I mentioned in my last post that bonding ended up being a little tricky for me and Violet, and I wanted to share a little bit more about what the journey was like. I've wanted only to be a mother since I was little. I have the work ethic and drive to accomplish interesting things professionally if I want to, but I always knew that I really wanted to spend my time raising little ones. I'm a nurturer and encourager, what better way to use the skills than to take care of a family?
Imagine my surprise when, rather than giving birth naturally, I wound up with a C-section, which was completely beyond my control. Due to the circumstances surrounding Violet's birth, I never went through the hormonal changes or bodily cues of labor and delivery, so I think the two of us really missed out on that shared traumatic experience. Which is a weird thing to say, really, that I wanted and needed trauma. But, it's true. The female body is so perfectly designed to handle childbirth, and my body, coming from seemingly excellent child bearing stock, wasn't allowed to make use of reserves and resources to bring our little girl into the world in the way nature intended. So, without any of the bodily cues of labor, our daughter all of a sudden showed up. And I think that's the reason our first few days suffered.
One of the worst parts of all of this was that I wasn't able to hold her for so long after she was born. That dumb IV line inside my arm really made it difficult to cradle her, hold her, nurse her- and I ended up feeling weirdly incapable and kind of ineffective as her mother for the first few days. Which, for someone who craved having a baby and has decent maternal instincts, is incredibly frustrating. I felt like I didn't even get to know my kid as I watched everyone else fall in love with her.
Once we got home, my breaking point kind of hit about two weeks after Violet's arrival. It was strange, since I seemingly was so comfortable handling this new little baby. Picking her up, adjusting her head position, lifting her, wrangling her little limbs into clothes, walking around with her in my arms- it all felt natural and easy and not scary. I knew what to do with a fragile little person. But, some deeper connection was missing.
I remember one morning feeling especially sad, and confided in Rob that I felt like it was my cosmic punishment to not feel a connection with my little girl because of the C-section and because I wanted her so badly. And I know that's a silly thing to think, but it really felt like my truth. I didn't know this little girl, and I didn't have the wave of recognition or instant bond with her. I would love to say that I could blame simply my expectations of labor and delivery versus what actually happened with the elongated and pretty awful hospital stay and C-section delivery (though the surgery was expertly handled and a pretty easy recovery, all things considered). My hormones were telling my brain a different story though. The baby blues are no joke, and I know that a whole bunch of factors were to blame for my feelings of disappointment, disconnection, and slight depression. I felt like I had been cheated out of the opportunity to go through the shared experience with Violet of childbirth. I felt like I had been cheated out of what I should have been able to handle physically. Again, I know this is silly.
Also, around week three, Violet started getting really fussy out of the blue. Evenings where she would scream her head off, and we couldn't figure out how to console her. It wasn't every day, so we didn't know for sure if it was colic, or if something else was wrong. The feeling of being overwhelmed at the prospect of facing not only feelings of disconnection with my daughter, but also facing the possibility of managing a colicky baby hit me hard. (We're pretty confident now that her little gut wasn't, and still isn't, fully matured and girlfriend has gas problems)
Naturally, this is all made worse by the fact that my mom and Rob both found ways to rock or bounce Violet and she would calm herself relatively quickly. I felt like I was doing a lousy job of feeding her, I was not able to get out as many good burps from her, I couldn't settle her with a magical rocking pattern, and my walking and dancing with her was lame since my back was so weak post C-section; nothing I was doing seemed to soothe her the way that Rob or mom could. I felt like I was failing, and I think failing in the little things felt worse than failing at being able to "actually giving birth to her"- again, I know it was dumb to be thinking in those terms since I had to manage the stress of 5 days of kidney stone before her arrival and I do know how big of a deal it was to make smart choices for her health, as well as mine, during that time.
I definitely found that admitting, not only to myself, but out loud and to my family that I was feeling helpless and ineffective was enough to take the bigness out of my feelings of disconnection and failure. I spent a few days clinging quietly to the façade of being the natural mommy, while shoving my feelings of inadequacy into the back of my own head. Which felt lonelier and worse. The minute I admitted how I was feeling, a lot of the negativity lifted. Getting a first glimmer of recognition by eye contact and the beginnings of a smile didn't hurt the cause either.
There was no secret way to fix my difficulties bonding, there was no abracadabra way of stopping myself from feeling frustrated or sad or isolated. And I really have no words of wisdom to give other moms who might be coming up on their own journeys with a tough time of bonding, but I hope that maybe this encourages someone else to keep going for just one more week, just a few more days, just share a little bit of what you're feeling. Because that may be enough action and enough extra time to chase away the negative and allow you to embrace all of the wonderful goodness of snuggling soft babies and sniffing newborn hair and enjoying the crap out of your new little person. I really can't remember the moment it turned around for us, but I did start seeing this tiny person as my tiny person. My little girl who is, so far, her dad's look-alike with blonde hair, blue eyes, and the same high peaked lips. I finally got excited to find out if her seriously comedic facial contortions would become her trademark, got to daydreaming about putting band aids on skinned knees and wondering if she'd be an adventurer and nature girl, or maybe a creative bookworm, or maybe an empathetic socialite like her dad. I finally fell in love with her, even though I was always comfortable taking care of her and knew she was awesome. I just never figured it would take me over 6 weeks to get there.