The blissful fog of sleep was lifting, filtering a cacophony of sounds into my subconscious. There laughter and there was delight, but I lay alone, desperate to stave off unwelcome wakefulness. I didn’t want to succumb to reality and join in the happiness in my lounge room. I didn’t want to face the world that existed outside my bedroom. Because that would mean acknowledging the ugly truth that I had not yet bonded with my son.
The thought of it weighed me down, seeming to pin me to the bed. Instead of overflowing with elation, as I’d always envisaged, guilt sent me back beneath my bedcovers.
Selfishly, I wanted one more night of bone fide, guaranteed, uninterrupted sleep; of one more lazy Saturday, to relish in the luxury of no responsibilities; of one more chance to revel in the undivided attention of my lovely husband. Ridiculous as I knew it was, the fact that these simple acts were suddenly so out of reach left me grieving. I was raw, but just as painful as that was the confusion I felt. All I’d ever wanted was being cradled lovingly by someone else in the next room, but that surge of unadulterated love I’d expected to feel was nowhere to be seen.
My baby’s birth had been far from my (too high) expectations, I was reeling from post labour complications, and the early stages of breastfeeding were proving a disaster. I was sent home with an infant who slept a total of 45 minutes in his entire first 14 hours at home … and that was on top of the total of eight hours of sleep I’d managed to get in the three days before that.
If this had been something I’d signed up for in a shop, I’d have demanded my money back for false advertising. Because all the images and information I’d seen presented a picture-perfect family unit, with a baby who did nothing but feed and sleep, and a mother who glided effortlessly into her newly appointed role with nary a hair out of place or unattractive catheter in sight. And most of all, they all experienced love at first sight with their newborn child.
It was never meant to be this way: I’d read a library equivalent of literature about birth, bringing baby home, and adjusting to the new role as “mum”, yet nothing could prepare me for the thoughts that were weaselling their way into my mind. This was what I’d wanted, we’d taken six months to fall pregnant, and when we’d been finally blessed with good news, not even an earthquake could have pulled me down from Cloud Nine.
So to suddenly feel this way, only days after welcoming our first child into the world, left me believing I was an unfit mum.
For six endless weeks I lived in this foggy bubble of fear – until the moment finally came.
I fell in love with my son.
Cradled in my lap, contentedly napping after enduring his first vaccinations, it had dawned on me that while we’d been at the doctor’s to get those shots, I’d felt something new. It had been a surge of the purest form of primal, protective love, something I’d never before known. I could suddenly see into our future, one in which I strived to do all in my power to shield him from every possible hurt; one in which we played, we laughed, we simply enjoyed each other. I saw that I could do this; I saw that we were going to be okay.
For the first time since becoming a mum on that chilly August night in 2008, I exhaled. I felt like a butterfly who’d emerged from the cocoon of pregnancy into a startling new world I wasn’t ready for. But 42 days on, I’d found my wings and fallen deeply in love with my son.