I often talk to new mothers who feel terrible guilt and shame because they have not bonded with their babies. There seems to be this mythology that bonding is a blink-and-you'll-miss-it moment, a fragile process easily broken and destroyed by separation at birth or an inability to breastfeed.
Bonding is simply falling in love, and building a relationship with any human being takes time. Of course naturally, all things going well, you will have a massive rush of oxytocin at birth that will facilitate this process without you having to DO anything. Even if you feel love at first sight true bonding takes between six months and two years in humans (we are much more complicated than ducks).
1 in 5 mums report that they did not love with their baby immediately. And this is OK too, It just means we have to give some time and energy to the process of falling in love.
Thich Nhat Hanh offers four mantras for enacting love in our lives, he calls them the four aspects of true love. I feel they are so relevant to falling in love with your new baby that I had to share them here with you.
- Beloved, I am here for you
We create a secure attachment with our children by being present and responsive to their needs, not necessarily by breastfeeding or cosleeping or babywearing. It is not so much what we do, it is how we do it. The best mothers parent with loving and mindful presence, regardless of their parenting situation or choices.
- Beloved, I know that you are here, and it makes me very happy
This is basically what falling in love is all about. Enjoy your baby, spend time with your baby, take notice of your baby.
- Beloved, I know that you are suffering, that is why I am here for you
Love gets us through the tough times too. If your baby is grumpy or crying or won't sleep then be present for the suffering. You don't need to stop the suffering (sometimes you can't, and this is one the hardest parts of love) but you can offer empathy and reassurance.
- Beloved, I am suffering, please help.
And here is the biggest challenge. This is where we overcome the idea of being a superwoman and share our struggles and challenges in a safe and supportive environment.