I’m only slightly apologetic to admit the original title of this entry was “Of Human Bonding.” I decided it was too much of a groaner to leave, but I had to at least make you aware of the vast levels of my cleverness.
As I’m typing this, Little Bug is absently petting my hair watching “Cars.” Every once in a while, his fingers get stuck in a curl and he’ll say, “Sorry mommy” in his little voice. I feel it’s appropriate to write about HG, adoption, and bonding.
There’s nothing more important in the life of a child than his bond with his immediate caretakers. This goes beyond making sure that a child’s most basic needs are met. Bonding creates a deep connection that can’t be severed. It transcends biology, and is particularly sacred between mother and child.
When I was sick with HG, my biggest worry wasn’t really about my son’s health (I trusted the Lord was taking care of him), and it wasn’t about my health, it was about the bond between us. From the pen of Diablo Cody came the idea that “a woman becomes a mother when she finds out she’s pregnant.” I’m guessing Jennifer Garner wasn’t actually the first person to make this statement (or to buy into it), but the movie “Juno” turned it into a quotable quote. This movie was popular when I was pregnant, and I had all the time in the world to watch movies. I remember seeing this and feeling instantly convicted.
When I was pregnant with LB, I felt no motherly instincts. None. I felt sick. My pregnancy was not about preparation and readiness, it was about survival. I knew that I would physically survive, even if some days felt like torture. Really, it was about emotional, mental and psychological survival. I battled depression and isolation, and had lost the ability to do virtually everything I loved.
The inner struggle over the bonding issue is something I think many (if not most) first time HGers go through. I’m here to tell you: Do not worry. You will bond with your child. You will! (Re-read that line if needed). I tossed and turned at night worrying that I would suffer from postpartum depression. A stupid nurse in the anti-partum unit (which became my home for a grand total of six weeks off and on during the pregnancy) made the comment that my melancholy attitude and slight detachment from my son made me a high candidate for severe postpartum depression. One off-the-cuff reference to actress Brooke Shields’s PPD autobiography , and I was mortified.
However, my fears were unnecessary. The moment my son was born, all I felt was relief. It was over. He was safe. I was hungry. Mmmm…Hungry for seafood. All was right with the world. I’m not saying that having HG prevents you from postpartum depression, but it does not mean that the detachment you feel during your pregnancy will live on after your baby is born. In fact, I believe that many HG moms cherish their babies even more than healthy moms who experienced no turmoil during their pregnancies. There’s something in that fight that makes the rewards so much sweeter.
ALL of the warm fuzzy feelings that a new mother expects to feel came rushing to me. I didn’t nest, I didn’t decorate a nursery, or knit booties, or quilt a blanket. I didn’t shop like a maniac or horde diapers or even have a baby shower before my son was born. I was too sick and too distracted to do any of those things. Those things are done in the meantime, in the waiting room of pregnancy. Those things are not what creates the bond between you and your baby. It’s okay to mourn if you are too sick to prepare in those traditional ways. I did. I was very sad that I was robbed of all of those things I looked forward to. But they didn’t keep me from falling head over heels in love with my son.
One thing I could do that was a traditional new mommy act was breastfeeding. I would encourage every mother everywhere (yes, even adoptive moms!) to at least attempt breastfeeding. It’s the healthiest option for your baby, and it solidifies bonding like non other. If you find you are unable to nurse, do not be sad. You can still get the skin to skin contact with your baby by cuddling with them in just a diaper on your chest. It’s amazing what hearing mommy’s heartbeat can do for a newborn.
I don’t mean to harp on breastfeeding, as this is a very personal issue. I only mean to say that while I couldn’t provide the nourishment my son needed in utero, and I couldn’t deliver him myself (he was born via c-section), I could nurse. Somehow being able to breastfeed made up for all of those “normal” pregnancy things I missed out on. I wasn’t so sad that I didn’t get to paint a room blue when I was sweetly cradling my son during a midnight feeding.
Our bond was one bought and paid for through sacrifice, suffering, love and prayer. It had nothing to do with the fact that I was pregnant with him. And yet, the suffering in the pregnancy made the bond so much stronger. I don’t want another HGer to worry herself over her bond with her baby. It will come, and it will be great.
So often the issue of bonding is brought up in adoption. Is bonding an instantaneous thing, or is it something deeper? I’d like to think it’s something much deeper. I’d like to think it isn’t attached at all to biology, but instead attached to sacrifice, selflessness, suffering, prayer, hope, and love. In my next entry, I’ll discuss the importance of bonding and adoption, and the amazing ability to bond with a child that wasn’t born to you.