The Bunk About Bonding
How much better off you will be, understanding that some moms are infatuated from day one and some moms find love bowls them over in a fit of tears months later. The same is true with dads, though research tells us men typically follow a year behind moms in their emotional adjustment to parenthood. It's common for fathers to lag behind in the bonding process.
All this said, take heart. Because it really does not matter how you or your spouse come to feel affection for your child. It only matters that you do.
Give in to Skin-to-Skin
One of the secrets moms are too self-conscious to share is how exquisite it is to cuddle with their babies and children. We don't talk about the "sensuality" of the mother/child relationship for fear of people thinking we mean "sexuality." Yet, there are few more intoxicating pleasures in life than falling asleep with your baby in your arms, carrying a snoozing toddler to his bed, or holding hands with your son on the way to the bus stop.
The sheer physicality of motherhood is staggering. You are, most often, the body the babe craves, the one associated with food and comfort, and later the only one capable of chasing away nightmares. Infants crave us because they know our scents, recognize our voices from the womb, or get accustomed to us as their primary caregivers.
But the intensity of a baby's desire can be overwhelming and frightening. It blows apart feminist theory such as "Men and women can do the same job equally well." It makes you question the Creator, "Did you design us this way so we would be encumbered with children and unable to do ANYTHING else?" It makes all the dreams you had of maintaining your life, outside of motherhood, seem like a chalk drawing, pelted by rain.
No More Personal Space
This pressing body stuff is alarming for parents who need privacy or are uncomfortable with intimacy. When my sister, Catherine, had her first son, Taylor, I remember watching her carefully shore up her boundaries. She pumped milk but did not breast-feed directly. Taylor slept in his room from the first night home on. She cautioned friends not to cradle her slumbering boy for long, lest he grow to depend on being held.
Catherine adored her son and worried about doing the right things for him. But she wasn't willing to have Taylor impede on her long-held realm of modesty, even if it would make her life, managing a new baby, easier.
I saw the fears of Every Mom being played out in Catherine's home. The first weeks postpartum, the lines between you and baby are terribly blurred. Where you stop and the baby begins is unclear. It's natural to resist the cloying nature of these interactions, and to sink a flag into dominions you want to remain your own.
From What No One Tells the Mom by Marg Stark. Copyright © 2005. Used by arrangement with Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
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