Love at first sight. An instant connection. A flood of overwhelming emotion. A bond that will hit you like a brick. I’d heard it all before, and it excited me! I expected to feel a rush of beautiful emotions wash over me when I met my baby for the first time. But I didn’t. And it scared me. What did it mean?
I remember looking at him hours after his birth and wondering what was wrong with me that I didn’t feel… anything. I knew that I would do anything for him, but the emotion just wasn’t there. I worried in silence that it meant that I didn’t love him. And that made me feel like I was somehow broken.
What I wish I knew then was that the instant bond that we romanticise so often just isn’t a reality for many mothers, and this can be completely normal.
I wish someone had told me that it may take a few days, or even weeks, to feel a connection to my baby. And this goes for Dads too!
Instead I felt tremendous, deep feelings of guilt, stress, fear and inadequacy.
I wish someone had told me that it would be a process. And that I was not alone, and I was not broken.
What is normal?
According to the Oxford Dictionary, “bonding” refers to “the establishment of a relationship or link with someone based on shared feelings, interests, or experiences”. Meriam-Webster defines it as “the formation of a close relationship, especially through frequent or constant association”. So by these definitions it makes sense that a deep bond or connection may not be present at birth, or even in the days following, due to an absence of shared feelings, interests, experiences, or frequent association. You’ve only just met your baby! It’s not often that we form a deep connection with another human that we’ve only just met. It’s completely normal to take a few days, a few weeks or several months to feel that special bond. So it’s important to take away that pressure from yourself that may result in you feeling guilt, shame, fear or inadequacy.
Traumatic experiences of birth, postnatal exhaustion, health issues for yourself or baby, anxiety or overwhelm by your newly required parenting skills, breastfeeding, postnatal isolation, your own attachment history… there are many factors that may contribute to impacting the process of bonding between parent and baby.
How can I develop my bond with my baby?
Skin-to-skin contact, baby massage, breastfeeding, bottle-feeding while doing skin-to-skin, showering/bathing with baby… anything that helps you to physically connect with your baby, will encourage a bond to develop. Singing or talking to your baby, whether they can respond verbally or not. Smiling at your baby and paying attention to their reaction. Safe sleeping with your baby. Journal your feelings with authenticity and openess… both the confronting thoughts and concerns, as well as your positive, happy moments of connection and mothering. Play games that allow you to focus your attention on interacting with your little one.
Remember, it can take time.
When should I worry?
So we now know that bonding can take days, weeks or months to establish. So what indicators are there that support may be needed? Feelings of detachment, resentment toward baby/yourself/partner, numbness, depressive states, inadequacy or emotional avoidance, that interefere with your ability to function or care for yourself and/or baby, may benefit from seeking out professional support from a counsellor or your GP.
If you’re not sure, but this is concerning you for any reason, seek out support. It’s really important to recognise that this can be resolved, and deep and lasting bonds can be created once the root underlying cause is addressed.
The most important take away from this…
There is no time limit on developing a bond with your child.
You are not broken.
If you feel concerned for any reason about your bond with your baby, reach out and we will work through this.
My name is Fiona Rogerson and I am an ACA accredited perinatal Perth counsellor and Hypnobirthing (Mongan Method) Practitioner. I work with women and men to overcome emotional and psychological hurdles surrounding conception, pregnancy, postpartum, parenting and identity. I am also available to provide professional development training and workshops to various organisations. I am based south of the river in Perth and can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 0402 017 425 or via my contact page.