Friday, May 22, 2009

mother/child connection

A brief history first...

When Manny was born (pictured left) I had a difficult time connecting with him. I think there were several reasons for this:

1) Becoming pregnant was a HUGE surprise. I was fairly young, 23, and in retrospect I wasn't ready to become a parent. I also feel that I was very removed from the pregnancy. It didn't hit home that I was going to be a Mommy until he was placed in my arms after birth.

2) He was born by cesarean. I didn't go into labor at all. It is well known that being in labor releases "love hormones", also known as oxytocin, which enables a mother to fall in love with her baby. Oxytocin is also released during breastfeeding, and sex. Although a woman's oxytocin level is the highest it will ever be in her life after birth, and this peak is vital.

3) I didn't breastfeed (again, didn't release oxytocin, the love hormone).

4) He was a super fussy, and super needy baby. I often felt resentment toward him. I am sure that I had postpartum depression, but never saw anyone for it, because I felt ashamed of my feelings.

Because of all of the physical and emotional disconnect, I didn't start feeling maternally bonded to Manny until he was close to 4 months of age.

Christian was a vaginal birth (VBAC). One of the (many) reasons I decided to give birth vaginally was to see if the studies I had read about oxytocin held any water. Obviously I am only one person, so my experience was purely anecdotal, but it was an idea that intrigued me.

Either way, when I finally pushed Christian out we had a connection that can not be denied or described. I immediately knew that he was MY baby, and even though I only saw his face for a matter of seconds before they whisked him away to do the "standard" procedures (height and weight check, as well as APGARs - we declined the vitamin K drops as well as the Hep B shot) I could have picked him out of a line up of newborns.

I was also determined to breastfeed Christian until he was 12 months old. It wasn't easy, and there were definitely moments - especially in the beginning - when I wanted to throw in the towel. But the moment that I brought Christian to my breast all of those feelings disappeared, and I did breastfeed him until 12 months, when he weaned himself.

John and I have completely opposite relationships with our children. John was always closest to Manny. He was able to tell what Manny wanted before he could speak his mind. He always knew the right way to hold him, the right way to put him to sleep, and he was always the one Manny turned to when he was upset.

I was a bit envious of John's relationship with Manny. I assumed that because I was his mother, I would be the one who would instinctually know what to do. However, my instincts failed me. I was a fish out water. I found that the simplest tasks made me frustrated. And I was so happy to have a partner that supported me, and our child.

However, once Christian was born, I knew our relationship would be different. We connected the moment he was born, and the bond grew deeper every day.

The parental roles had suddenly reversed. I was the one who knew what Christian needed, even as a 3 day old newborn. I was the one who knew how to put him to sleep. Since we were mostly breastfeeding (supplementing with formula once a night) he was dependent on me for his meals. And since he wouldn't take a pacifier, he needed me (well, my boob...LOL) to calm his tantrums. Our connection was so deep, that I often woke in the middle of the night right before he did. I suppose my body could sense that he was about to wake up to feed. My milk would even begin to "let down" before he stirred.

Fast forward to the present day.

Over the last month or so I've had insomnia. My sleeplessness isn't consistent. Some days I fall asleep fairly easily, other days I require a bit of help. However it seems that when I have trouble sleeping, Christian does as well.

The first time it happened, I considered it a fluke. It was 2:00 in the morning. I was on the computer. The rest of the house was quiet. All of a sudden I hear Christian shrieking. I let him cry just for a couple of moments (hoping that he would fall back asleep) before I went in to calm him. He quickly fell back to sleep once in my arms.

When it happened the second night I couldn't fall asleep, I considered it a coincidence. When it happened a third time, I wondered if he could sense that I was awake.

Is our mother/child connection so strong that he can sense when I'm awake? It's a bit odd that I just happen to be awake on the nights that he has trouble sleeping. I'm sure that this is a question that can never be fully answered. John and I plan on having at least one more child, which we're hoping will be a homebirth. We'll see if I have the same kind of connection with that child :)

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"Women's bodies have near-perfect knowledge of childbirth; it's when their brains get involved that things can go wrong." -- Peggy Vincent

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