When you’re pregnant, and you face the fact that you’re going to have to go through the rigmarole that is actually GIVING BIRTH. That’s when you’re told, “ah, but the feeling… that rush of love makes it all worth it…”
But what if this fabled rush of love doesn’t overwhelm you the second you’re handed your screaming bundle? What if, even days later you’re still looking at this tiny, smushed up human and feel nothing but a sense of numb responsibility.
I’ve spoken at length about how X’s arrival into this world wasn’t the easiest. After 23 hours of contractions, an instrumental delivery, and a post-partum hemorrhage, I felt nothing but exhaustion. When they first shoved him on my boob I was still numb from being utterly wiped out by what had been a terrifying experience.
I knew he was mine. And I knew I needed to look after him. But there was no sudden moment of elation, no “oh god, I’m a Mum now! Look at this perfect creature! I made him!” moment. There was just a dull sense of me being too worn out to cope already.
The battle we had with breastfeeding didn’t help. It’s hard to admit, but I think I resented him. I’d had an awful time giving birth because HE was the wrong way round. We weren’t successful in breastfeeding because HE pushed his tongue the wrong way. All the things I’d hoped for in those first few heady days of parenthood were taken entirely out of my hands because of what HE had done.
It’s worth pointing out at this point before you think I’m some sort of monster, that I love my son more than I have words to express. I look back at those days now with a lot more knowledge and the awareness that I got very little in terms of professional assistance to deal with what had been a traumatic birth. It was laughed off by the first doctor I spoke to.
When I think of those first days in the hospital with him, I’m ashamed of how I felt. I was in a daze of just not knowing whether I was coming or going, and no one around me seemed to notice. Hubs was an amazing help when he was there, fetching me meals and helping me to try to feed X, but he couldn’t be at the hospital all the time. No one told me things like X could have gone down to the nursery for a bit, so I could get some rest.
That rush of love didn’t hit me for a while, but I will always remember the moment it did. It was a few weeks later, I was sat in my living room at about 3 am, with a sleepy X on my chest, when John Legend’s “All Of Me” came on the radio. Suddenly, the lyrics made sense, and I looked at this tiny creature properly for the first time – without the clouds of panic and exhaustion, without the mist of anxiety and worry. And it hit me. It overwhelmed me.
I sniffed his head, I took in every little detail of his fingertips and the curl of his ears. I let his weight rest on me without the tension I’d been holding across my whole body for weeks.
I’d hated myself for the fact that I’d not felt this straight away. Isn’t that meant to be the reward at the end of labour? A beautiful baby and a surge of oxytocin to create the maternal bond?
I know now that this rush of love isn’t something that happens to everyone, and not feeling it straight away isn’t a sign that something is wrong, or that you’re a bad person or a bad mother; it just might take a bit longer than you were expecting.
When I sit with my little man now, even though he’s getting on for 4 years old, I still sniff his head. I still gently stroke the back of his hand, and tuck his increasingly long hair behind his not-quite-so curly ears. And every now and then I still get hit by an immense rush of love – usually if I catch him falling asleep, or he cuddles in next to me and whispers that he loves me.
It may not happen straight away. But it will happen when you least expect it, no matter how old they are. Being a parent changes you, you wear your heart out in the world and it grows with them. Being a parent is tough enough without giving yourself something else to feel guilty about!
I’d love to hear your rush of love stories. Did you experience it straight away, or was it something that happened later, or gradually?