I read a lot of childcare books before I had Ted to try and work out what to do with him when he got here. In among all that stuff about how to change nappies and how to spot meningitis, there was a bit about how you were supposed to fall in love with your babies as soon as they popped out. Your eyes would meet theirs, all the adrenalin and all those hormones would collide, your pupils would dilate, and you’d fall instantly, hugely in love.
This is my experience.
When I had Ted, I’d been stuffed full of Pethidine and I was hooked up to an epidural. I wasn’t sure how to push, because I couldn’t feel anything. He was eventually sucked out by ventouse and I didn’t feel the slightest twinge. He was flopped on to my chest, looking pink and unwrinkled, and actually rather beautiful. I stared and stared into his eyes, waiting for this rush of love.
About four weeks later, I said to Dave, “Do you love him?” and he was of course shocked that I’d even asked. Dave fell in love with Teddy instantly – he has absolutely adored him from the very first day. But four weeks in to my first experience of parenting, I still wasn’t sure if I loved him – in fact, after four weeks of very little sleep, love was definitely not the emotion I was feeling.
But then there was the first smile, and a little after that, there was a bit more head control, and a few weeks after that, the ceaseless crying ceased a little, and Teddy started to use other verbal tricks to get our attention – he cooed and giggled. And around that time, this huge blanket of love that I feel for him now started to envelop me.
With Felix, I felt sure things would be different. It was my second (it would be easier), she was a girl (I would have an instant affinity), and I was determined not to take any offered drugs (I wouldn’t be off my head).
But it turns out it wasn’t. Felix was flopped on to my chest, all purple and grey and wrinkled, covered in that hideous vernix stuff, looking rather more like Gollom than I’d hoped. Within a few minutes, she had to be whisked off for oxygen as she wasn’t quite doing the job of breathing on her own. Dave was terrified; I was nonplussed. Of course, it helped that I’d seen this a million times on One Born Every Minute, but I really wasn’t at all bothered. I was more worried about the fact that I still had to get this grim placenta out, that I was still having contractions that were making me feel a bit sick. Its was all me, me, me. Not her, her, her.
She was fine, of course. She came back, she eventually latched on, it was all fine. I had a piece of toast, a bath, and then we went home.
Felix is seven weeks old now, and I’ve been through exactly the same experience as I did with Teddy. I love her now, I do, but it’s been a gradual process: for those first few weeks, my main emotion towards her was resentment and resignation. Oh she’s crying again, only I can do anything about it. What a chore.
I felt protective of her, of course, but I didn’t feel anything remotely like love for her until a couple of weeks ago. The smiles really helped, and the coos, and just the other day she turned her head while she was sleeping, and she looked really very cute. So it’s there now, I promise.
But this is the thing: I’ve not had postnatal depression, or even baby blues – I’m in rude emotional health (I’ve been watching Frasier a lot; I’m pretty sure that’s all the psychoanalysis I need). I guess I’m just not a huge fan of newborn babies.
I had no idea I’d feel this way! I didn’t realise you could. I’ve watched my friends have babies and fall massively in love with them the instant they saw them, and I just assumed that would happen to me. In fact, what I was worried about before all this baby stuff happened, was not being able to love a toddler: a walking talking person who screams through meals and kicks and bites and wants you to read him the same book 17 times, and when we’re in public will only talk in phrases he’s learnt from the telly. But I love that toddler SO MUCH it merely adds to my resentment of the baby.
I was surprised how long it took me, but I refuse to feel guilty about it. Diana Ross was right: you can’t hurry love. The way I work is that I love them more the bigger they are, the more personality they have, the less fragile they are, the more you can do with them. I thought I would never love Ted as much as Dave did, but I caught up in a stumbling, breathless, sprinting, almighty final push to the finish: and now it feels like my heart is going to explode every time I see him. Teddy is my world… and Felix will be too.