Bonding, or a Lack Thereof
Posted by JLK
This is a blog post for which I would really, really like feedback from other moms.
When I was falling in love with my husband, I would look at him and feel pure love washing over me. This wasn’t lust (although there was plenty of that), it was a sense of being lost inside of him, and he in me. I was expecting to feel this with my boys and I didn’t.
Peanut Butter & Jelly (I picked my code names!) are four months old now. I am concerned that I haven’t properly bonded with them. At the beginning, when they were in the NICU, my main emotion was fear. It was overwhelming and I got very little sleep. I felt something toward them, but I’m not sure what to call it. I spent all day, every day at the hospital, and I held them, but for all but 2 days of the 3 weeks they were there, I couldn’t do much with them. I couldn’t feed them (they were fed through a tube), I couldn’t go anywhere with them (they were attached to multiple monitors/IVs etc), and for the first week I was limited in the amount of time I could hold them because they had to be under jaundice lights and Jelly had to stay in an isolette. I spent my days pumping and looking at them, trying to will myself to feel a surge of love for them. I felt affection. I felt a desire to protect them. I cried when Jelly had bradycardia episodes, but I didn’t feel what I thought I should feel.
I’ve read that it can be normal. If it is, why do I feel so much shame about it? I believe in attachment parenting, yet I feel sort of detached from my little babies. It makes me feel like a fraud.
Breastfeeding was and is something incredibly important to me. I stuck it out when I think most people would have given up. I began truly breastfeeding (rather than bottle-feeding pumped milk) around 11 weeks. I thought for sure that would be the thing that would truly meld my heart with theirs. It worked that way with my first two children, so why hasn’t it this time?
People told me that it would come after we got home from the hospital, but it didn’t.
People told me that it would come once they could keep their eyes open and look around, but it didn’t.
People told me that it would come when they could smile and coo, but it hasn’t.
When does it come? Have I missed some window of opportunity? What’s wrong with me that I don’t feel it?
Moreover, what does it feel like? I imagine it’s this gushing sort of emotion, or maybe just a sense of peace when you look at your child. Is this right? How would you describe it?
That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it.