Friday, May 14, 2010

Writing Contest: Fourth Place

I'm happy to announce another Writing Contest finalist--Andrea, author of "A Well-Researched Bond"!

This essay stuck with me long after I had finished reading through all of the essays. I loved her honesty, her ability to acknowledge that reality often trumps the most careful planning, her realization that she was strongly bonded with her children, just differently than she had imagined. I loved the short, repetitive syntax alternating with longer narrative segments.

Andrea wins $25 worth of handmade cotton play food from Hooked in Harmony.

More about Andrea:

Andrea lives in Texas with her husband and two children.


A Well-Researched Bond

I sometimes like to call my children, a three-year-old girl and a four-month-old boy, "well-researched." I spent the ten years prior to my daughter's existence reading various articles and books and sites on such interesting subjects as breastfeeding and natural childbirth. I had always wanted to be a mom, and I wanted to do it in what I thought was the "right" way, so I studied. I graduated from public libraries with their paper-based card catalogs to online forums, and continued my dreams and planning by talking to others who had been where I wanted to be.

And oh, how I wanted to be a mom. I would read about all the physical and emotional changes that would take place once my newborn was here, and I could hardly wait. I really just couldn't wait for the bonding to happen. When I found out that I was expecting my firstborn, I was so excited. Finally, it would be my turn to try for a natural birth, to breastfeed, to bond to a sweet little newborn, to join the club called "motherhood."

The pregnancy was uneventful. I had the expected morning sickness and weight gain and movements. I chose not to find out the gender. My husband and I signed up for childbirth classes. We were going to do this birth drug-free. We toured the hospital. Everything was in order.

My water broke in the morning and my daughter was placed in my arms 12 hours later, after a textbook labor and delivery. I had achieved my goal of doing it without drugs. I had a girl, which was a first for my side of the family. I stared at her. I kissed her. I marveled at how much hair she had. I nursed her for the first time. I counted her fingers and toes.

And I waited for bonding to happen.

They moved us to the postpartum room. My child stayed with me the whole time. I nursed her on demand. I changed her diapers. I did kangaroo care with her to keep her warm.

And I continued waiting for a bond.

We went home a couple of days later. We gave her a bath. We showed her around our home. We took her to church. But it still didn't feel real. I didn't feel like a Mom. I felt like I was just babysitting her and her real family would come to take her away soon. But of course, they never came.

A few years later, I found out I was pregnant again. This time, we planned a homebirth. I thought that maybe the hospital procedures somehow interfered with the bonding process. I'd read dozens of homebirth birth stories and seen the homebirth pictures, where the new mama is just overjoyed and elated once the baby came out. I wanted that feeling.

My second pregnancy, also, was uneventful. Five days after my due date, my son was born, at home, after a labor that wasn't quite as textbook as my daughter's was, but it was no harder. After all, I'd done the drug-free thing before, and I easily did it again.

But then the same thing happened afterward. I didn't feel that instant, euphoric bonding that I'd heard about and read about and wanted. What happened? What was wrong with me? I began to worry that maybe I didn't love my children or that something subconscious from my past was preventing me from having a real bond. I developed a moderately severe case of the baby blues.

I didn't treat my newborn son any differently than I had treated my newborn daughter. I changed his diapers. I hugged him. I took care of him. I kissed him. I smiled at him.

And then one day, his eyes focused right onto mine, and he smiled back.

And I cried.

A euphoric post-birth high is great, if it happens. But it's not the be-all end-all of love and bonding. Love and bonding, I've come to find out, happens in the little things. It doesn't make me any less of a mother because I didn't experience the post-birth high.

Bonding happens when my 8-month-old is being carried and she starts patting me on the back.

It happens when my 3-month-old wakes up in a good mood because he knows Mommy will be there first thing in the morning.

It happens when my 2-year-old can hold real conversations with me (and can make me smile as she tries hard to learn the intricacies of the English language).

It happens when my 5-week-old is nursing and his hand clenches my finger so I won't go anywhere.

It happens when my 3-year-old notices me crying and asks me if I'm okay and gives me a hug.

It happens when my 2-month-old laughs, a REAL laugh, for the first time.

It happens when my 18-month-old is so proud of all the things she can do by herself and shows me her skills and talents.

It happens when both of my children are smiling and laughing together, and I can see what pure, unconditional love is all about.

Bonding happens, not just with one climactic big event, but in all the little events that make your heart smile.


  1. Yes, this was me, too. I had a homebirth, too, and felt like a lactating babysitter for a long time. I think I also had some baby blues and could only let the overwhelmingly powerful and fierce feelings of motherhood in a little bit at a time. I am not sure when it happened but I love being a mom more than anything now. Thanks for sharing your story!

  2. I resonate with this story! I had a magical home birth with my first son, euphoric, heart-burstingly transformative, textbook bonding. And then I had my second son, about a month ago. Home birth and all, no magical bonding. I was pissed. Where's my damn euphoria? I was banking on it for, you know, parental survival! I have only some vague ideas as to where that damn euphoria was the second time around. That's a question I'll keep puzzling over for years, I'll bet.

    It's useful to hear other mothers experience this, and that they ultimately bond deeply with their children in time. Thanks for writing the story, I'm glad it was selected. If I ever figure out the puzzle, I'll let you know.

  3. I am glad to hear this story. I had a traumatic drugged up ventouse delivery in hospital for my first and PPD and trouble bonding after. So for my 2nd, who was a beautiful home-birth, I was perplexed that I did not have the post-birth high I'd heard so much about. I was hoping to be really healed by it, but it didn't happen. I too have learned that it isn't the be-all and end-all, but it's nice to know I'm not the only one!

  4. This has been my experience to a T!

    My favorite essay by far! :)

    Thanks for sharing it!

  5. Thanks, everyone. I'm glad you all enjoyed it. :)

  6. Great essay, and I feel like that is my experience as well. No instant, all consuming bond, just falling in love a little more each day.

  7. Wonderful. I went to the park with my daughters today, 2.5 and 4.5 years old and the euphoria was completely there. Magical. But it wasn't there in the beginning for either of them. Sometimes it takes some time to grow.


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