Everybody tells you that you will feel intense love the moment you hold your new-born baby in your arms.
This didn’t happen to me with my first child. A straightforward birth started under the benevolent gaze of an ex-community midwife, who went out of her way to give me an experience as close as possible to the home birth I’d planned. However, when she went off-duty, a strident midwife took her place: a woman who started with: “There’s been meconium in your waters, so I need you flat on your back for monitoring”. When I pointed out that the previous midwife had also been monitoring me continually but had worked out a way for me to pace beside the monitor, as pacing helped me to cope with the pain, she made it clear that pacing was not going to happen on her watch.
She also forbade me to swear, to scream in pain, and pretty much forced upon me the gas-and-air mix that I had been determined not to take. I became so dizzy with the gas, I nearly fell off the bed (my sister caught me). At no point did the midwife speak a word of encouragement. Her favourite expression was: “I’m not going to tell you that you’re about to push this baby out, because you’re not”. (When I did push him out, she was filling in her notes and she actually cried out in surprise at his sudden appearance.) The skin tore around the entrance to my vagina, and she took an hour to do eight stitches. During this time, our new baby was passed between his dad and his aunt – while I looked on in wonder at this creature, who seemed to bear no relation to me.
Part of me shut down during that birth. Control was taken from me, and I was left in shock. It took years – plus some great sessions from a hypnotherapist and a homeopath – to feel the wall had come down between me and my little boy.
It wasn’t depression: just a sense that what had happened to me had nothing to do with the beautiful little child who had appeared by my side. I was hard on him – something I still feel guilty about. I expected too much of a child of just two or three. I looked at him with judgement when I should have been looking on with smiles and love. That has affected his development – his sense of self-worth. I can only try to undo the damage.
I am telling you all of this, because I know mums often feel too ashamed to admit that they don’t feel overwhelmed with love for their new babies.
But that’s all right. Seek help. Childbirth can be a traumatic and emotionally damaging experience, but it’s not your fault. Find a therapy that works for you, and try to get past the point at which a part of you shut down.
Most of all, be kind to yourself. I am still trying to forgive myself for my treatment of my first-born boy. Our relationship now is full of praise from me, and big hugs. He is fifteen, and adorable. I feel lucky that therapy helped me to realise this.
Sending you love and support,