There are a few pregnant bloggers about at the moment, many of whom have blogged about the oft-blogged topic of survivor's guilt. I harped on about this myself in the beginning; I didn't feel as if I belonged in the IF camp, but I felt even more of an outsider when grouped with The Pregnants. I was fearful to convey that any guilt I felt arose from my fear of blogging about pregnancy, but not actually about being pregnant. I didn't want to come across as if I'd forgotton my IF roots by blathering on and on about pregnancy as if my Clomid, IUI and IVF cycles never existed. However, I suffered no guilt about the pregnancy itself, as my logic was (and is) that I worked hard for it and it finally happened for me. A note to other pregnant bloggers - that is nothing to feel guilty about.
So I skipped the survivor's guilt in the traditional sense. Now I'm experiencing a new incarnation of this dreaded affliction. My new guilt is two fold - it functions as a form of survivor's guilt, but it also moonlights as maternal guilt. I had a baby that took me 4 years of infertility treatment to meet. I agonised for all this time about how my body was failing me, and how I was failing my husband. I got pregnant, waxed poetic in my mind about how blissfully happy I would be once she arrived, and convinced myself that the lack of maternal instinct I so feared was actually a blinding maternal instinct that was merely latent. Imagine my surprise when the long-awaited baby arrived and the maternal instinct failed to kick in.
Though I have spent a large portion of the past few years of my life ignoring pregnant women and Child Bores, I have picked up that when a baby is born, love is instant. You gaze into your child's eyes and see everything you had ever wished for. This is obviously enhanced greatly within the infertile community, as hell, you went through physical and emotional agony for ages trying to get to this point. When P. was born she was given to me as soon as she came out. I held her on my chest, in complete amazement that this being was here and officially part of our lives. In retrospect, love never entered the equation. I would like to say that I was overwhelmed with adoration for the most perfect baby ever born, but all I noticed was the lack of that feeling.
The Dude was instantly smitten, and sensing that my maternal instinct had yet to kick in, repeatedly said, "Look at her. Just look at her, she's gorgeous", as if this idea would suddenly dawn on me and I'd spout sonnets about the beauty of my baby and my all-consuming love for her. I don't imagine that my hellacious week-long stay in the hospital aided in the bonding between P. and myself. I was frustrated at not being able to feed her, depressed that she was jaundiced for days, and forlorn that this was the start of my new life - a life I suddenly felt as if I didn't want after all.
Once I was home from the hospital, I started attending weekly coffee mornings held by the group of women in my antenatal class. P. was the first of the group to be born and the other women wanted to know all about my experiences. I told them all the factual stuff relating to labour and delivery, but avoided any flowery sentiments regarding my feelings toward P. When people would give me big, cheesy smiles and say, "Don't you just love her to bits?", I had to restrain myself from shrugging my shoulders and saying, "Yeah, she's alright I guess". You get reported for that sort of response in connection to your child, don't you?
Soon other babies were born to the women in my group and each get together was a jumble of women gushing about how much they loved their babies and how they would not hesitate a moment before going through it all again. "She was so worth it", "I fell in love instantly", and "I'd like at least 10 now!" were constant companions in the conversations and it made me feel as if I was a complete freak of maternal nature. I wondered if these women were just saying these things because they were obligated to, or if they genuinely felt that instantaneous bond with their new son or daughter. I couldn't decide if I was envious of them or resentful that this had come so easily to them.
It's unfortunate that you rarely hear that some women don't bond with their child immediately after birth. One of the few instances in which I've heard such feelings expressed was in relation to women with postnatal depression. It doesn't seem to be widely acknowledged that there are women out there not experiencing depression that might take more than 10 seconds to fully bond with their children.
I have never failed to calm P., to hold her and whisper to her that everything will be ok. I tell her that her mama will take care of her and make her feel better. Until recently, I did that out of obligation rather than hopeless adoration of my baby. I went through the motions because I didn't have a choice, and rarely did I feel as if this was my child to love unconditionally and eternally. I've spent much of my mothering time up to now ruing the loss of my previous life, the one I will never.have.again. No independence, no sleeping in, and no spontaneity. Ever.
This is what I wanted, right? A cute, cuddly baby who throws up in my cleavage at least twice a day? Check. I just didn't think I'd look at this baby and not connect with her any more than I would the child of a friend. After I was feeling this way for weeks, I stumbled upon the most fantastic post ever, courtesy of Morphing into Mama. This post has changed my life. I know it sounds dramatic, and I'm sure it is, but shit...how did I not find this earlier? There ARE women like me out there, we're not an urban myth of bad parenting!
MiM questions how it is possible to be in love with someone you have just met. It doesn't usually happen within the context of romantic love, so why is this any different? Yes, this tiny person is a product of you, but that doesn't mean you know who they are and who they will be from birth. For awhile they are just screaming little shitting leeches who occasionally allow you to get some much-needed sleep. There, that's me waxing poetic.
The more traditional of you will be pleased to know that I am slowly coming round. More and more P. is feeling like my own. It's taken nearly 8 weeks to get to this stage, but I'm getting there. I had an epiphany the other day when I was holding P. after a feed which gave me faith that I might actually love my little red-haired punk baby. She had her pacifier in (yes, I am that kind of parent and damn proud of it), looked me directly in the eyes and smiled. It was fleeting, but I've convinced myself that it was meant for me and not as a result of squeezing out a squirty poo or a tiny fart. I may be deluding myself, but I suppose if this is a step toward proper bonding, I'll take it. I'm not Catholic, lapsed or otherwise, so I can only take so much guilt.