Hi Laura, and thank you so much for your piece on the difficulties of maternal bonding. What would you say to parents who feel that the bonding problems in the early days have caused irreparable damage to the relationship with their child?
- You’re welcome. I hope it’s helpful to someone. I would say that it is never too late, and I would encourage them to find ways to have lovely moments with their child/children and build relationship now. Some ideas might be “love bombing”, which is essentially taking time out with your child to give them your undivided attention and allowing them to pick the activity, or having a think about the five “love languages” (words of affirmation, acts of service, gifts, quality time, physical touch) as we all give and receive love in different ways.
You talk about being unable to preserve the non-physical memories of your son; have you come up with any creative ways of keeping memories?
- I’m a bit of a hoarder by nature so have to be strict with myself but I’ll definitely keep some sentimental objects. I try to remember to video him occasionally. I recorded his laugh and created a waveform-style image which is now a tattoo on my wrist. Ultimately, though, some things are fleeting and irretrievable and we have to come to terms with that. I will lose my baby boy but hopefully I’ll get a nice young man in his place who will bring me breakfast in bed on Mother’s Day!
I know exactly what you mean when you say that you don’t know where he ends and you begin, but how do you go about distancing yourself when you need a bit of “me time”?
- I am fortunate to be able to hand him over to my husband or now to a childminder two days a week as I am back at work part-time. I do struggle, though, not to constantly supervise someone supervising my child! It helps to get far enough away that I can’t hear him.
What kind of support was offered to you after your son’s traumatic birth? Did you feel you got the help you needed?
- Not really. I was offered a birth debrief but it wasn’t very helpful because the notes were out of chronological order, giving a confused picture, because I was not in any mental state to absorb and process so much new information coming at me so quickly, and because it felt like a bit of an exercise in ensuring that I didn’t sue them! I am planning to go through the notes again more slowly and carefully with someone impartial so that I can put the whole thing to rest a bit.
How did your partner cope with bonding with your son?
- He was also quite shell-shocked initially but they adore one another now. He’s a great dad, very hands-on, but their relationship is very different to my relationship with my son. I think he sees his dad as primarily for making him laugh and rough-and-tumble mucking about, while I’m the main source of comfort. Relationships are probably more simplistic when you’re thirteen months old!
And finally, what is you and your son’s favourite activity?
- That’s a good question. Is cuddling an activity? We cuddle a lot. We build with Duplo. We go to the library. He grows and changes, and his preferences develop, so quickly that I find myself having to constantly adapt. I also find that our time is sort of dominated by household chores or by my being exhausted, which is far from ideal but I’m sure many PND mums will empathise. Bedtime is a very special time for us, though, as I unashamedly rock, cuddle, sing and feed him to sleep, and we have some beautiful moments then.