This “piece” is about first time motherhood and it may not apply to everyone but if only one person reads it and can identify with it, then that is the person I am writing this for.
When I was very young (like 22) I was very focused on my career, I thought of children as an alien species and was thoroughly self centred. I was okay with young babies who couldn’t talk; you could have a hold and give them back. Kids who knew how to speak – completely out of my depth. I was certainly considering having children at some stage when I was old (like 30) because that was what
“one did” but that seemed so far into the future that it was barely worth giving a thought to.
So when I fell pregnant at that very tender age of 22 I was most surprised. Well… surprised, shocked, angry, confused….I just didn’t know what to do, I didn’t know what it meant.
I spent the next nine months in complete bewilderment. Sure, I read books about what was supposed to happen, I went for my check ups, I watched and felt my body change, I experienced some weird things (like, wow there is something inside my tummy and it’s MOVING!!). But I had not the faintest idea what it was supposed to feel like so I did not know if I was doing things right or wrong. It was very apparent that I was no longer in control, that something was happening TO me and there was nothing I could do about it. Freaked me right out.
Then of course, there was the little matter of the actual child birth. I very wisely chose not to think about this AT ALL! Cause, let’s be honest, unless you have been there before you can NEVER know what it’s like, you can’t describe it and you can’t imagine it when it’s being described to you.
So long story short, I pop out this thing about the size of a loaf of bread and I’m pretty much expecting a pretty plump pink angel, you know, like on the movies, cause everything you see on TV is real. Well, I get handed this wrinkly thing covered in all sorts of gunk (I laugh now, but I actually used to think that they give the baby a bath first before they hand it over) and I am physically shaking from the ordeal and I’m pumped full of all sorts of drugs (back then, they didn’t ask, they would just inject) and I’m looking down at my first born and I feel…nothing.
And this is what got me messed up. According to everyone you talk to, everything you read and hear, you are supposed to have an “instant bond” with your baby. I did not. Did this mean I was a bad bad mother? Was something wrong with me? How could I not feel love for my child? How could I still be so confused and weak? WTF???????
I used to say to myself, well, when you meet a person for the first time you don’t have instant feelings for them and you need to get to know them first.
So I did.
I spent every second of every day getting to know her. The way she liked to lie in her cot, the way she would breathe, the little noises she made. But it wasn’t until very early one morning when I sat down in the armchair to feed her, I cried and held her close and I sobbed because I felt like I was doing such a shit job at this mother thing and I wanted her to have better and then I looked at her. She was doing that thing with her mouth that newborns do when they want to be fed, you know they look like little birds in a nest when mother bird comes back with food? And it was at that moment I realised that she chose ME to be her mum just the way that I am. And I loved her for it. And I physically felt the “bond”.
I still look upon that time with sadness. Especially now because having had another three babies now I KNOW what I am supposed to feel and do and expect. But I only know these things because she taught me. I am sorry that I was not able to give them to her, my only favourite daughter. I am so grateful for her, she has a very special gift and she teaches me something every single day, I guess she started teaching me the moment she was born?
I don’t know much about post natal depression so I don’t know if that is what my experience was but I felt so very guilty for not being seemingly like “everyone else”, all joyful and happy and stuff. I thought there was something wrong with me and that I was defective in some way.
But now that I’m really old (like waaay over 30) and wise (lol), I know that I was all that I could be at that time. It is okay, I am (relatively) normal (depends on who you talk to) and I did the best job that I could and knew how to do.
My daughter was a wonderful, life changing gift and I treasure her every second of every day.
It’s just that I had to learn how to accept gifts.