Ever since I can remember, I have dreamt of the moment I finally met my very first baby.
The strength of emotion just thinking about it was unbelievable. Before I was even pregnant, I was overwhelmed and excited at the mere anticipation of having a little bundle ‘one day‘.
I watched One Born Every Minute, hopelessly in love and in floods of tears every time a new baby came bursting into the world. Every little bloody, gunky cherub a miracle.
And so naturally, I expected to feel these emotions 100x more intensely when I finally met my own baby.
But it didn’t quite happen that way.
Instead of the overwhelming rush of heart-rendering love and free-flowing tears, I felt very little but shock.
One minute, I was safe in the knowledge a baby was inside me, the next, an actual baby was on my chest. And all I could think was… how the hell did that happen!?
It was screaming and crying and I didn’t know what to do. I shhh’ed and I whispered and I calmed. But inside I was thinking, surely this is a mistake and someone is going to come and take it away from me in a minute?
Don’t get me wrong – the love was most definitely there. I would have gouged out the eyes of anyone who actually tried to remove her from me. It’s just that it didn’t feel like I’d always pictured it would, and that confused me.
Obviously now I’m not in a labour room, holding a writhing newborn whilst being treated for a postpartum haemorrhage, I can totally understand the shock. It’s never quite real until it’s real. But at the time, I felt absolutely awful for not even shedding a tear and being grateful when my husband took her from me.
If you’ve read Part Two Of my Birth Story, you’ll know that after the birth, I was knee-deep in infection and lack of blood and so was pretty much a zombie for the first few days. I could barely lift a finger to help care for my baby. But I continued to mistake this feeling for a lack of bonding. I didn’t understand why I couldn’t look after my baby like a mother should, even though I felt so unwell.
And this set off the fear
The fear that I was heading into postnatal depression.
Nowadays, there’s so much information available (which is a fantastic thing, obviously) about PND that it’s very easy to try and self-diagnose any emotion out of the ‘ordinary’. But when it comes to having babies, very few emotions are ‘ordinary’. And although being aware of PND and getting help as soon as you recognise you need to is essential, self-diagnosis a day or two postpartum is only adding fuel to your paranoid fire. It’s like when Mr Google suggests a twitch in the eye means certain death.
Being a brand new mother is not immediately rainbows, joy, and bunnies hopping around in pinafores. It’s hard. It’s a huge adjustment to make.
I wish I’d allowed some time to do that adjusting before starting to worry myself. It only made things feel worse. If it had persisted, then I’d have certainly sought help from a medical professional (not Auntie Google), but I’m glad I gave it a few days first.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing
Thankfully, the minute we were released from hospital, I was flooded with relief and began to feel those fears slip away. I was so focused on not getting PND that I was almost making it harder for myself to enjoy my new baby.
With the amazing benefit of hindsight, I know that everything I felt was totally normal. And I’m no longer ashamed to admit I was this overwhelmed at first.
I’m hoping that any new or expectant mothers reading this will take comfort in these words if they too find that it’s nothing like they expected. People tell you that you can never imagine it until it happens, but I wish I’d known the honest reality of the confusing emotions I’d face.
Obviously, everyone will experience something different, but if this helps someone else feel a little less alone, then my job here is done :).