When Does the Bonding Kick in? by Lauren Derrett
Bonding – It’s a word you’ll hear throughout your whole pregnancy, a word that describes something exclusive and expected. After the birth it’s often used as a barometer to how well you’ve settled into your new role as mummy and you yourself may use it to gage whether you actually love your new baby or not. Here’s the worry, bonding should have no bearing on whether you love your baby or not, we are built to love our offspring, some days when they really try you then quite often we may not like them, but love is always unconditionally there, it’s what we do, we love. It can sometimes be a struggle to make the distinction between bonding with your baby and loving your baby and this can lead on to feelings of inadequacy or failure to an exhausted, hormonal, scared new mum.
She’s read all the baby books, she’s heard how her peers fell in love instantly with their babies, how it felt as if they had already known this little person for an eternity and that’s wonderful when that happens, but it’s not truth for many new mums.
I for one, held my gorgeous, precious new born son close to me in the pool that I had just born him in and I talked about him as if he was someone else’s baby, a stranger almost, trying to decided whose face I was looking at, trying to find a genetic connection as proof that he was ours. I had spent a long time during my pregnancy ‘bonding’ with my little avocado pear right through to the point where he became a cantaloupe melon. I had conversations with him, I named him, I loved him, my impatience dictated that I get a 4D scan so I could see his face, I watched the DVD over and over, I even had the photo in a frame, pride of place on the mantel piece. I knew him……yet when the time came and he was in my arms, I felt as though I didn’t know him at all!
I expected a familiar face, having studied it for so many months and I expected to feel as though we were one, as we always had been. But when you’re there holding another human being who you just delivered into the world, it’s pretty big stuff and for some, me included can be kinda hard to get your thinking brain around.
This lack of bonding wasn’t exclusive to the period of time between me birthing him to me birthing my placenta……it took days, weeks, months before I felt truly bonded with this amazingly adorable child, some of those days I felt so awful, almost like he deserved another mother, one that was able to bond without question. Some of those days I would just stare at him thinking “who are you” his face (even after all my swooning at scan pics and DVD re-runs) was unfamiliar to me, some of those days I felt he looked quizzically at me, thinking the same thing that I was. It felt at times that we were two strangers stranded in the same place and our challenge was to ‘bond’ it was clear that neither of us was in any rush to hit the bonding target, but I had a quiet confidence that together we would hit it at some point.
In all honesty I would say that we started bonding around 15months, probably around the time I felt we were really interacting and he was allowing more of himself to me. This boy does not and has never liked cuddles, he loves space around him, he would fight me if I dared to put him into bed with us (I tried so many times) when he’s ill he’d rather roll around the floor crying than sit with me for comfort (heart-breaking I can tell you) he has the concentration span of a gnat and got bored of me routinely so we were always out and about where there were distractions which allowed no opportunity to bond. But at around 15months he would bring me a toy or a book and actually sit with me, only for a minute or so, but in that minute I started to notice him looking into my eyes and make a subtle connection, and then I started to feel my heart speed up and my body swell with maternal recognition, he was my boy, I was his mum and we started our own unique journey towards our own unique bond!
“Bonding is not like instant glue which suddenly and irrevocably cements the mother-child relationship together forever. Bonding is a lifelong process of mother-child interaction” – Dr William Sears
Lauren is a doula and founder of The Whole 9 Months (www.thewhole9months.co.uk) She offers careful thought out gift boxes full of luxury and essential items for modern mamas to be. She is passionate about making pregnant women and siblings feel considered and nurtured during their journeys to meeting their new baby.