Did You Feel It?
There is so much in mothering that you’re “supposed” to feel and if it is anything other than expected then it’s as though you are unusual. When your own experience doesn’t fit the norm it can be worrying and make you question yourself, so today I am challenging those received wisdoms because I don’t want any mother to think their feelings are abnormal. As a good friend said to me once, your feelings are your own and so they are valid.
The health visitor came to see me last week in order to weigh the baby, while she was here she got me to fill in a questionnaire about how I was feeling. My friend was here at the time and I let slip that I’d lied the first time I’d filled in one of these forms, having exposed my history of lying I’m not sure the health visitor believed my answers. It also lead to an interesting discussion about the rush of love mothers are expected to get when they meet their baby for the first time, my friend pointed out that sometimes it’s a slow burn and I realised this is true.
With my first son, over 16 years ago now, I didn’t get a rush of love when he was born. I vividly recall feeling nothing but relief that labour was over. Where was the rush of love? What was wrong with me that I felt nothing for this baby of mine? I did everything I had to for my little boy, I fed him, changed him, kept him warm and safe. When I filled in the transparent questionnaire about whether I was feeling depressed I did the only thing I felt I could do, I lied. I said I felt fine. I didn’t tell them I felt nothing for my baby, that I felt cold and distant from everyone. I didn’t want them to think there was something wrong with me, I cared enough for my baby that I didn’t want them to take him away from me. In my head I felt that if they knew they would take him away.
Now I realise they would have helped me. I should have been honest about my feelings and I could have got better a whole lot quicker. In the end it took 18 months, me ending my marriage and a week away from my baby to feel that love. I came back from being away, having left him with his grandparents and held my little boy and felt that joy that he was mine and that I loved him completely. I sat and held him and wept.
In the end it took another 8 years or so for me to fully battle my demons and to get the help with my long term depression. Eventually it took an excellent counsellor to help me through and to give me the tools to deal with dips in mood so that I hopefully will never get so low again.
With babies number 2, 3 and 4 I felt it as soon as they were born. Positive birth experiences helped I suppose, but also the fact that I was in a better place too. It really was a rush of love as soon as I met them. It felt good to know that it could happen, it made me sad to have missed it the first time, but it was lovely to experience it.
Then with baby number 5 it was different again. I think having the emergency caesarean section didn’t help, they didn’t show me the baby and then he was rushed off to the little room where they check the babies over and I didn’t see him go. When they brought him to me he felt completely disconnected to me. I was slipping in and out of consciousness so I probably wasn’t in the best state to meet him, I thought he was a lovely baby, I just wasn’t convinced he was mine.
I didn’t tell anyone at the time, but I thought they’d probably brought me someone else’s baby, I didn’t mind because I thought he was lovely, but all the same he didn’t feel like he’d been a part of me. It took a few days for those feelings to go away and I would definitely say my love for him has been more of a slow burn. There was no great rush of love, it’s just grown a little every day. Then this morning I looked at him and realised I love him so much, I just don’t remember it happening, the feelings are just there, they’ve been quietly building.
Whichever way it happens, it’s just the way it is. This is my experience and yours will be different, maybe similar, maybe completely different. There can be all the love and still the depression. There are a million different ways things can go, we need to recognise those differences and not make each other feel bad for not fitting a stereotype. If you are struggling, talk to someone and if that someone doesn’t help talk to someone else. You can and will feel better in time.