‘Bonding’ – It’s a word you’ll hear throughout your whole pregnancy, a word that describes something exclusive and expected. But for some mums it doesn’t happen straight away and can take time. Lauren Derrett, one of our regular writers for Essex Baby shares her honest and heartfelt thoughts about her own experience. Thanks for sharing Lauren! Have you had a similar experience?

‘Bonding’ – It’s a word you’ll hear throughout your whole pregnancy, a word that describes something exclusive and expected. After the birth it’s often used as a barometer to see how well you’ve settled into your new role as mummy and you may also use it to gage whether you actually love your new baby or not. Here’s the worry: bonding should have no bearing on whether you love your baby. We are built to love our offspring. Some days when they really try us, quite often we may not like them, but love is always unconditionally there. It’s what we do, we love. It can sometimes be a struggle to make the distinction between bonding with your baby and loving your baby and this can lead to feelings of inadequacy or failure as an exhausted, hormonal, scared new mum.

You’ve read all the baby books, you’ve heard how your peers fell in love with their babies instantly, how it felt as if they had already known this little person for an eternity. It’s wonderful when this happens, but it’s not always the truth for many new mums.

I for one, held my gorgeous, precious new born son close to me in the pool when he was born and I talked about him as if he was someone else’s baby, a stranger almost, trying to decide whose face I was looking at, trying to find a genetic connection as proof that he was ours. I had spent a long time during my pregnancy ‘bonding’ with my little avocado pear right through to the point where he became a cantaloupe melon. I had conversations with him, I named him, I loved him. My impatience dictated that I get a 4D scan so I could see his face. I watched the DVD over and over, I even had the photo in a frame, pride of place on the mantel piece. I knew him… yet when the time came and he was in my arms, I felt as though I didn’t know him at all!

I expected a familiar face, having studied it for so many months and I expected to feel as though we were one, as we always had been. But when you’re there holding another human being who you just delivered into the world, it’s pretty big stuff and for some, me included, it can be a bit hard to get your thinking brain around.

This lack of bonding wasn’t exclusive to the period of time between me birthing him to me birthing my placenta. It took days, weeks, months before I felt truly bonded with this amazingly adorable child.

Some of those days I felt so awful, almost like he deserved another mother, one that was able to bond without question. Some of those days I would just stare at him thinking “who are you?” His face (even after all my swooning at scan pics and DVD re-runs) was unfamiliar to me.

Sometimes I felt he looked quizzically at me, thinking the same thing that I was. It felt at times that we were two strangers stranded in the same place and our challenge was to ‘bond’. Yet it was clear that neither of us was in any rush to hit the bonding target. I did have a quiet confidence that together we would hit it at some point though.
In all honesty I would say that we started bonding at around 15 months – probably around the time I felt we were really interacting and he was allowing more of himself to me.

This boy does not and has never liked cuddles. He loves space around him. He would fight me if I dared to put him into bed with us (I tried so many times). When he’s ill he’d rather roll around the floor crying than sit with me for comfort (which is heart-breaking I can tell you). He has the concentration span of a gnat and got bored of me routinely, so we were always out and about where there were distractions which allowed no opportunity to bond. But at around 15 months he would bring me a toy or a book and actually sit with me, only for a minute or so, but in that minute I started to notice him looking into my eyes and making a subtle connection, and then I started to feel my heart speed up and my body swell with maternal recognition. He was my boy, I was his mum and we had started our own unique journey towards our own unique bond!

Anyhow, for all new mums out there, who may be feeling the same thing, or who may worry about bonding once you’ve given birth, just relax. As Dr William Sears says:

“Bonding is not like instant glue which suddenly and irrevocably cements the mother-child relationship together forever. Bonding is a lifelong process of mother-child interaction”.

(If you are following any advice, for example post-natal exercises listed on the EssexBaby website, or anything related to health and wellbeing for you and your children (e.g. advice from other mums or bloggers about weaning or childcare) we always advise you to discuss these with your GP or health care provider first as Essex Baby Limited cannot be held responsible for any loss, damage or inconvenience caused as a result of any inaccuracy or error within its website pages.)