Monday, 15 August 2011
I hear the saying “Just follow your instincts; you’re the mother so you know best”. An implication that a mother instinctually knows what is best, deep down in her heart. Um.. is this really true? Or am I just a freak of nature?
When Elena was born I had zero instincts. My mom was helping me out at first, and I peppered her with questions that first week.
“Should I wake her up to feed her? Should I just let her sleep? Does it spoil her if I rush to her side every time she cries? Do the cartoon characters go on the front or back? (Yup my first diaper change I got it backwards) How do I get her to eat?”
Really, it was bad. Looking back I am astonished I didn’t somehow damage Elena for life with my limited knowledge of baby care.
I knew two things: That I wanted to be a “good” mom. (Whatever that is) and I wanted to do things the “right” way. (Again, whatever that is)
I remember feeling overwhelmed at this little child I loved, but felt like I didn’t know her. I felt guilty because I didn’t really feel bonded at birth like so many people seemed to feel. And I was obsessively reading all this mothering material hoping it would help it come naturally.
That was six years ago. Since then I have two more babies. AND I am pleased to announce that I finally, finally, have a maternal instinct. Woot woot!
I was sick the week Brandt was born. Dog-sick, throwing up, and coughing.. Since my mental state was less than optimal, I couldn’t tell if I was in labor or not, and didn’t even tell Gene until it was way too late. We made it to the hospital, the mid-wife freaked out because I was fully dilated and ready to go. A couple of pushes later Brandt was born, and I felt nothing. Physically yes, but emotionally I felt nothing. I remember thinking “I should hold him because that’s what good mothers do, but really I just want to sleep”.
The next day my mother-in-law came to visit us at the hospital, and she made the remark “Well it’s all worth the pain now, isn’t it?” I distinctly remember thinking “No, it’s not worth the pain at all” but instead I said “I guess so”.
Then came the year of a fussy baby, and bonding with Brandt came v.e.r.y. slowly. Now, he is such a sweet kind-hearted kid and I wish I would have better memories of him being born.
When Madelyn was born, it was the polar opposite of Brandt. I wanted to hold her, and loving her wasn’t a choice I had to make, but it came naturally.
Instinctive nurturing did not happen for me like I thought it would. I guess I would say I learned how to nurture. I found my “instinct” through practice, and choosing to do what good mothers do even when it feels goofy and like I’m pretending.
Sarah Hrdy is an author who claims: “Mothers do not automatically and unconditionally respond to giving birth in a nurturing way.”
She says later: “A woman who is committed to being a mother will learn to love any baby, whether it's her own or not.”
I found this quote to be consistent with my own experience, and I’m wondering what all your experiences have been.
Did that 'motherly instinct' kick in for you or did it take time?