Maternal instincts and becoming a mother are supposed to come naturally to women, right? But, do they really? I am sure I am not the only mother who has struggled with the way I should relate to my sons. It has taken me almost four years to figure out the relationships I have with them both. Before I became a mother, I had many types of relationship. I was, and still am, a daughter, a sister, a niece, a cousin, a granddaughter, even a great-granddaughter (OK, I’m not this anymore), as well as a friend (A good one, I hope!), and a colleague. But, none of these even compares to the relationship I was about to be thrown into when my first son was born.
I know now, after years of dealing with PND and struggling with the intense changes in my life when Khaya was born, as well as the lack of bond I felt with him, that I was actually struggling with how the fuck to relate to this new person in my life. I had never had anyone need me as much as he did, and I was always terrible at keeping plants and fish alive before he came along. I could barely keep myself alive, let alone healthily, when I was living on my own. I have always needed help looking after myself, it seems, and now I had a relationship with someone who needed that from me. It was thrust upon me so quickly, that I didn’t have time to take it all in before I was in it. There was no prior exam or revision to be done, no courses or tutoring on the subject, no advice that anyone could give me at the time, as they all just expected it to be fine, even rather wonderful. My own mother told me of the instant bond she felt when I was born, and the rush of love she felt when she first held me. The first rush I felt was nothing like that. In fact, I didn’t feel a rush at all. I was distant from reality. I haven’t said this many times before, but I had some really terrible, haunting thoughts every time I looked at my newborn son. This would go on for a couple of months, and it eventually drifted away. I never consciously felt anything bad towards him, and I never wished anything bad to happen to him. For the rest of my life, I will feel guilty about those thoughts. It seems strange to feel guilty about something over which I clearly had no conscious control. But, I have tried to work out what it all meant, and my only thought is that my brain was somehow sabotaging the close relationship and bond that I should have had with this new human in my life. I don’t think I ever had that with any of my other relatives! Do you know what? Being able to unemotionally admit to having those awful thoughts in a public blog post just shows me how far I have come. That’s nice.
I remember, about six months ago, my partner told me that I treat Khaya like a brother sometimes. We squabble like brother and sister. I have found myself calling him by my brother’s name, and have even started to talk to him about ‘Do you remember when this happened back in the ’90s?’. I have to stop myself and remember that, actually, he wasn’t around back then. I also have three more younger brothers (one adoptive, two halves) and a (half) sister, who were born after I became an ‘adult’, so I also had very different relationships with them than I do with my ‘whole’ brother. I was more like a carer to them when I visited, I didn’t have that proper sibling relationship with them, as I did with my whole brother. Another relationship that was thrust upon me in adult life, and one I wasn’t ever expecting to have (Yet, I wouldn’t have it any other way now).
For me, the idea of having a baby came to me early on. I don’t think I was ever really set on the idea until I started having serious relationships with boys. I think I was drawn to the romance of it – Creating a human with the person you love. It was so magical and incredible to me, and still is. Through each serious relationship I had, I thought about our future children, even choosing names for them, but I never really knew if it would ever actually happen. I was young, we were young. Having babies was for grown-ups! When I actually got married (to my now-ex) at the age of 27, I did think it would be the logical next step for us. But it never happened. When I met my partner, it was a whirlwind. We got together after being friends for about a year, and I truly didn’t think anything would happen between us, despite us actually having EVERYthing in common, and being completely brilliant together. I didn’t see him in ‘that’ way until the time was right. Then, after 3 months together, I found out I was pregnant. It was planned (although not that quickly!), and we were so excited. I knew it was what we both wanted, and now was the perfect time to get on with it. It was the most magical time. So romantic, so precious. This new human was growing inside me, and he was made up of some of me and some of my lovely man. I knew it would all be great, and I wouldn’t need to worry about anything. Everything went so smoothly until Khaya was actually born. The birth was so quick and easy. My man was amazing throughout. Then, I just don’t know what happened. I have always thought that the ease of the pregnancy and birth was a bad thing, and that, if I’d had a harder time of it, maybe the aftermath would have felt more rewarding and easy. That was how I felt until I had a difficult second birth, and I admit that I bonded better with my second son. Why? I don’t know. I don’t think I’ll ever know, and perhaps I shouldn’t question it.
Now, things are getting better. I think I know how to relate to my sons without trying to draw on previous relationships for help. I think I am finally learning how to be a parent, and to accept this new relationship and all of its pros and cons. I would be so interested to hear about other people’s experiences with this, mothers and fathers alike, to find out if ANY of you found it easy to form this new-found relationship, unlike any other you had experienced before in your lifetime. I’d also love to hear from new grandparents… Although I hope it’ll be a few decades before I have to deal with THAT!
Thanks for reading, as ever,
(Photo credit: Leane Metzler at Unsplash.com)