Just Talking Tuesday: Depression, Super Glue, and Bonding


All too often we are shown over and over and over again those scenes in movies where a mother, who has just given birth, lies in bed in beautiful nightgown complete with a bed jacket. Her hair is perfectly coiffed as she is handed her baby. She instantly knows how to hold this perfectly quiet and peaceful infant. Her face softens as she oooohs and ahhhs as the camera goes all vaseline and fuzzy while sappy music swells in the background.

I don’t know how your births went, but mine were nothing like that. My hair was everything but perfectly coifed, I was wearing a frumpy hospital gown, and I had no clue what to do with this squirming thing now in my arms who was screaming at me like some sort of pissed off Banshee. The second time around, I knew what to do with the little one but she could not cooperate because she was physically unable to do so. The third time around went much much better despite the persistent lack of perfectly coiffed hair and no sappy music.

No one tells new mothers at their baby showers just how hard birth and those first few weeks will be on us. It’s all fun and games, cute frilly or frocky clothes in blue, pink, or some other pastel. Even if we do know what to expect, depression can still slam into us after birth. It is not something we choose. Not something we can turn off at the drop of a hat or just because you want us to be happy again. It takes time to heal.

One of the biggest things depression or a mood disorder affects is a mother’s ability to bond with her infant. The best way to describe this feeling to someone who did not have a problem bonding with their infant is this:

Let’s say you hate cats. You don’t know why but you do. You visit a home with a cat. Said cat decides that YOU are a brand new BFF and relies on you for everything. Meows at you constantly, purrs, wraps itself around your legs, curls up on your lap, and wants you to pet it every second you are there. This interferes with your ability to have an adult conversation with the friend you came to visit. Suddenly your thoughts are sliced in half, then in quarters. You’re distracted, frustrated, your blood pressure rises, you may even begin to itch or manifest physical symptoms as you try to detangle yourself from the cat.

The difference between someone who hates cats and a mom who is depressed and doesn’t bond with her child is that somewhere, deep inside, that woman LOVES her child. She does. Even if she is not showing it, she does. She wants to bond to that child and is desperate to try anything.

Motherhood is something we add to our sense of selves though, not something which should overtake our sense of self. We should not superglue the baby to ourselves and miss out on life because we are a Mother. There needs to be a balance, a sense of old and new. It is a hard line to walk. A hard line to find. An almost invisible line to find if you are a mother with a Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorder. But it’s there. You just have to be patient and wait for it to slowly reveal itself.

I struggled with bonding with our first two daughters. Our first because I had not a clue what to do with her, even apologized to her at 7 days old because I did not know how to talk to her. Our second because she was physically separated from me at less than 24 hours old and sent to a NICU in another city over an hour away. I would later find myself wailing that I wanted to leave her at the hospital. We did not bond until she was nearly three years old and back at the same hospital in which she spent time in the NICU.

I bonded well with my third though but I did not struggle with Postpartum OCD or Depression that time around. We had all the warm fuzzies and after a few weeks if you listened closely enough, you could hear sappy music in the background.

I know my issues with depression and OCD interfered in my ability to bond with my babies. But today, I try so hard not too look back and be sad. Instead I try my best to bond in the here and now because that’s what matters. I cannot change the past. I can only work to improve the present and make the future even better. (Believe me, it’s taken me almost 6 years to be able to say that!)

Did your PMAD affect your bonding? How? What was your experience?

Let’s get to just talking.

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7 thoughts on “Just Talking Tuesday: Depression, Super Glue, and Bonding

  1. I bonded probably too much. My depression and anxiety kept me glued to him at all times for fear of the numerous things in the world that could go wrong and cause him harm.
    Now that he’s older and I’m better I think we have a natural mother-child bond. He loves me unconditionally and I him but I don’t smother him with my own fears.

  2. my first pregnancy was horrific. from 5 weeks up until the day i delivered at 39 weeks, i vomited several times a day and was so weak that i couldn’t manage to stand upright most days. when my daughter came screaming into my life on new year’s eve , it was just like in the movies. i fell instantly head-over-heels in love. two and a half years later when my son was born, i was expecting the same feeling of elation and the instant bonding i had with my daughter. instead, once my son was placed in my arms, i felt as if i were holding a stranger’s baby. i kissed his bald little head, nothing. i unwrapped him and counted all his little fingers and toes, still nothing. i nursed him, still nothing. a wave of panic rushed through me, and i immediately went into pretend mode so that no one would be able to tell that i wasn’t in love with my new baby. the first weeks were some of the worst in my life. i dreaded having any visitors. i felt so disconnected from everyone around me, and i spent most of my time on the couch, literally shaking with anger, frustration, fear and guilt, while i let the television babysit my daughter and listened to my son cry in his crib. i often felt like getting in my car and just driving away- my family would obviously be better off without me. 5 months later, my son is the light of my life, but i still wrestle daily with feelings of guilt from the lack of bonding those first few months of his life.

    • I am so sorry you had such a hard time with your first pregnancy. Hyperemesis is not pleasant for anyone.

      “I went into pretend mode so that no one would be able to tell” is such a classic behavior for so many women who struggle with Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorders. It’s the “fake it till you make it” strategy at it’s very best. I recently wrote about that very thing over at Accustomed Chaos (http://tinyurl.com/3xwsfof) We are taught to behave in certain ways when certain events occur. It is so ingrained in our culture that when we don’t feel the way we are supposed to or find ourselves incapable of behaving in the expected manner, we are also cursed with a tremendous amount of guilt. Many times, the guilt sucks more than the original issue.

      I sincerely hope you are getting help at this time for your issues. You certainly deserve to feel better – for yourself and for your family. If you’re still trying to find help , please email me at mypostpartumvoice(@)gmail.com and I will get you connected best I can.

      The guilt fades. It takes time but it does fade. It’s not something you chose to struggle with either. I’ll keep you in my prayers. Please let me know how you continue to do. You’re not alone in this.

      Warmest,
      Lauren

  3. I never had bonding issues. I have three children. But with my third, now 20 months old, I cannot deal with crying. I will give him just about anything he wants just to avoid hearing it. It’s bad. My husband gets so angry with me at times because obviously some objects just aren’t safe for a baby to have. Maybe hearing the crying is a bonding issue on another level. Like, if I hear him crying I’m not doing something right and he won’t like me anymore. Hmmmm.

    • Crying was a tremendous trigger for me. Tremendous. Still is but I cope better these days. Back when I was struggling, crying would toss me heartlessly into a whirlpool, drag me down to the riverbed and keep me pinned there as I gasped for air. I couldn’t complete a though, an action, move fast enough, etc. I had to get the crying to stop.

      Our almost three year old is going through a screaming tantrum phase which I can only assume is part of the Terrible Twos and Terrorific Threes. When he gets like that, I simply tell him that Mommy doesn’t do fussing and when he calms down, I’ll be more than happy to get him what he wants. I know that’s harder with a younger kid and it doesn’t always work with him either. But he’s learning and testing his boundaries. I do give in sometimes because frankly, who has the energy to fight ALL the battles. Pick the important ones and stick to your guns. Your child will thank you in the future. (Or not, but trust me, he will be thankful somewhere for the boundaries you set at such a young age!)

      ((hugs))

      That is a very interesting point you make about if you hear him crying that means you’re not doing something right – I think that was a large part of my issue with my first. I felt so horribly inadequate as a mother with her. And with my second. For me, their crying was absolutely a judgment on my progress with them. It’s not as if you get a performance review on mothering from your kid every few weeks when they’re little or even when they’re older – (although the teenagers I hear, like to constantly tell you how much you suck at parenting – bracing for that one) – so it’s hard to gauge how well you really are doing. I’d say as long as your child is fed, clothed, diapered, and has a few things to play with, you’re doing just peachy.

      Wishing you all the best,

      Lauren

  4. First of all, this? This is beautifully written.
    I knew from the get go that something wasn’t right with me when I was handed my son. He was perfect in every single way but I didn’t have that instant “heart exploding love” for him. That feeling carried with me for the first few months and it killed me. The bonding process was also greatly impacted when I had to stop BF’ing due to complications from the epidural. BFing was the only time I felt that I had a purpose to him and the only time that I felt that we bonded.
    Oy…sad sad painful memories.
    Today though, my love for him runs deep into my soul….my life? would not be fullfilled with out him.

    • “instant heart exploding love” – I didn’t have that either. I mean, I knew I was supposed to feel something and be happy but it wasn’t instant. For me, it was a process. BFing my first absolutely helped. I couldn’t nurse my second due to her cleft so I’m sure that interfered as well. There were SO many layers to issues with my second child – I was pretty much guaranteed PP OCD/PTSD and a whole host of other issues even prior to her conception!

      I totally agree with that last sentence. My life would absolutely not be fulfilled without my three kids. They are me and they are my heart. I love them all more than I can ever express here at my blog or anywhere else. And I tell them this often.

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