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The mother-baby bond. Something I have heard about a lot since becoming a mother several years ago…
My first birth experience was very rough. I was in labor a total of 24 hours and at the end I had a fourth degree tear – the worst you can have. It took them two hours to stitch me up and during that time I was only briefly able to see my son. The doctor was so worried about stitching me up correctly that she didn’t want me to move. My son was brought to me during the two hour period, but I was not able to hold him.
I will never forget the feeling when I first heard of the mother-baby bond that was supposed to happen the second the baby is delivered. I never got that moment and I felt like a failure. I read numerous blog posts about mothers and babies who advocated for immediate skin-to-skin contact as soon as the baby was born, but I never read anything for the poor moms who had difficult births or c-sections and never got that moment. I was also never able to breastfeed – another thing advocated for the mother-baby bond and because of that and the birth experience, my guilt was piled on.
Several years later, I was sitting in the Psychologist’s office answering questions about my son, who was getting tested for autism. Tons and tons of questions were asked, but then the one I didn’t know how to answer came up.
“Do you have a bond with your son?” She asked quietly.
I stopped and thought, unsure of how to answer. I never had that “bonding” moment in the hospital and I felt surely I had missed that opportunity.
“I’m not sure.” I said.
She sat and listened while I explained my birth situation, what had happened and how I was never able to breastfeed. She could hear the guilt in my voice as I told her we never had the “perfect bonding moment” we were supposed to have and that everyone else describes.
She stopped right there and looked at me intensely.
“You should never feel guilty for what happened and none of it is your fault. The bond I am talking about is a bond that goes beyond birth and breastfeeding, it’s a bond that comes over time and just by being his mother.” She paused and then continued. “Does your son hug you? In a crowded room will he run to you? Does he call for you? Those are signs that you are bonded. He loves you and you love him.”
I sat there feeling a weight lifted off me. Of course she was right! Bonding didn’t just happen at birth it’s something that happens as you raise your child. It is that moment you first held him, the quiet moments at night feeding him, the moment you saw that first smile, the first laugh, the first time he crawled, walked, and his first word. The moments where he runs up and gives you a hug or just wants to sit with you and cuddle.
Those are the moments that bond you together. The sweet moments you get to watch from infancy and up. It doesn’t just happen overnight, it’s a process that happens throughout the life of your child.
To all the mommies who had rough births, c-sections or did not get to breastfeed: If you think you missed your moment, don’t feel guilty! Don’t feel like you missed your opportunity to bond, because you haven’t. There will be plenty of opportunities over the years that you raise your child.
As I prepare for the birth of my second child, my daughter via c-section, I am confident that no matter what happens my little girl and I will be fine. Whether or not we get that moment, is not important it’s the moments that follow afterward and for the rest of her life!