Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Bonding - loving until your heart hurts





Before I had my son, I was worried about bonding with him or suffering from post natal depression. As a nanny I have loved and adored many children in my care and growing up as a carer for my younger sister with Down Syndrome, I loved her in a way that was more than just sisterly. Could I love my own child more than that? Would it feel different? Should it?

As it turns out, with Seb I needn't have worried. The moment he was born and placed on my chest I was utterly besotted and totally in love. I used to (and still regularly do) tell my husband that Seb made my heart hurt with love. When I fell pregnant the third time (following a miscarriage in the middle) I just assumed it would be the same. Why on earth wouldn't it be? 

After a much more difficult pregnancy (leaving me on bed rest for the last 4 weeks) I had the birth I wanted (read about that here) followed by a pretty grim post part haemorrhage. I had ten precious minutes of skin to skin with my baby girl in the birth pool before I was whipped onto the floor (I was at home - not just some shady backstreet hospital) and my midwife stemmed the bleed. I remember someone offering to put Camille on me, but I was weak, unable to really lift my arms and incredibly dozy; so I didn't think it was a good idea. With hindsight maybe I should have held her then. 

I next held my baby girl a good 2 hours later in hospital and this was the first time I could breastfeed her. It was magical and she nailed it like a superstar. Im very fortunate that in spite of the haemorrhage my milk still came in on day four as it should, some women aren't so lucky. I did my absolute best to bond with this gorgeous baby and it helped that because of the blood loss (and no transfusion) I had to be on bed rest for a week, however, I felt so dreadful and weak that it wasn't particularly 'special time' for us. On day 6 I had an ovarian cyst haemorrhage internally which led to another stay in hospital and some more feeling totally crap. 

So all in all, not the best start for us both. 

At three weeks I realised that I didn't feel for Camille, what I felt for Seb. Someone said to me when we were out introducing her to people 'Oh, I'll give her back in a minute, I remember that feeling of other people holding my newborn - it's lovely but secretly you can't wait to get them back.' I remember that feeling too - with Seb. It dawned on me then that I did not have those feelings for Camille. I was heartbroken. I tried to rationalise that I love Seb for the person he's become and that it isn't instant. But the reality was, I loved her because it is in my nature, because I would do anything for any child, but that was just it... she could have been any child. I would go through the motions with her, feeding, changing, winding... But I didn't have that love that makes your heart hurt and that in itself, hurt. 

How could I not be head over heels in love with this precious bundle?  

(credit Natasha Hanna photography)

I did some searching online and thank goodness for the online community of sharers (I genuinely don't know how people hacked parenting before the internet) I found I wasn't alone. It appears fairly common to have bonding issues both second time around and following post natal complications. 

I then made a very conscious effort to do these things -  

  1. Skin to skin. Whenever I could. It was a faff whilst also looking after a toddler and attending his classes, as it turns out, you can't get naked at trampolining class! So skin to skin largely happened in the evening once Seb was in bed and we had time for a good cuddle. 
  2. I made time for her. To stare lovingly into her eyes like you do with your precious first born. I made sure I used the time when Seb as at pre school to really focus on her. The washing could wait.
  3. I gave myself time.  Birth is a natural and wonderful thing. But it is also pretty traumatic for your body and it takes time to heal, particularly when there are complications or illness. I knew I would love her like Seb in time. I focused on a positive future. 
  4. Baby massage. The health visitor also suggested baby massage. It is definitely worth talking to your health visitor if you think you are struggling to bond with your baby. They won't think you are a bad mother and they will try to help. I was offered free baby massage sessions at a local children's centre, so cost doesn't even have to be an issue.  It was tricky for me to get to the classes offered with a toddler in tow so I instead started to include some baby massage in my bath routine and have signed up for a baby sensory class (while Seb is at pre school) as a nice one to one activity for us to share. 
Some weeks later, I looked one evening at her lying sound asleep in her cot and my heart ached for her. I cried with joy, as this was the feeling I had been waiting for. I just needed to get to know her a bit better.

The moment I felt my heart ache for her



We are now 4 and a half months in and I absolutely adore her. She is beautiful, expressive and very giggly. There were moments I feared this day wouldn't come, but they were absolutely worth waiting for. 


NQP
x

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