I just don't feel anything. Not dislike or resentment that would make my admission even more terrible to read, just a blank spot in my head or in my heart where I imagine that love for my developing baby ought to be blossoming.Heavy stuff, right?
But it was maybe still heavier than that when you consider that even with the negative MaterniT21 test results, the private one-sided discussions I had with the stranger in my belly sounded less like "Can't wait to meet you!" and more like "Do you have Down syndrome? Do you, do you, do you?" In fact, at the birth one of the first questions I asked our midwife was whether H. showed any signs of having an extra chromosome. I spent the whole latter half of my pregnancy wondering whether a relatively new non-diagnostic test was really as accurate as they say - and if not, what that would mean for the rest of our lives - which didn't leave a lot of time for imagining all the new joys a little boy would add to our family.
Then H., on his own timetable just like his big sister, was born, and the midwife confirmed what the MaterniT21 test already had, so I began the process of getting to know my relatively huge six pound baby boy. And yes, it's a process. No, I don't feel guilty about that. After all, H. and I got off to a pretty rocky start, relationship-wise!
When P. was born, after an uncertain hour or two where I rambled on at her as she slept under a warming lamp in the NICU, I felt a profound, deep, and sincere connection with her. I once described it as knowing I'd try to take down a T-rex if it would save her life. There was my heart, swaddled tight in rough white, pink, and blue hospital blankets, and I couldn't even remember anyone having taken it out of my chest.
But with H., it was different. He emerged, trouble-free from the get-go with brilliant Apgars, strong lungs, and a mature sucking reflex that led him to latch right on, and I held him and stared at him and nursed him and thought something like "This is an attractive, healthy baby I've got here. Good." Would I have taken down a marauding T-rex in that moment? Well, yes, probably, but I'd have been driven by biological imperative rather than deep feelings of love. Nature knows what she is doing in that regard. Do I love H.? I think I do, though I still can't say I feel the all-encompassing, gut-tightening love I felt just hours after P. was born, and that's okay, too.
Maybe it was my mom who once said to me that bonding is not something that necessarily happens in utero or the first time you look into a baby's eyes. True bonding is a result of the process of caring for your baby. It's what happens when he poops on your hand just before peeing all over himself and you laugh instead of cringing. It's what happens when you spend hours parked on the couch nursing and listening to the sweet sound of his tiny gulps. It's what happens when you notice his face filling out and his legs filling out and you think to yourself "I did that, and someday when he's an ungrateful teenager I'll look at his raggedy teen stubble and see the chubby cheeks that were once underneath." That's bonding.
I like you just fine, Little Man. And I love you a little more every day.