’s imagine that your worst fear comes true; your baby is born and you don’t feel instant adoration and bliss and bursting with wonderful goodness of the joy of being a mother.
Now think ‘And then what?’
Think through what will happen next. And then think about how you’ll deal with it if it does. You may not bond with your baby straight away. It is extremely common for new mums not to feel that the second their baby pops out, for some it just takes a bit more time.
The reality is that we are led to believe that instant bonding is the norm, when in truth it is rarer than you think. And if you don’t bond instantly with your child it will all be ok, this will come with time. And in the meantime you will get on with the job of mothering the very best way you know how, because that is what mums do. Right now your baby just needs to be fed, safe and cared for.
Unconditional love will come when it’s ready; trust me. And when it comes it will smack you over like a tidalwave.
Really good reasons why you may not love your baby the second he comes out
1. You are exhausted and most likely heavily medicated
Labour is hard work; hence the reason we call it labour. By the time your baby comes out of you you will be exhausted, likely completely drained of energy, haven’t slept for days, and to top it all off you might be dosed up on all sorts of medication. It is unlikely you’ll feel any normal feeling or emotion right now. You won’t even know who you are, let alone why you came to this crazy hospital in the first place.
2. He has been causing you incredible discomfort and immense pain for the last few months/weeks/hours
You are a reasonable adult, and generally if someone causes you grief day in and day out for months you will likely call them on it, and probably remove that difficult person from your environment. When the person causing you grief is the baby in your belly you don’t really have that option, but it makes complete sense if you are not instantly adoring this little guy the moment you meet him.
You may have had a tumultuous lead up to the meeting. You may need a few moments to collect yourself before you are ready to love. My first feeling when my son was born was just gratitude that he finally came out. And then I threw up a few times. No instant bonding for me.
3. You are experiencing the ‘Deer in Headlights’ reaction
You are very likely in shock. You are probably not feeling much of anything. Or you are likely to be overwhelmed; feeling so many different things that you really can’t narrow it down to one. Or you might be so confused and at a loss as to what do next that you don’t know where to start.
4. You can’t just switch on the Mum switch after 30 years of being the fun-loving party girl
Or even after 30 years of being a regular person and not having to be responsible for more than a houseplant. Feeling like a mum is not something that happens straight away to very many people. For some people it takes months, for some it takes years. Some may never comfortably feel like a mum. And that’s ok. I didn’t feel like a mum until my first baby was eight years old.
You are a human being and aren’t really accustomed to loving anything instantly. Really the only thing every woman feels the instant their child is born is complete and utter terror.
Feeling an instant bond with your baby is more of an urban legend than reality
Now that you know it’s completely normal to feel all sorts of weird and wonderful things about your newborn, let’s look at what you’ll do next. You will take that lack of instant bonding or feeling completely comfortable with the tiny screaming pooping thing that you are now responsible for forever and you will get on with it.
And then what?
Some great ideas for things you can do when you don’t bond with your baby instantly
1. Ask for help
Ask the nurses, your partner, your parents, your friends, the local pharmacist, and the old lady who lives across the road and who keeps offering to help. Accept that you do not need to do it all, you do not need to do it alone, and you are completely normal in needing a hand.
2. Sleep. Shower. Eat.
Then repeat this process day after day until you start to feel like you again. It will come, I promise you. And once you feel like you, you will be ready and open to start loving the screaming little thing that for some reason came home from the hospital with you.
3. Get some sunshine on your skin
This is helpful for so many reasons. Vitamin D makes you feel better both physically and mentally, and walking outside your house can remind you that you are part of a bigger world and it is not all just you and your baby. Feeling the sun can also remind you of normal daylight hours, which like a problem gambler, you kind of lose sight of when you have a newborn.
4. Just be with him
Just start off having a relationship and hang out with your baby like you are housemates, which you are. You will start to find things that you have in common. You will start to have inside jokes and make memories together that only the two of you will understand.
Talk to him, even if you feel like an idiot. He can hear you, and after a while, he will respond.
I remember the first six weeks being hard because it felt like I was looking after someone else’s pet shiatzu, either that or some kind of bomb. Not a baby. After six weeks my son smiled at me for the first time and suddenly he became human and everything became better.
5. Ask for more help
Keep asking for help. Especially if after the first month or so you still really feel like you are struggling. You not be bonding yet with your baby because you are feeling symptoms of post natal depression. This condition is also completely normal and far more common than you think. Help is out there and can make everything better, just make sure that you ask for it.
You will bond with your baby, it just may take a little time
Then you will love him unconditionally until he turns about two. Then it’s a whole new ball game, but that’s a topic for another article.