Monday, March 24, 2008

What is bonding anyway?

At Easter dinner yesterday my cousin, my mom, and I were talking about breastfeeding. My mom said she believed that Mother Nature invented breastfeeding to help mama and baby bond. My cousin was saying that she used to worry those days when her little one (now 18 - where does the time go?) would seem to be latched on to her 24-7. Probably a growth spurt. She agreed with my mom and said "yeah some pretty wonderful bonding came out of those 24-7 days."

I've always been sad that I didn't get to see (or touch or talk to) to little C when she was born. A got to see her in the moments after she was born when her apgar was 2 and they were "bagging" her - the midwife brought her in to the OR in case C didn't make it (I was knocked out and A was in the waiting room during the surgery). Then C was whisked away, quickly. A saw her again an hour or so later when she was hooked to machines and monitors and in an isolette. But couldn't touch her. I got to see her the next morning - some 12 hours after she was born.

"They" say that first little while after birth is so important in terms of bonding. I still wonder what we all missed out on - the three of us. I've also worried that we aren't "properly bonded." Whatever that means. I look for clues to prove that we aren't bonded - I did that a lot in the first few months. Clues, like: I can't seem to console her right now. This spirals into: she finds no comfort in my presence, therefore we are not bonded, and I suck. Seriously I've taken it to this level - and I'm a fairly confident woman with a relatively good self-esteem (but suddenly I suck).

When does bonding happen? I mean, I agree with my cousin and my mom. Those 24-7 days are bonding. Working together, mama and baby, to figure out how to breastfeed is pretty bonding. Being up in the 3am silence feeding her is bonding. But what about those first few moments after birth - what did I miss?


Lo said...

Our son was whisked away shortly after birth, and we were separated from him for a few hours. They were among the worst hours of my life, and Co wonders if not getting to nurse him right away caused some of her initial breastfeeding difficulties (though they are doing fabulously now; see her recent post).

I am not sure what happens in that first time; I can say that when we got him back, he just slept and slept and slept for some time, and though we loved being with him, I can't say how much "bonding" happened. (Though I'm not the bio mom, maybe there's hormonal stuff?)

The time since then, the time like now at 3 months when he looks at us and grins, when he pats his boobs and sings to them as he nurses, when he grabs my arm I change his diaper....that all feels like SUCH bonding to me. And you have had all that, and more (since your C. is older than our J).

I can understand your insecurity (as a non-bio mom, BOY can I understand). But I would say...don't look for signs that you aren't bonded. I bet you are.

bleu said...

I was not allowed to hold Bliss and had to call to him after the c-section. Then they wheeled him away, with a friend of mine and said until I could move my feet I had to be away from him. I pitched a fit and was with him within 25 minutes. I still regret all of it.

I do think breastfeeding is bonding, but more than that I think it also gives a mama a confidence so desperately needed early on that her own body is all her child needs to survive at first.

I think, with regards to bonding, that it happens daily, in all the little things and every consistency of being their parent and being there for them.

Someone told me early on that what parenting is is "responding" and I have always held onto that. Even when I am irked or tired I remember to respond to my darling child. I think that also bonds us.

p.s thanks for the blogroll mention, I added ya


Jen said...

i'm not an expert but my intuition says that whatever you may have missed, you've made up for since then. i mean, you're spending time with her every day, you're nursing successfully, she knows that you're her mama...isn't that what bonding is?

i just can't imagine that there was a magical window that *closed* mere hours after her birth and forever ruined your chance at successful bonding...that just doesn't sound like how nature works. :)

Jen said...

oh - one more thing: i know i STILL have moments of i-suck-edness nine months later and i didn't have the separation that worries you.

i think that's a fairly normal feeling in new moms and just because you can't comfort her here or there doesn't necessarily mean that she's not comforted by your presence.

more times than not, if i can't comfort deven, it's because she's mad or frustrated. sometimes she wants her other mom and sometimes i'm blocking her view of the there you have it. :)