From friends to films to my own fantasy, I was led to believe that the moment you hold that tiny, brand new baby in your arms, an overwhelming wave of love and pure joy comes over you.
Well, what a bloody high expectation to put on yourself.
You’ve possibly just spent hours, if not days in varying degrees of pain. You are exhausted, sleep-deprived, thirsty, hungry and drained. You may be anxious from day one (as I was) about bringing this baby into the world safely. You may fear the birth, you may not know who will support you once the baby is here. There may be other worries going on in your life. The birth may not have gone as planned. You may have had painkillers that you vowed you wouldn’t. You may have a had a c-section and not a vaginal birth.
Mamas…we know the list goes on.
So, to tell a mum-to-be that they will experience this ‘wonderful elation’ is quite frankly, cruel. Because when you don’t, and you feel one of a thousand other emotions before that ‘pure joy’ – guess who feels like a failure?
That poor, beautiful woman who has just spent 9 months protecting, nourishing, growing and finally birthing another human.
Instead of felling proud of our achievement, or loving ourselves enough to accept our feelings, we think something is wrong with us. We feel guilty or upset or disappointed.
Because the world has told us how we ‘should’ feel and no one wants to admit that they felt anything else!
I mean, how could you? You should be grateful for that previous baby in your arms – you’re a mum now. You just gave birth and you don’t feel on top of the world?
Funnily enough, no.
Not because I don’t love my child more than anything in the world, not because I’m not absolutely blessed to have him here safe, but because I’m a human being who has been through the biggest change, physically, mentally and emotionally.
It is OK to feel shocked or scared.
It is OK to feel confused or underwhelmed.
It is OK to feel whatever you feel, because you are a human being!
So many mum’s have said to me that they did feel that rush, but not for a few days or weeks and even months. It doesn’t make us bad mothers. It makes us real. I had lost my first baby at 23 weeks and the birth was traumatic. When I had my second son alive and well in my arms, after a short labour which ended in theatre being stitched up, no…I did not experience that elation. I felt almost numb, exhausted and overwhelmed.
We need to stop putting expectations and pressure on women to feel a certain way from the moment that they first find out they’re pregnant. It is such a life changing experience, but that phrase encompasses so many emotions, so many shifts, so many decisions and questions. It is not a ‘one size fits all’ when we have a baby. We need to be more loving, understanding and compassionate towards each other when someone is struggling, or even just allowing them that choice to express their feelings, no matter what they are.
When I talk about those first few days with my newborn son, I feel a sense of sadness and regret. I felt so overwhelmed and emotional that I wasn’t able to truly take in this perfect miracle in my arms. It took me weeks to really feel that connection with him.
Because I was surviving. I was doing my best to get us both through. I was making sure he was fed, changed, warm and safe. I’d never done it before and I had no real experience of what it involved. I couldn’t see our future at that point, or where we are today. I didn’t know his personality and his beautiful, happy soul. I just had to look after this helpless boy who was suddenly, completely and utterly dependent upon me. I didn’t know if I was up to the job or if I would let him down. Was he getting enough milk? Was he warm enough at night? There was no time for doting on him in a state of pure bliss. I was a zombie, I was just doing what I had to do.
It didn’t stop the feeling of guilt that I should be happier, I should be more grateful, I should be on ‘cloud nine’. But I’ve learned, there is no ‘shoulds’ in feelings. You feel what you feel.
A few weeks later, I was breastfeeding him to some Christmas lullabies, and the tears just fell.
There it was.
A feeling so powerful and all consuming. I was absolutely in love with this little creature and would do anything for him. And every day since, that feeling has grown. I wake up to his beautiful smile and it makes everything OK. One year on, we have so many moments now where I can take the time to really embrace that love. I often just stare into his eyes when he lays on me with a sleepy smile and I just feel perfectly happy. Even when life continues to throw its curves (and it will), I find these moments. So yes, I do have that overwhelming rush of love when I hold my son…but it certainly didn’t happen on day one of his life. It happened when it happened and every day since.
Whenever, wherever, and however that feeling shows up – you are an amazing mother and that baby knows it!