What were your thoughts when you met your baby for the very first time?
How did you feel?
Did you get that rush of love so many people talk about?
I didn’t even realise I hadn’t felt it until much later, about 10 weeks later. I remember that moment very clearly.
I was shopping with my friend in the Metro Centre. It was Christmas time and the baby was laid in the pram gazing at the pretty lights overhead. All of a sudden I saw her, my baby, differently.
“She’s a bonny baby isn’t she” I said. A statement, rather than a question. It was like I’d seen how beautiful my baby was for the first time ever and I was falling in love. Her face at that moment is etched so clearly in my mind, even now 10 years on. Her big blue eyes gazing back at me, her pouty rosebud lips, her dark hair and pinky skin tone. Such a lovely moment, and memory.
Then came the guilt.
I felt guilty that I hadn’t loved my baby from the beginning. I felt immense sadness that no one had loved this baby for almost three whole months! My husband later admitted that he also had struggled to bond at first. I thought back to those first moments after birth.
It’s hazy. I was drugged up to the eyeballs on pethidine, but there are snapshots in my memory. I’d given birth on the bed in hospital on all fours. I remember turning and seeing a little pink bundle lying on the bed.
‘Oh. A baby. I’d better pick it up!’
Those were my first thoughts.
That was how I responded when I met my baby for the first time.
Feelings? I don’t remember any.
No rush of love.
No overwhelming desire to hold her close.
Just a sense of the expectations of those around me. Expectations of what I should be doing.
Then the next thing I remember is her being taken off me. Apparently, she was too cold and needed to spend the next however long it was bundled in fifty blankets and cooked under a heat lamp.
We were home quickly, within a day or so, but my husband, who was made redundant when I was pregnant and had started a new job just days before I gave birth, had to return to work the next day. I felt quite literally like I was left holding the baby.
Breastfeeding was a struggle at first. Six weeks of shredded nipples and toe curling feeds that I thought was all normal – it’s not by the way, if it hurts get help! I was waiting for my nipples to toughen up! They don’t, believe me.
Sleep, or lack of, came as a huge shock to the system. By three weeks my warped expectations had me thinking she should be sleeping through by now, and by sleeping through I meant twelve hours, seven til seven, like that routine in that book by that woman who has NEVER HAD KIDS.
So, I must have been doing something wrong.
Her weight gain was slowing and I was being told my milk wasn’t good enough.
I think I cried every single day for months. On the outside I probably looked ok. I’d perfected the I’m fine response and told everyone I was just tired. I thought I was just tired!
Then at around 12 weeks I had a visit from a Community Nurse from the Health Visiting Team to talk about weaning. She asked me if I’d be returning to work and that was it. The flood gates opened and I just couldn’t stop.
How could I even contemplate leaving a baby I’d only just begun to love?
I felt as though I had missed half of my maternity leave, which back then was still only six months. The thought sent me into a panic. An emergency doctor’s appointment later that day diagnosed me with Post-Natal Depression.
In those first three months I’d just been going through the motions. Caring for a baby that could have been anybody’s. Misguided by the little information and support I had. Then, from the point of falling in love, the guilt I held proved too much. It should have been the happy ending there and then. We were finally bonding, well, I was, she had been bonding with me since birth, as they do.
So Looking back it probably wasn’t the best start. Not the worst by any means, but not great.
I’ll talk about my journey to recovery more at a later date, but for now, I was where I needed to be and receiving the help and support I needed. Most importantly I was enjoying my baby and loving her more than anything in the world!