The Unexpected Mother

You might not bond with your baby right away.

For the people in the back: You might not bond with your baby right.

You are told that the minute your baby is placed on your chest after being born, that you will be flooded with love/feel good hormones, called oxytocin. That all of the pain and trauma from pregnancy and deliver will instantly vanish when you see your baby for the first time. That, you “never have felt a love like that before”. It all sounds wonderful, doesn’t it?

So, you can probably imagine my flood of emotions after my baby was pulled out of me on the operating table from behind a curtain, whilst I was heavily drugged for pain, shivering uncontrollably, barely able to keep my eyes open from exhaustion, and then being handed a wrapped in a swaddle and fitted with a newborn hat. Wait a second. This is my big moment? Where is that happiness boost?

I kept waiting for my moment to happen.

My experience of childbirth was nothing like the ones you’ve probably envisioned for yourself or heard of from others. Not that I am alone in having had a cesarean, the cesarean rate has been at an all time high since the 80s. You’ve probably seen moody images of a birthing person on her back, in the labor and delivery room of the hospital,. embracing their child for the first time. In those images the baby is freshly born, covered in vernix caseosa (a white coating that protects the skin in utero). Sometimes you will see blood, fluids, etc. This is what a baby looks like when they are born. They don’t come out cleanly showered after 10 months in utero.

During my moment, I wasn’t smiling or expressing joy and amazement my baby was finally here. I didn’t see any blood or vernix caseosa that my baby had been covered in. He was presented to me after a handful of people had held him, cleaned him up, swaddled him, and walked him over to me. Once he was on my chest, which by the way wasn’t so easy with the lack of space between me and the the operation room curtain hanging above my chest. I stared at this baby, eyes barely opened, knowing well that I was still cut wide open, doctors and nurses furiously stitching me back together.

My story aside, let’s talk more about this blissful bonding moment between babies and their mothers. Many moms do and will experience an incredible bond immediately after birth. Some might even experience this after a cesarean birth. This is normal.

Some, like me, won’t feel bonded to their baby right away. This is also normal.

Some of us go through traumatic birth experiences. Some of us are heavily medicated at the time of birth and the drugs interfere with the oxytocin dump that occurs naturally. Sometimes, as my trauma therapist taught me, we “leave” our bodies during trauma and are left disconnected from the reality of birth experience. These are some of a factors that can lead to a lack of deep connection with a baby at first glance.

If you’ve had a child and ever wondered why you did not feel totally infatuated with them right away, even if you don’t characterize your birth as traumatic or highly medicated, I am here to tell you that you are not alone, my momma friend. You are so far from alone. But I understand why you feel that way.

In my experience, social media postings welcoming babies into the world look like this: There is a make-up’d momma lying in a cute robe. Her hair is combed. She smiles widely at her little bundle wrapped in a cute swaddle. If the baby is a girl, there is a boy on her head. If he is a boy, there is some type of teddy bear or animal on his onzie. The caption of this type of birth announcement reads like this, “We are over the moon in love…. with our baby…” etc. You’ve seen them too.

And make no mistake, I am not passing judgement on these parents. I am stating that this is the narrative we see. This is how you are to feel about your baby being born. This is what you share about it.

If that is the narrative you saw too, then of course you felt confused if/when your experience of birth felt differently.

Dear sweet reader,

I am sharing my story to give space to the spectrum that is personal experience. I am here to support the women who felt any type of way about their baby postpartum, to normalize that a good six months past until I felt like I could identify my son as my own. You are not doing this wrong. It is just hard sometimes.

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