Ideally there is this magical thing that happens when you hold your baby for the first time. You look into your baby’s eyes and ZAP! You are a mother in love.
It was not like that for me–not the first time, or the second.
The first time I was tired and a little irritated that the nurse couldn’t seem to give me a moment to breathe before placing my daughter on my stomach. Apparently she wasn’t happy with my droopy eyelids either because she demanded that I open my eyes to look at my baby. Then she was encouraging me to breastfeed. Again she seemed in a rush and didn’t seem to think I was making any progress. (My husband assures me my interpretation of events was all in my head and that the nurse was very nice.)
The nurse whisked my daughter off to the nursery for cleaning, picturing, and to give her a bottle of sugar water (I’m sure there is a fancier name for it). An hour went by, and I got very anxious. I was in the process of telling my husband to go investigate when the nurse returned to tell me that they had taken my daughter to x-ray and that she was now hooked up to monitors in the nursery. Apparently she wasn’t breathing right. She was transferred to the children’s hospital in a neighboring town and I got an early discharge so we could accompany her.
Three days she stayed in the PICU hooked up to monitoring equipment that had me on pins and needles. At home I got up every three hours to pump breast milk, but without my baby the milk wasn’t coming in. I’d take my pathetic half ounce with me to the hospital where the nurse would graciously give it to my daughter before supplementing it with formula. That was a low point for me in my first days as a mother.
I did not feel the bonding process or the magic begin until my daughter came home with us. My milk came in and I was able to feed her the way I had hoped to.
The second time I thought we were better prepared. I was more alert. I gave my husband strict orders to stay with our son once he had been born as they took him to the nursery for that bath-picture-bottle routine. This time it was me that caused the emergency. Everyone had gone out with the baby. As I sat there I suddenly felt a flush of heat, my ears filled with cotton, and my stomach threatened to heave. I had enough strength to call the nurse. After that it I was in and out of it due to a hemorrhage that resulted in my needing two pints of blood put back into me.
Just when they got me sorted, my son developed jaundice serious enough to require light therapy. I didn’t get to hold him much. He looked like he was tanning in a display case. Though I tried breastfeeding, I just didn’t have it in me yet. We were both fortunately hospitalized together since there was no demand for the maternity room, but again that bonding-magic didn’t begin until we were finally able to go home together.
Again, my milk came in and I was able to feed him.
Bonding with your baby is different for everyone. Some women get that perfect magic. Some women have hormones run a muck and struggle to make a connection. Some, like me, have situations that complicate everything. Once the connection is made, however it comes about, bonding is a wonderful part of motherhood. That moment you realize how much you care for the child in your life is one that helps define you as a mother.
Was your bonding experience instantaneous or a process?
*Photo: Mother and children by blmurch, obtained through Flickr.