WE WERE LOOKING FOR THE HEROINE FOR THIS MATERIAL in one of the “mum” groups on Facebook – and on the very first day more than seventy women responded. They wrote that immediately after the birth of the child, they experienced relief, joy, fear, responsibility, fatigue and a whole range of feelings – but they were not covered with the wave of love promised by books and stories of friends. It became even worse because relatives reproached them for this; the feeling of guilt was added to fatigue and misunderstanding. We tried to figure out where the opinion about the mandatory inflow of feelings for a newborn came from and why not everyone has it.
Ena K., mother of a one-year-old girl, says that she imagined the birth of a child in pink: “I was looking forward to this moment – the baby is born, I take her in my arms, gently hug her, melt in love and affection”. But this did not happen – after a long and painful birth, only apathy was felt, and the first cry of the child did not cause any feelings. In the first days after discharge, Lena did everything that was required to take care of the child, but mechanically, without experiencing any emotions – and sobbed when her husband left for work. After trying to talk to two close friends, it got even worse – they did not understand at all what they were talking about. Lena could not understand what was happening to her, and she also scolded herself for not being able to give birth to a child naturally – the long birth ended in a cesarean section. At such moments it can be hard without support – Lena’s situation was aggravated by the fact that she had to hide these feelings and thoughts from those around her.
In books about pregnancy and childbirth, on many sites and in applications dedicated to this process, they talk about the fact that the birth of a child is accompanied by a huge surge of feelings, unconditional love and an extraordinary feeling of happiness. This is especially true for resources devoted to “natural” childbirth – without anesthesia, on all fours and with instant laying out of the newborn on the mother’s chest. Indeed, there is evidence that skin-to-skin contact between a child and the mother (or with the father, for example, after a complex caesarean section) is beneficial – it stabilizes the physiological parameters of the newborn and promotes the formation of the parent’s bond with the new family member. In fact, with such contact, the release of oxytocin, also called the “attachment hormone”, occurs.
Oxytocin is an interesting substance; For more than a hundred years, doctors have understood that it plays an important role in the processes of childbirth and the production of breast milk – but they have not wondered why men need it in this case. Everything changed in the 1990s, when scientists began to pay attention to such “ephemeral” concepts as love, passion, attachment. It turned out that oxytocin is involved in the sexual arousal of men and women, and in the formation of psychological intimacy – both in a couple and between children and parents. Oxytocin and the receptors in the brain that respond to it play a role in the formation of the characteristic “maternal behavior” – the desire to protect and feed the baby. Levels of this hormone increase during sex and when a mother or father picks up the baby.
At the same time, it is rather difficult to measure its concentration, because this hormone breaks down very quickly – but in research it is still possible to do this. Scientists have found that in a completely normal course of pregnancy in different women, the levels of oxytocin can be very, very different – from 50 to 2000 pg / ml. In addition, there was no definite pattern of its changes: in some, the concentration of oxytocin continued to increase throughout pregnancy, in others it decreased, and in others it fluctuated. What does this mean in practice? That any woman can be in the lower part of the range, and instant falling in love with a newborn will not arise, even if all wishes for the most natural childbirth are met. On the other hand, although there is no sudden release of oxytocin into the blood after a caesarean section, especially a planned one, its background level may be high enough to form instant attachment.
It turns out that the surge of love for the newborn is largely due to hormones, and even methods aimed at increasing the level of oxytocin do not work for everyone – and women continue to feel guilty about what is beyond their control. The pressure of others also does not help to feel like a good mother – and it is manifested by health workers, relatives, and even friends who have no children. Anastasia I. says that after giving birth without anesthesia, the first relief came that the job was done – but the doctor immediately commented: “Why are you not happy?” Her
For some reason, there was an idea of childless friends that motherhood sharply fills life with meaning and unconditional happiness, and when trying to talk about the difficulties, Anastasia heard only an annoying answer: “But you are doing a great thing.” Another heroine, Tanya V., says she has met many breastfeeding consultants and friends who considered themselves experts on the degree of love for a child – and allowed themselves to comment on her feelings. “It’s funny, but also offensive – and it’s easy to offend a baby’s mother,” she says.
Moms are criticized by all and sundry – and it is impossible to please everyone. You sit with your child for several years – a hen, you went to work early – you don’t care about the baby. Condemnation can arise for any reason – and admitting that you do not feel love for a newborn seems simply indecent (it is not for nothing that most of the heroines were asked not to indicate their last names). Natalya L. says that a couple of weeks after giving birth, she walked down the street with a stroller and cried, realizing that she felt nothing for the child, except for a sense of responsibility – she wanted to return her past life. When she responded negatively to a friend’s comments about how cool it was to be a mother, she caused a wave of anger and the story that she was a bad mother. Some women are more fortunate: Anastasia K. faced a misunderstanding of her husband, but her mother explained to her that it is not always easy to accept a new person (child) into her life, and it is completely normal not to experience that very mad love.
When do feelings start to change? Everyone has it differently. Many mothers say that love came along with pity or fear when the child first fell ill – his defenselessness caused a new wave of emotions. Others admit that they fell in love with a son or daughter closer to a year or even later, when tangible feedback appeared: smiles, speech, active actions. Of course, the expression of emotions is also influenced by environmental conditions: love is easier to feel when the responsibilities of caring for a child are divided in half, and city streets are fully adapted for comfortable walks with strollers. The ability to do what you love and turn over household chores to helpers are conditions that are much better for a good mood than constant nervousness and lack of sleep.
Actually, depression in the first days after childbirth, the so-called baby blues , is no less well-known phenomenon than hormonal euphoria. It is not accepted to talk about it – and it is understandable why, because we still live in a society where it is encouraged to “be positive” and tears are condemned . It would be great if resources dedicated to pregnancy and childbirth, and specialists in patient management honestly told that when a child is born, you can experience a variety of feelings – and in most cases they are normal and do not characterize maternal qualities in any way.
Parenting, especially at the initial stage, is a multifaceted thing; these are not only joyful moments, but also physical fatigue, and mood swings under the influence of hormones, and constant questions to yourself. This is a lot of fears – from the fear that the child will get sick, to not understanding how to raise him to be a good person. Least of all in this situation people expect to be judged by outsiders for experiencing some “wrong” feelings. As one of our heroines, Anastasia I., says, “everyone around was talking about the amazing smell of a baby, and the only one I could smell was baby soap from his skin – but that doesn’t mean that I’m not a good enough mother for him.”