Earlier today I overheard someone explaining that newborns are meant to look more like their fathers in those early days, to help daddy bond with their baby. It’s a sweet idea that I’d heard before, which goes on to explain how mothers naturally form their bond during the birth process. It got me wondering if this course of nature was somehow interrupted with Caesarean births?
Our little ‘pencil legs’ kicked very infrequently during my pregnancy and I suspiciously only felt jabs in just one location. As obvious as it was that this breech baby was never going to turn, I still held onto the hope that I could still have the natural birth I so wanted. Even when my C-section date was booked in and I only had a couple of weeks to go, I slowly rubbed my tummy each night and tried to visualize her turning around in there.
You see, it wasn’t the thought of surgery that frightened me, it was the absolute fear of post-natal depression that made me hate the path I had to go down. I had already been forced to overcome the overwhelming sadness I felt when told I couldn’t have a water birth with gestational diabetes, and I only found strength by reminding myself ‘at least I can still have a natural birth’. When this was taken away as well, I was convinced that you may as well hand me a razor blade and a prescription for anti-depressants now. How could someone with such a long, shadowy history of depression not suffer when things were changing so rapidly?
The actual Caesarean and post-surgery bits will no doubt come up as blog post of their own, but what I wanted to share with you all is the feelings I had that moment our baby came out.
Was there a rush of emotions, a surge of love and devotion, or perhaps an overwhelming need to protect and nurture? Honestly? No! In fact, I felt very little. Those tears you see in my eyes are genuine of course – I did feel happy to see that our baby was alive, healthy, and finally here, but I was also gutted that nothing was how I expected.
I wanted so very much to feel all of the love others felt towards their babies, and were so quick to tell you about once they find out you are expecting too. ‘The bond was instant’ they’d say, or ‘I’ve never felt happier.’ And there I was sat in hospital thinking ‘but do I?’
I hate to admit it, but on the very first night – after my husband was told it was time for him to leave, and the lights were turned down low so that everyone could rest, I have never felt so alone. There lying next to me in her cot, was this gorgeous little baby wrapped up in hospital blankets, and all I was thinking was ‘I don’t know what to do’. When she cried, I physically couldn’t sit myself up quick enough to soothe her, nor could I pick her up or get her to feed. The room felt hot and overbearing, and so I asked the next nurse who came in if she could open the window. Two hours later – when another nurse told me it was too cold in the room for the baby and declared she’d have to wheel her away, I honestly didn’t care. With a mixture of exhaustion, pain, confusion and some relief, I fell asleep. I still don’t know what happened to her during those 4-6 hours, or where she even went. She was cup-fed formula because I wasn’t producing milk yet, which was just another reason for me to feel like more of a failure.
When my husband came back the next morning, I was instantly revived and found I could share his enthusiasm. This magical bond still didn’t make an appearance (and didn’t for some weeks) but coming home and moving on helped. I do now look at my baby girl and feel the love you would expect any mum to have, but there is still some guilt and confusion as to why I didn’t feel it sooner. I suspect that many people also go through this but never want to admit it. The only way I can explain my emotions is by my understanding of how bad I am at coping with disappointment and change.
If I think back to the idea of a ‘birthing plan’ and how I felt about my experience, I am left with a mixture of anger and sadness. So much emphasis is put on thinking about how you’d like things to go, and not on coping when the inevitable happens and your plan has to change. I become insanely jealous when other mum’s talk about their dream labour, and my husband has to remind me to focus on the fact that we must simply be happy our baby is here safely. It is all that matters, and through the momentary bitterness I really do know this.
Whether or not my feelings had something to do with the fact I had a Caesarean and not a natural birth, I don’t dare to know. I am just thankful that I did eventually work out how to love my baby, and that I had the support to get me here.