24 November 2015


Our Views

What if I don’t immediately fall in love with my baby?

In December 2008 my daughter was born.

She was ten months in the making, nine months eight days in the growing and two days in the delivering.

And there she was. She didn’t look a thing like either of us and the first thing the midwife said when she was born was ‘wow, she’s loud.’

When my husband left me in the hospital that first night I was terrified. Where was my certification to say I was allowed to be responsible for this other human being? Who on earth was letting this happen? I had absolutely no idea what to do with this little bundle of noise.

The only thing I had taken from our NCT classes beyond the birth was that ‘breast is best’ and if I was a good person I must feed my baby. So that’s what I did.

I was kept in hospital for a full twenty four hours, during which time I fed and I fed and I fed. That is, until a midwife popped in and declared ‘feeding her again; she’s got you wrapped round her finger.’ My daughter was one day old and had already been introduced to me as loud and manipulative.

I wasn’t expecting the impact that labour had on my body. I just didn’t feel like myself any more.

Nothing seemed to work the way it had before. Walking into town on day eight was like running a marathon and I wasn’t sure I was going to make it home intact.

And then the one thing I knew I should be doing became hard too. ‘Breast feeding is the most natural thing in the world’ you’re told as a new mum. ‘It shouldn’t hurt and if it does you must be doing it wrong.’ I consulted books, Google, friends, feeding clinics, GPs, health visitors − everything I could think of. But eight weeks in and I was in serious and almost constant pain.

Every time my daughter cried I felt a sense of dread. She was always hungry. Feeding was the only thing that seemed to soothe her and yet the pain was enough to bring me to tears.

After weight loss (her, not me), sustained injuries (me, not her) and umpteen emotional conversations, I finally spoke to a lady on a breastfeeding helpline who said it sounded like I had systemic thrush of the milk ducts. I called my GP and basically diagnosed myself, telling him exactly what to prescribe for me. Within three days feeding was easier and within ten days I was completely cured.

My daughter was four months old now and only fed for another couple of weeks. The last feed I gave her was the morning of a trip we took to Devon. I wanted to feed her before the long car journey.

She had other ideas. She bit me. Even before she had words she had a way of letting me know how she felt.

You can probably tell that I found becoming a mum slightly challenging. I also suffered from post-partum thyroiditis and our daughter took a full eight months before she slept through the night even once.

But the hardest thing of all was bonding with my daughter. Maybe it was the resulting ailments and exhaustion that made it hard; maybe it was because I couldn’t see any genetic resemblance between her and us; maybe because I didn’t go to the bathroom on my own until I returned to work a year later, by which point I had given up drinking hot drinks entirely. Maybe it was because she was born with ‘leadership potential.’ Whatever it was, I found our daughter very hard work.

This is an aspect of parenthood that nobody tells you about beforehand. That you just might not click with your baby the minute it’s born. You may, and that’s wonderful, but if you don’t, it will be ok.

Love can blossom over time. Pride can swell with experience. And familiarity can be seen in the roll of an eye.

My daughter is nearly seven now. She is still challenging, but she is also independent, single-minded, confident, creative, and articulate, and I love her without bounds. She is the spitting image of her younger brother, as tone deaf as her father and can throw a dry look just like her mother.

Click here to watch Debbie sharing more of her experiences of parenthood.

Debbie Martin is a working mother of two. Her career started in Management Consultancy and she is now the Chief Happiness Officer at ANDigital professional services firm. She is also juggling a part-time Masters in Applied Positive Psychology and can be found on Friday nights enjoying a large glass of wine.