When Bonding Post-birth is Delayed
I never believed in the fairytale idea of “love at first sight”. I didn’t believe you could feel such a strong emotion towards someone you don’t even know the first thing about. I didn’t believe it was possible, until that is, I became a mom. There I was, staring down at the tiny little life that I had felt moving around in me for months, listening to his cry for the first time, and feeling his soft skin beneath my hand. It was the moment I had waited 9 long months for, a moment that felt like it would never come. It was in this moment, as I was staring down at this perfect little boy that I had waited so long for, that time stood still and my heart became instantly his. The love I felt was so strong and instantaneous. It was the type of crazy love they say can move mountains and cause mothers to lift semi-trucks off their young… It was instant and it was magical and it changed me as a person forever.
Even though this instant love that I felt was stronger than I could have ever prepared for, it was also something that I had somewhat expected. I had seen all the movies that showed mothers screaming in anguish as they gave birth only for them to pour out tears of joy (as a powerful song plays in the background) the moment they meet their baby… But while these strong feelings of love did not come as a complete shock to me, there was another aspect of this moment that did surprised me. Just like I had seen all the movies, I had also seen all the reality TV shows. I had seen ‘A Baby Story’ and ‘One Born Every Minute’ where all the moms all described that same moment of love at first sight with their babies… But just as much as they described this instant love, they all also described just how instantly they felt “connected” to their babies. Some described it as if they had seen their baby in a dream and knew them before they were even born. It was this- this instant bond with my baby- that I had been awaiting and expecting but did not immediately feel. There I was looking down at my baby, my heart filled with more love than I had ever felt for one person, but I was still looking at a stranger. He was the cutest baby I had ever seen, but he didn’t look quite as I had pictured he would. A friend of mine described how you don’t want to put your baby down during your hospital stay so I wondered why I had no problem letting him sleep in the basinet so much. When I was pregnant and felt his little kicks I felt like I knew him, yet now that he was in my arms I felt this sense of mystery I never expected.
The feelings I felt left me with a sense of confusion, guilt, and fear. Was there something wrong with me? Was this normal? When would this bonding thing happen for us? Was I less of a mom than other moms out there? What would other people think of me if they knew I was experiencing this?
Eventually bonding was established and it didn’t happen all of a sudden. It was a gradual process that went unnoticed by me until one day I just looked at him realized that that feeling of mystery I once had when I would study his little face had now vanished. He was now this part of me that I couldn’t imagine ever being without. Still, I never told anyone about how our bonding took time because I still felt bad about it. It took me a long time before I finally learned that delayed bonding is common and not something I needed to be ashamed of. I finally stared sharing my experience with women I worked with as a doula so that wouldn’t feel the same feelings of guilt I did if they also did not instantly bond with their babies.
“Studies have found that about 20% of new moms and dads feel no real emotional attachment to their newborn in the hours after delivery. Sometimes, it takes weeks or even months to feel that attachment.” (WebMD.com)
**Gina is married to her husband Jeff & the mother to her two sons Xander & Parker who are her world. She is extremely passionate about pregnancy & childbirth and absolutely loves what she does. She is a Certified Birth Doula (CBD).