Pregnant with zero experience of newborns? Don’t fret, as our hormones play a vital role in transforming us into awesome mums from the get-go.
If you are expecting your first baby, despite all the joy and excitement, the reality of having a little one to contend with soon can seem daunting at times. You’re not alone in fearing the unknown, however. A straw poll among friends revealed that many in their first pregnancies had never changed a nappy, held a newborn or spent any time with young babies before. If you don’t have nieces or nephews yet, or are among the first of your friends to make the transition, then why would you? Still, if you think a Mamaroo is an exotic animal and nipple shields are just for marathon runners, you can relax as, during labour and birth, our hormones make it their mission to transform us into instant mums.
“Research on breastfeeding and on mother-infant bonding shows that the early hours and days are crucial. Immediate and ongoing skin-to-skin and breastfeeding can help ensure adequate milk supply for the next six months and beyond and can also help mothers and babies get to know one another and form the initial bond that will last a lifetime,” says Amy Vogelaar, a licensed childbirth and parenting educator and co-founder of Love Parenting UAE (www.loveparentinguae.com). “We can go from seemingly non-maternal career woman with no experience of babies, no knowledge of what to do to care for a baby and sometimes no real interest in babies at all, to being a mother who not only desperately wants to care for her bundle but also will be amazed to find that she enjoys doing much of the mindless, tedious, repetitive drudgery that comes with motherhood.
She continues: “Especially if we have a physiological birth without drugs, fear and interventions but with lots of helpful support and with immediate and ongoing skin-to-skin contact including breastfeeding with our babies soon afterwards, our biological chemistry is primed for us to fall in love with our newborn.”
Read why it's OK not to feel that instant rush of motherly love here
It’s the hormones and the pheromones surging through our bodies that give us the initial mother/baby bond and inspire a life-long attachment.
“One of the things that can make birthing physiologically, by which I mean naturally, quite difficult, if not impossible, is when our rational brain is too activated during active labour,” explains Amy. “We need to turn off our thinking brain and let our mammalian brain, which is bathed in oxytocin and endorphins, to take over.
“I think this is also true after the birth,” she adds. “It can be unsettling to realise that you are a hormonal, instinctive creature, especially when you are bleeding, leaking milk and sweating excess water and not feeling yourself in any way. It can be tempting to want to cling to your ‘old thinking self’ (your technological, glamorous and professional self). But becoming a mother really does require giving yourself up to the transformation to some degree. You are still yourself, but you are a new version of that self, forever changed, even down to a cellular level.”
So what if the initial bond doesn’t’ kick in immediately? It definitely does not make you a bad mother.
“Every mother will find her balance in time and research shows that it can take four to six months for that to happen - for a mother to feel that this is her ‘new normal’ and that she knows what she is doing and is confident in her new role,” says Amy.
Her advice? “Definitely get pictures of those early moments and days, as you soon will not believe how tiny your baby was,” she says. “Definitely treat yourself and allow others to pamper you - mama is, and should be, queen! Lastly, inhale your new baby’s intoxicating smell, kiss that incredibly soft skin and soak up this precious time, as it will pass more quickly than you can imagine.”