Google+ Authentic Parenting: Newborn Baby: When Love isn't Instant (rerun)

Monday, October 21, 2013

Newborn Baby: When Love isn't Instant (rerun)

My son was born unassisted at home, and up until the last few moments - though being intense - our birth experience was wonderful. But baby came out limp and unresponsive, which gave us quite the scare and resulted in calling the paramedics and being transferred to the hospital. To this day, I haven't really written about that part of our son's birth as it is raw and ugly and hard…
But we need to share these things too, since those are the issues where we most need support.

I had read about childbirth and what to do in emergency situations. I did know that breathing wasn't exactly necessary and as long as the baby was attached to a pulsating cord, he could take his time to start breathing on his own.

My baby being limp and unresponsive though, was something I was not prepared for.

After he was born in our birthing tub, I leaned back and lifted him to my chest and nothing. Even after some petting and talking to him, no response. My husband had gotten out of the tub as the last moments of the birth had been hard on me and he wanted to get the lights on to make sure everything was allright.

"Is he OK? Is he OK?" He asked from across the dining table.

"I don't know," I trembled, my heart pounding, "He's not reacting." My heart beat so hard I couldn't check if his hearty was beating. I had no idea he had a pulse, but his color was good.

"Is his heart beating?" my husband asked.

"I can't feel it," I said, meaning that I couldn't sense it due to my own strong heartbeat. I had glanced to find that it was a boy, but all I could think about was 'Oh my God, my baby is dead, oh dear'.

My husband - misunderstanding what I had meant - thought there was no pulse and responded in fear: "Do I call the ambulance?"

"I don't know," I said "Yes!"

So he called and in the 7 minutes it took them to come, he called twice more. Meanwhile, I had gotten out of the tub. Rubbed rescue remedy on the baby's temples . Patted him, held him head down in case he had ingested water. Patted him some more. Talked to him.

"Come on, baby, please baby. We love you, please wake up."

My daughter followed me like a beaten puppy. "Is the baby ok? Is he dead? Will he die? What's going on?"

By then we were standing in the kitchen, the cord dangling between my legs, with the placenta still to be born. It was 15 minutes before 5 AM.

Our baby boy started gasping. Small irregular "ugh ugh's".

"He's making noises, daddy!!!! Dadiieieieie!" My daughter yelled to my husband who was dwindling between the hallway, the kitchen and the front door, waiting for the paramedics to arrive.

I cried tears of joy, knowing this was a good sign. My baby was not dead - even though he was still hanging head down in my arms, cord attached and me bleeding onto the kitchen floor.

The paramedics came and checked him over. His color was good, oxygen levels great and heart beating strong. They hesitated for a while but decided to take us to the hospital anyway, just to make sure everything was ok. They cut the cord.
My husband would follow us with our daughter by car.

I transitioned to the hospital - no siren - and held my baby close to me. Both of us wrapped in two bathrobes and some sheets. He glanced at me, groggy and didn't want to drink.

Upon our arrival in the hospital, the baby was taken for examination in one of the emergency room cubicles and I was taken to another. I was too overwhelmed to complain, but my heart dropped.

From the cubicle I was taken to an exam room for some stitches and by then my husband came. My daughter climbed on the exam table with me to lay in my arms. We talked about what we would name the boy. My husband only found out we had a boy when the paramedics had put him on the table to check him over, but he hadn't reacted to it.

We found out he was doing ok, but they had put him in an isolette and on an IV. We couldn't go see him.
He was 'irritable' and once I would get to him, I couldn't touch him, or as little as possible.

When I finally got to my son, I know he recognized me, because he relaxed as soon as I spoke to him and stroked the base of his nose.

The hospital pushed formula against my will, because I was unable to produce 'enough' milk to their standards. They refused for me to hold him until the second day and even then I had to fight every new staff member I met only to get the same I had established with another midwife.

I got to take him out and hold him. Finally even nurse him a little. Pushing myself to produce enough milk with the pump so they would stop the formula. By then we found out that Belgium's milk bank had ceased to exist.

Somewhere along my hospital stay I told my husband I didn't love the child the way I did my daughter. I hadn't had that rush of oxytocin like I had with her - there wasn't the time, really. I didn't really feel connected. I just felt sad, and frustrated.

We had a falling out with both our parents when they found out the birth had been unassisted.

My daughter didn't want to leave the hospital when she came to visit and it took forcible removal every time she had to go at night. My husband was a wreck having to take care of the girl and the house and all the technical details of the baby's registration. I felt like my family was falling apart and we had no support whatsoever.

I felt sorry for myself and for the baby who was left to his own devices in that creepy isolette.

My son is seven months old as I write this and I cannot imagine how I ever doubted loving him. I can't remember when I did start, even though I do know it was not there instantly.

Was it when he smiled at me that second day? Was it the first time he nursed. Was it when he was sleeping next to me, curled into my arm, the first night we brought him home? Was it the first giggle?
I couldn't say. All I know is that I am smitten with this boy.

Difficult starts can have happy endings.

Did you have difficulties loving your newborn at once? How did you handle?



  1. I didn't connect to my firstborn (a son) immediately either. It took months. I had moments of adoration, but mostly I was absorbed in my depression and loneliness. By the time he was a year, I was most definitely smitten. He is near three now.

    I did bond immediately with my daughter, now 5months. Not sure what made the difference.

    1. After a lot of feeling anger and frustration, a couple of my friends suggested I might have postpartum depression... and actually, I think it was a depression that was coming on long before that and just pushed over the edge by the difficult birth aftermath... the birth I had prepared for so carefully.
      Seeing what was going on through my virtual friend's eyes made me realize I did have a problem and tackle it... I am getting better now.

  2. Dear Laura... Loved your post.
    I leave you with an article that tackles with imediate afterbirth and may help to understand it a bit further:
    I commented my own story and Michel Odent opinion in my own blog (it's in Portuguese, I don't know if GTranslator will do):
    I also did not bond with my daughter imediatly after birth. It actually was a growing process: I loved her more with every passing hour. I was ashamed that after the beautiful homebirth we had had, I did not feel the "intense love" everyone talks about. In fact, wasn't that the reason we decided to have a hb in the first place? To be undisturbed and get the oxitocine flowing in those first hours? This article rested my mind. I had many interferences in the particularly important first bonding moments when our hormonal rush is higher, and as Odent says, it is irrepeatable. But it does not maine the fact that they do grow on us with every heartbeat :) Love to you and your family.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Hi Laura! I just wrote a big comment and I think I deleted it by accident. Just wanted to say that you are not alone and there are scientific explanations for that. Please see this article ( and my own blog, where I comment it and post my own feelings regarding the birth of my daughter and the findings of Michel Odent on the matter:
    (its in Portuguese...)
    Love for you and your family!

    1. Hi moya, I get lots of people commenting and thinking their post was deleted. It was not, I received it correctly.
      I look forward to reading the articles you sent me and if translate won't do, I'll have to puzzle on in Portuguese ;) Now only to find a moment of spare time!
      Anyway, thanks for commenting, it means a lot

    2. hehe! Just another incentive to get me to write it bilingual! (I was thinking about it for a while) :)

  5. My heart felt so tender reading this. It reminded me of my own difficult birth with my son. I had early labor contractions for seven days that were strong enough to keep me from sleeping but never became regular enough to start dialation and full labor. So I had to transfer to hospital also for assistance because I was too exhausted to continue on my own.

    And so I felt quite traumatized by the contractions and lack of sleep. And when my son was born then, I mostly just felt exhausted relief more than a huge wave of elation. And the exhaustion continued to dominate because he was such a poor sleeper and seemed like a little frightened bird to me. We did bond and breastfeeding went well. But I never felt that wave of elation that other women speak of. And I felt sorry for us that we didn't feel that in the beginning. (But after we got through sleep struggles and I'd rested enough I think, then our love did evolve into a very joyful one)

    So, now reading your story, it's occurred to me that it could be that we felt the same intensity of "love" that other women feel, but our love for our newborns took a different form because that's just the form it has to take in difficult births since we're so overwhelmed by other fears/emotions. Somehow that little shift in perspective feels comforting for me. Maybe it could be a comfort to you also.

    1. Thank you for sharing your story. Yes, I definitely think that having the difficult afterbirth hindered my connection with my baby, and I do love him oodles, even if it was different. I wrote this post because I think many women must have experienced the same thing, but it is not really something we write about or talk about, so instead, we feel shame and feel as if we are a bad mother...

  6. I had thankfully read that sometimes, even with no complications, the bond isn't felt immediately. I didn't feel it after my 2nd birth, but the love and bonding did come with time.

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. I can only imagine how terrifying this experience must have been. I'm so glad everything worked out in the end, despite the bumps along the way.

  7. Thank you for this post. I had a very similar birth to yours with my first son. He was born at home with 2 midwives present. After a long 2nd stage, so long I was exhausted to the point I couldn't lift my own head at one point, his head was finally born in the birthing pool. In the following contractions, I tried with all my might to birth the rest of his body, even pushing when there was no contraction behind me. After 7 minutes of pushing like this the midwives told me to GET UP NOW, so I stood, and pushed, and gravity did its job, and my son was born with a splash into the pool. He was dark blue, and didn't breathe for 20 long minutes. My husband thought he was already dead (but they had checked his heart rate which was ok). While the midwives were resuscitating him, I sat on the sofa, exhausted, and emotionally numb. The paramedics came sometime after my son had finally made his first whimper, and offered congratulations to us, which felt so out of place at the time given the circumstances. We were transferred to hospital, and my son taken to SCBU, and myself to a delivery room to be checked over and given stitches. When I was finally stitched up, we had a visit from the doctors who had gone to check over my son, and they informed us that he had fluid on the lungs, had had a seizure, and would most likely have some kind of brain damage from the lack of oxygen. I went and had a bath, (had to have my husband dry me, I was only just able to stand holding onto the sink let alone get myself dry and dressed!) and once I was presentable of a fashion, my husband wheeled me into SCBU to see my baby. All 10lb of him in an incubator, he was pink and alive, but I didn't believe he was my baby. We had a 6 day stay in hospital before we could go home. It took months to bond with him, I suffered from PTSD, and often felt frustration towards him as a tiny baby. I am so thankful though that now I am still frustrated with him, as he's a completely normal and healthy (no brain damage!!!) almost-4-year-old. ;)

    1. Thank you for sharing your story, Nicky. That must have been so hard.
      PTSD is a really nasty beast... I think I might have had it after this birth too... at least that's what some of my friends told me. It does make it so much harder to bond when the birth is difficult. I am glad to hear though that your child is well and all turned out good. Big hugs to you!

  8. Yours was such a difficult beginning, it's no wonder you'd have trouble battling through whatever PTSD or PPD you might have been experiencing. I'm sorry you and your family had to go through that. I still get so sad thinking of you separated from your newborn like that. :(

    Even though with my firstborn I had an easier time of it, I still had this feeling of disconnection when he was born. Not an instant rush of love, more of a bewilderment that that's really what he looked like (my mind going, "huh"). I was ecstatic, but I had to grow in love for him — and it wasn't helped by the fact that he screamed all.the.time those early weeks, and that we had trouble breastfeeding. But now he's 5, and by golly, I love him to pieces now!

    I just want to say that I appreciate your honesty in sharing — your difficult post-birth story, yes, but also just the emotional aspects. I think sometimes parents are afraid to write about not feeling the "right" way about their kids, but others need to know they're not alone. Thank you.

    1. Had you imagined your son differently?
      I had an instant rush of love with my daughter, but I do remember thinking: oh my, her eye isn't opening, I hope she's not blind... I think I definitely need to learn to trust myself to birth perfect babies, as I have done twice already.

      Yes, sharing the ugly emotional things is so so so very hard for me, but as you point out, this is what we need to share. This is what we all struggle with and are afraid to share. So yes, I think I need to bite the bullet and bare all, however hard it is.

      And I actuality think writing about it makes it better. It makes you deal with things ugly and all...

      I have been buried really deep... with the birth and the constant moving and general ugh-ness... but I think I'm starting to do better.

  9. I popped over to your blog to read something else but found this difficult, beautiful and strong post.

    My twins were born 11 weeks early due to a complication. I had first gone into labor at 24 weeks gestation and had been in and out of hospital for the next 5 weeks until it was decided they needed to be born, fast.

    At the time I thought I dealt with the complications, the c-section and the weeks in NICU really well... but it wasn't until my twins were nearly a year old that I realized I dealt with that stuff by detaching from them.

    I was a hard thing to admit even to myself that I didn't bond well with my babies, that I was literally 'going through the motions' for much of the first few months of their lives.

    Now, nearly nine years later it still hurts a little to know that I didn't fall in love with my babies the way I imagined I would, the way it is shown on TV or gushy commercials... But a year or so ago I saw a TV show about a mother of twins who didn't bond with her babies and while I cried though the entire show it also made me realize how important it was to talk about this stuff... to share with others so they know they are not alone, to know that this doesn't make you a bad mother, and so I know I am not alone. So I posted it about it on my blog, just like you did here... and it is difficult, but important.

    Much love.

    1. thank you for your comment. It is important to share, and it's important to lift this silly taboo that lies on parental feelings...

  10. There is no "right way" either in giving birth, in bonding, in falling in love, in motherly feelings, in looking, neither in living your life.
    Thank you so much for sharing a real birth story and speaking about real feelings.
    I don't believe all the fairy tale birth stories, with overwhelming feelings, with picture perfect looking mums just weeks after giving birth. It's a myth, there is no right or perfect birth.

  11. I fell in love with my daughter so hard the very first moment that I saw her! I had no idea I would be so raw with emotion. It was so intense that it obliterated everything else that I had ever enjoyed. I had to work hard to remember that I loved my husband, even, because I just couldn't feel the same way about him as I had felt before I saw her. Eventually, things evened out again and I was able to resume my enjoyment of other things while still adoring her. When my first son was born, 2 years later, I didn't feel it at all. It was just like I had met another person, but not MY person. He was a beautiful, amazing home birth, and he did well right from the get go. But still, I didn't have that rush of emotion. And then we had a very difficult start to breastfeeding that went on for about 7 weeks. It was one of the more traumatizing events in my life and I was certain that he wasn't going to survive for a few weeks. Luckily, he did. Like you, I don't remember when we really bonded. It was not in his first 2 months of life - I can tell you that much. I was bonded enough that I cared for him, pushed through the obstacles it took to breastfeed, and worked to get him settled into life. When my third and fourth children were born (the latest just 3 weeks ago), we bonded right away, with no problems. I don't know what made the difference with my second child. To this day, if I'm having trouble with somebody, it is him. So maybe it was just foreshadowing. But, I adore him just as much as the other children now, and I am so glad that we have one another and even that we had the experience we had... sort of...

    1. thanks for sharing your story, Kellie. Even though mine is similar, I do have more issues 'handling' my daughter than I do with my son. £He's mostly our buddha child, even though he's nearly two


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