I don’t think, in my case, I’d call it postnatal depression but I certainly found the experience of early motherhood different to what I was expecting. I’ve read that if the birth doesn’t go according to your plans, it can be harder to bond with your child and that would certainly hold in my case. The one outcome that I absolutely didn’t want to deal with was a caesarean. Even though I was internally scathing of women who have a written birth plan that they take with them into the labour ward. “How ridiculous, you can’t possibly know what’s going to happen in labour.”, I thought. The inference being, I’m so much more in touch with reality than they are.
In truth, the only difference between them and me is that I didn’t write it down. Oh and that mine happened at week 37 and had nothing at all to do with labour, or any kind of immediate crisis. It was all a very academic decision, it felt so very unreal. My plan, was however, just as firmly etched into my subconscious. I still knew exactly what I didn’t want. “You have to trust the doctors”, I would have said out loud, “in the end the most important thing is that you and the baby are healthy.”. What I really meant was, as long as I don’t have to have my abdomen sliced in two, to get the baby out, everything will be fine. I don’t think I even realised the hypocrisy, I just felt like I was going to have a natural birth. The 5 babies born to the women in my immediate family, thus far, were all born naturally, 4 drug free. I’m a high achiever; I was going to do it too.
So when my son was born and my body was irreversibly changed and scarred, I felt like I was at least entitled to all those emotions that I believed new mothers felt. The unconditional love, both for and from your child, but it didn’t happen like that. This strange little creature had all sorts of needs and I was constantly giving to him, but he didn’t seem to be capable of loving me back. Certainly not in any way that I expected, or that made me feel loved. Sleep deprivation makes a person crazy too, no doubt.
It was many, many months before I would get my first cuddle, one that actually felt like he was reciprocating in love, instead of just being involved because he had no other option. I’m not sure if it’s the man in him, or just the unique individual that he is but his affection and love are shown in a totally different way to what I expected. Even now, the fact that my son loves me, adores me really, is communicated in surprising and unexpected ways. They are charming and heart warming and I live to discover them but they were not what I anticipated and for a while I had to learn enough about him to be able to see them.
* Image from http://500px.com/photo/319775