I had an interesting conversation last week with a patient about how long it took her to really, really love her first child. When we spoke she had just had her third baby and was amazed with how in love she was already with her latest edition. She talked about how overwhelmed she had been with her first child. That it was too overwhelming to even keep track of the baby’s pees and poos. She admitted it took a while to fall in love with her first baby. She had not experienced Postpartum Depression, but she did have a delayed bonding. She was a healthy, everyday mom who admits she bonding didn’t happen instantly.
After having this conversation I returned home to read a touching piece on BlogHer written by my in-real-life friend @Firemom about post-partum depression. While not immediately bonding with your child doesn’t mean you will have PPD, we as nurses, do look at delayed bonding as a sign of possible PPD. I struggle with saying that last line as immediate bonding doesn’t happen for everyone, and that can be normal. This is a phenomenon that we don’t seem to talk about.
Most of us just assume that once your child is born from your body that you will look at him or her and fall, madly in love, enchanted even. While I don’t have actual numbers to share, I can tell you that as a nurse who has worked on the OB floor, that the delivery room is often not the place of falling in love. In fact, if I were a betting person, I don’t even think the hospital is the place where mama bear instincts and adoration kick in for most moms.
I do see it happen. Baby comes out, dad is crying, mom cries and holds her newborn with an amazed look in her eyes. I have to admit that with both my girls I was over the moon with them, immediately. I am not sharing that to show off or be condescending but because that when I noticed this did not happen for many moms, I realized that it was something that needed to be addressed, talked and written about to let moms know that it is okay, that it is normal.
I have had moms whisper to me things like, “I don’t think that child is mine.” ”She doesn’t seem like she came from me.” They are embarrassed, but reaching out to know if this is normal, wondering what is wrong with them. I’ve even had a few moms tell me that their first reaction of seeing their baby was something along the lines of “yuck”! Not everyone can get passed the body fluids and that is okay to.
There is nothing shameful about wondering how that child in the bassinet beside you is actually yours. There is nothing shameful about feeling like you are taking care of the neighbors kid. The key thing is to remember that by taking care of your child, you will bond and fall in love with him. Keep on holding, loving, nursing, feeding your baby. It may take hours, days or even months for some, but he will feel like yours someday.
If this sounds like your experience, you are normal, don’t be ashamed. Like most things in life, birth doesn’t happen like we think it will. We do want to watch for PPD though, so if you feel the following symptoms or see them in someone you know, it doesn’t hurt to seek medical attention. Mood swings, irritability, trouble sleeping, trouble caring for the baby, trouble completing everyday tasks, or thoughts of hurting yourself or your baby.
I have so much more to say, especially how I think the medical system impedes quicker bonding, but I think I might turn it into another post. This one, I want to keep simple.
(Disclaimer: This post is based on personal experience I have had working as a RN, IBCLC, not medical advice, please consult your doctor with questions or concerns.)