We all know those pregnant women who tell you that they have felt love and connected to their baby from the moment they found out they were pregnant. That they have never loved someone else more in the world than the tiny little fetus growing inside of them.
I was not one of them.
Of course I was over the moon we were expecting a baby. But I wasn't one of those pregnant women who felt an instant connection. Even when the baby would kick and move, I would say hello, but didn't feel a great surge of love or affection. I spent my pregnancy questioning myself, and whether or not I had what it takes to be a mum. To love this little person currently growing inside of me with everything that I had.
Maybe it was because it was my first baby. Maybe it was because we chose not to find out the gender, so I couldn't refer to baby as he or she. Or maybe there was something fundamentally wrong with me. Whatever the answer, it made me anxious and concerned for my reactions when our little baby finally decided to make their entrance into the world.
And then it happened. I finally went into labour. I won't go into all the gory details, but it was long, painful and exhausting. I vomited (a lot), I cried (a lot) and I told my husband that I couldn't do it. I wanted him to get my bag and take me home.
By the time our beautiful little boy made his way into the world I was so fatigued, that not even the adrenaline of meeting our little baby could keep me awake. As they laid him in my arms for the first time I remember smiling down at him, and then falling asleep. I only slept for a few minutes, but again, it made me question myself as a mum. Who falls asleep the moment they meet their new baby?
The rest of the afternoon is a blur. I had lost some blood, and hadn't slept in over 24 hours. I was tired, sore, nauseated and light headed. I struggled to breastfeed, as any new mum does. You feel clumsy and like you could hurt this tiny little human being with the smallest pressure. I felt like I was failing at being a mother before I had even begun.
I was scared for the moment when I would be left alone with our little boy. Couldn't they see that I wasn't connecting with him? That I didn't love him as I should? However, I was so exhausted I fell quickly asleep despite the anxiety once my husband had said goodnight and left for the night.
About 1 am I woke up. I was still lying with one hand resting on his crib; I hadn't even known I had my hand in his crib when I fell asleep. He was just lying there staring at me, not making a noise. Just watching.
We looked at each other for a few minutes. Just taking each other in, getting to know each other. It was so calm and peaceful. I found I was smiling and had tears streaming down my face. I couldn't believe the amount of love I had for this unknown little person. And then it hit me. Love. Connection. I had found it.
Almost 12 hours after he was born. Through all the pain, vomiting, blood and tears I had finally found that connection I was craving and I wasn't going to fail him. I loved him, and will always love him, with every fibre of my being. I picked him up out of his crib and cuddled him close. His eyes slowly drifted close and I spent a long time watching him sleep in my arms. It amazed me that I didn't even know this person, but there was no relationship stronger in the world at this point in time.
So to all those mums out there who fear they are failing, or struggling to find a connection, I say this to you. It may not happen straight away. It may not happen for hours, weeks, or months. But it will happen. And if you still feel that it hasn't, please don't be afraid to speak up about it.
Talk to your Maternal and Child Health Nurse, your midwife or your GP. Talk to your family, your partner, or friends. But talk to someone. There is no shame in it at all. We are only human, and growing another person is tough, physically and emotionally.
And that connection? It could be there, but maybe you are struggling to find it buried beneath the anxiety of being a mum, the sleep deprivation and the physical changes that occurs in our bodies.
Just remember, there is always someone there to listen to you, to help you and to support you. You are not alone.