When pregnant, we’re told that we’ll love our new baby the moment we set eyes on them. We hear anecdotes from friends and family, see it on TV and films and read about it in magazines. But should we be worried if we don’t feel that love? Perhaps it’s shock initially. But what if that love and maternal instinct still isn’t there a few weeks, or even months in?
The initial shock
My twin girls were born via emergency c-section, and it went wrong. The anaesthetic wasn’t working correctly so I could feel the procedure happening and had to be put under general anaesthetic. One minute I was in a dark, quiet, calm delivery room with just my husband and midwife helping me push – the next minute I was on an uncomfortable, narrow operating table with bright lights and multiple sets of eyes shining down at me, loud voices talking around me and my husband being told he had to leave. Just writing about it I can feel my heart beating a little faster and my hands tingling slightly with anxiety.
I don’t remember anything about their birth, and this played a huge role in my struggling to bond with them. I woke up back in my bed, with Summer on my chest wearing a tiny little knitted hat. I don’t remember thinking ‘wow, she’s beautiful’ or ‘these are my very first special moments with my baby’ or even ‘where the hell is the other twin?!’. I just suddenly had this baby on me that I now had to take care of whilst recovering from a major and traumatic operation. James explained to me that Skye was being looked after in Intensive Care due to fluid in her lungs. I honestly can’t remember feeling much emotion about this at the time. It was all just such a huge shock and I still needed time to recover myself, physically and mentally.
Thrown in at deep end
The first few days with my twin girls weren’t magical or beautiful or quality family time. They were painful, exhausting and relentless. Everyone says the first days, weeks and months are the hardest but nothing can quite prepare you for the reality. It was quite lucky that we only spent five days in hospital, but it felt like the longest five days of my life!
I didn’t feel like I was enjoying my babies; I was scared of them. I hated feeding them, I hated changing their nappies – I even hated holding them. They felt so fragile and delicate and they seemed like a constant reminder that I had no idea what I was doing. My hormones were still going crazy and I was crying about the strangest things, and just generally not feeling myself at all. The nurses encouraged skin-to-skin contact but the idea of cuddling these tiny babies seemed terrifying to me! Most of the time I just left them sleeping in their cots, unless I had to feed or change them.
I thought I would feel a lot better once I got home, and I did in some ways because I was back in comfortable, familiar surroundings. But I still didn’t really feel that bond with my girls. I was struggling with healing pain from my c-section. The stitches had split, so I had constant bleeding to deal with on top of everything else.
All the things I had been looking forward to – using all our new baby equipment, seeing the girls in their beautiful nursery, dressing them in cute little outfits – none of that mattered to me. It was just a matter of getting through the days and nights. Thankfully my husband was an absolute rock through this time. My wound meant there were some things I couldn’t easily do, and he was always there for me. At this point I still hadn’t really acknowledged (even to myself) that I wasn’t bonding with the girls.
I hate them
When the girls were a few weeks old I vividly remember telling James, standing in the kitchen doorway, that I hated the girls. I told him I hate how they’ve disrupted our perfectly happy life as a couple. I told him I hate how the feeding and crying feel like they’ll never end. I told him I hate how they’ve ruined my body. I told him I hate how we get no reward for all the hard work we’re putting in – they don’t do anything!
It seemed that now was the stage where I realised my ‘maternal instinct’ hadn’t kicked in, like I assumed it would. I’d seen people who were just ‘made’ to be parents and knew I wasn’t like them. I’d known and been told about women who never wanted to be a mother, but as soon as they had a baby their life changed and became complete, and they ‘immediately fell in love.’ I’d assumed throughout pregnancy that I would immediately love and be besotted with these babies, so my nonchalant attitude towards motherhood was a surprise even to myself.
Thoughts even crossed my mind about how I could give them up, or who could take them on for me. I really didn’t think I was cut out for this. I didn’t want them to come to any harm, I just felt I couldn’t cope with how they had changed my life. I didn’t really see them as my daughters. It seemed like madness that no-one had warned me about this; it felt like I had been tricked by everyone.
The gradual change
The first smiles and laughs were what changed everything for me. Time is a great healer – of the body and mind. So after a few months I was already feeling more positive about life as a family of four, but to see them actually express their happiness suddenly made everything feel worth it. As they grew bigger and learned new things, I started to actually see them as individuals and real people, rather than tiny, scary, noisy babies!
It has been a slow and gradual process, but I can honestly say by six months of barely leaving their side (probably sooner, but definitely by then!), I had completely fallen in love with Summer and Skye. It wasn’t the immediate love that I expected, but that doesn’t make it any less real. I’ve used the phrase ’they’ve grown on me’ so many times, and it’s true! Seeing their personalities shine, hearing their giggles and watching them start to interact with the world around them has been the most amazing experience. Seeing them accomplish new things as a direct response to my own parenting is the most rewarding thing imaginable.
Ten months in, and I’m obsessed with them! I cuddle them all the time, I laugh with them, I play with them, I have ‘girly chats’ with them. At this point, I check on them when they’re asleep just because I enjoy seeing them peacefully sleeping. I am so confident in my own skills as a mother, I’ve stopped taking so much advice from people. Not because I don’t trust their advice, but because I trust my own instincts a lot more. I know I’m doing a good job because I have two happy, healthy, vibrant little girls and I’m proud of how far we’ve all come together.
If you don’t feel that immediate bond with your baby or twins, please know you are not alone. Many factors can contribute to why you may feel this way, but time really is a wonderful thing. Your baby will change and develop and motherhood will become a lot more rewarding. I felt incredibly alone when I realised I didn’t ‘love’ my twins. It would be amazing if everyone could chat about how normal it is to feel this way. I hope talking frankly about my own experience has helped at least one person realise the long, dark and challenging tunnel truly has a light at the end of it.
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