My struggle to bond with my second baby

After the rollercoaster ride of my pregnancy with Jessica and her first year undergoing several open heart surgeries, it was a huge relief when all appeared well on scan with Sophie. I was looking forward to a normal pregnancy, a normal family life, being able to enjoy my newborn baby without the fear that I would never get to take her home.

 

My pregnancy with Sophie was very much planned and wanted. Like many mums expecting their second child though, I had moments of worrying about how I would adjust to two children and whether I would love my second child as much as my first. “Don’t worry,” everyone said, “of course, you will.” The rush of love would come when my second child arrived; I would love them as much as my first from the word go – of course I would.  Their words reassured me. I never expected that I would struggle to bond with my second baby.

 

My struggle to bond with my second baby - Little Hearts, Big Love

Sophie’s birth was everything I hoped it would be. At home, in the water, with Jessica able to greet her sister within minutes of Sophie’s arrival. I was thrilled to have another girl and yes, there was that initial rush of love. Admittedly, not as intense as the rush of love I’d had for Jessica. There wasn’t the same overwhelming joy, the huge rush of emotions. But then Sophie was healthy. With Jessica, there had been the fear that I wouldn’t even get to hold my live, breathing child in my arms, plus the knowledge that she needed risky open-heart surgery. Was it any wonder that my rush of emotions was so much more intense with Jessica’s arrival?

 

Sophies birth 02

 

The first shock though was just how difficult breastfeeding second time around was. I had assumed that having breastfed Jessica for seventeen months, that Sophie would latch perfectly and all would be smooth sailing. I wasn’t prepared for the sore, cracked bleeding nipples and the relentlessness of cluster feeding. The pain on latching her made me dread each feed. It was ten long days before feeding finally started to become comfortable. Thankfully hubby was around during that time so I could focus on getting breastfeeding established with Sophie and not have to worry about too much else. And then he went back to work, with the long hours that working in the events industry comes with. I was on my own with the girls, trying to juggle the demands that come with being a mum of two.

 

During the day it was a struggle to give Jessica the attention I wanted to whilst trying to meet Sophie’s needs. I missed the time I used to have to sit and play or do crafts with Jessica. Doing bedtime by myself was hard. Sophie would start her cluster feeding at around Jessica’s bedtime. I missed being able to sit with Jessica on my lap, reading stories together. Now I was just putting her to bed and sitting by her cot, endlessly feeding Sophie whilst waiting for Jessica to go to sleep. Naturally, Jessica was clingier too, wanting me to stay with her until she’d fallen asleep.

 

Sophie would often wake up at around 11.30pm for a feed but then be wide awake until long into the early hours of the morning. I still vividly recall walking the streets in my pyjamas at 4am with Sophie in a sling, both of us crying, as I tried desperately to lull her to sleep. That night she was awake from 11.30pm until 7.15am. I got 15 minutes sleep before Jessica woke for the day. The word exhaustion didn’t even come close to describing the bone-numbing tiredness I felt.

 

With exhaustion came resentment. I resented Sophie for taking my time away from Jessica, for the change that her arrival had brought. Whilst I knew deep down that I did love her, I didn’t feel it. I would sit up feeding her in the night, sobbing and feeling guilty. I had a beautiful, healthy baby. She had been planned and wanted, yet now I was struggling to love her. I felt like the world’s worst mother.

 

In the day, I would put on a brave face. I would pretend everything was perfect, that of course I adored my two beautiful girls. And indeed there were moments when it did feel like a reality. But in the night I would sit and cry, convinced I was a bad person. I was convinced that God would take Jessica away from me because I loved her more than her sister. I was a terrible mother who didn’t deserve to be blessed with two beautiful children.

 

If only I tried a little harder, it would get better. Tomorrow would be a better day. Perhaps tomorrow I would do the right things and be a better mother. I was too scared to talk to anyone about my feelings. Talking about it would make it real. I didn’t want anyone else to know what an awful mother I was. Scared of being judged, or worse yet, that my children might be taken away from me.

 

I know now that I had postnatal depression and my struggle to bond with my second baby was part of this. Despite hubby trying to convince me to speak to someone, it took me a long ten months before I finally sought help. I was lucky that my GP was incredibly understanding as was my health visitor. Nobody told me I was a bad mother. They listened, offered support, offered help. I started having counselling via telephone. My health visitor also came regularly for “support visits” giving me a chance to talk about my worries.

 

Slowly, but surely things improved. I can honestly say now that I love Sophie every bit as much as her sister. My love for her is very different though – she is a different child after all. I did not have the same intense experience with her babyhood as I did with Jessica in terms of health concerns.

 

I wish someone had said to me though in those early days that they had felt a similar way. All I heard were stories of mothers that seemed to bond instantly with second and subsequent babies. It made me feel a failure for not feeling the same way. I wish I had realised that seeking help did not mean I had failed as a mother. That I wasn’t a horrible person and I didn’t have to struggle on alone.  Perhaps I would have sought help sooner had I known.

 

Playdate with Dr Miriam Stoppard and Galt Toys - Little Hearts, Big Love

Sophie was over a year old before I felt able to be honest about my struggle to bond with my second baby, particularly with other mums that I encounter in real-life. I’ve hesitated over sharing my story. But then I remember how alone I felt. By staying silent, I reinforce the stigma that surrounds postnatal depression.

 

One of the things that helped me hugely in the days before I finally sought help was discovering #PNDHour on Twitter. #PDNHour provides an online space for parents who have also experienced postnatal depression or postpartum psychosis to talk and share experiences. I finally realised I was not alone and that I needed help, that my struggles were not going to go away if only I ‘just tried harder’.

 

Joining in the #PNDHour chat session each Wednesday from 8-9pm helped me hugely.  #PNDHour was started by Rosey, a mum of three who blogs about her experiences of pre- and postnatal depression in order to raise awareness and help provide support. You can find her blog here and more about #PNDHour on the video below:

 

 

If you’re reading this and having a similar struggle, I just want to say that it is okay. You will get there. That love will come. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow – but it will come. Please don’t feel like you’re a bad mum, or that you’ve failed. You’re not and you haven’t. Parenthood is incredibly hard work at times and everyone needs support. Please don’t struggle on like I did. There is so much support and help available out there. You are not alone and things can, and will, get better.

56 thoughts on “My struggle to bond with my second baby

  1. What an incredibly moving and honest post. I’m sure there are a lot of mothers out there who will really relate to what you are saying and appreciate you sharing your story. For me, it was the eldest I struggled to bond with – I think I was just too tired after a long labour and overwhelmed with the responsibility for a human being I knew nothing about! He was slow to start feeding too and lost over 1lb in weight in the first few days. I think it was three or four months before I felt besotted with him and happy to be a mother, despite the fact that being a mum was all I’d ever wanted. It was love at first sight with my second and third babies and they both fed within an hour of both.
    All mothers and all babies are different and I think there are very few who can honestly say they haven’t struggled.

    1. Thank you Sarah. Sorry to hear that you struggled to bond with your eldest but glad that that love came after three or four months. I think there are a lot of mums who do struggle in silence, hopefully this post will help them to realise they are not alone.

  2. Such an honest and moving post. It’s very brave to be so open, and I’m so glad you’ve found a family of support to help you do this. I’m sure this post will help so many other mums. I really believe that sharing our experiences will help each other xxx

    1. Thanks Kiran – having the support has made such a huge difference and agree that sharing our experiences is a good thing but it is very hard to be so open sometimes x

  3. What a really honest beautifully written post Louise. I can kind of understand what it’s like but I had a bit of PND with my eldest and didn’t struggle so much second time round. It’s completely understandable that you did though given your experience with Jessica. It’s just another one of those situations that can’t possibly be anticipated except in hindsight. I think social media is such a very mixed blessing but with something like the PND support group it’s invaluable- so glad you got that help in the end and I hope this post does give someone else the strength to find help and share too. Xx #thetruthabout

    1. Thank you Sam, social media is indeed a mixed blessing sometimes but the Twitter PND community helped me hugely when I was really struggling and hopefully by sharing my story, it will help someone else too x

  4. Oh my lovely lady I hope it felt good getting that out. Hats off for your honesty, and the hope this post leaves the reader with.

    If I’m honest, With everything you went through first time round, I’m not that surprised you struggled second time around. I’m so very pleased you are feeling better now though, you should feel so proud of yourself for getting through all the difficulties!

    Hugest hugs xxx

    1. Thanks Renee – I feel better for being open, it was a very tough first year but thankfully things are so much better now x

  5. Dearest Louise, you know my history with my first born and it is the hardest thing to face, I too felt like a bad mother and have suffered for 27 years. My eldest is a strong independent person and despite my struggles with him from birth he is my pride and joy. I feel i have been given a second chance since his son my precious grandson has been born, they are so similar i feel i have gone back 27 years to start again and it has been a great healing experience. None of us give birth and expect to feel like this but the reality is that a lot of women do for so many reasons. I feel as a midwife that it is important to recognise these issues as early as possible so that the healing can begin as soon as possible as this helps a lot. I am so sad that you felt like this, i wouldnt wish this on anyone least of you for everything you have been though, are a truely strong and couragious women whom i have massive respect for and hope that you can get through this and feel the same with Sophie as you do with Jessica. Jessica needed so much care and medical attention from birth and Sophie needs so much care in different ways and I know you give her that despite any feelings that you felt or feel. Take care my dear friend lots of love Pippa xxx

    1. Thank you Pippa – I know you struggled too and am sure you have helped a lot of other women through sharing your story. I am so glad that your grandson has made you feel that you have been given a second chance and has been such a healing experience. Sophie’s first year was incredibly tough but things are so much better now and that bond is now there and I love her dearly. I think for a long time, there was a part of me that didn’t want to admit that I was struggling – I felt having coped so well with Jessica’s first year, I couldn’t justify why I was struggling so much with Sophie but I suspect a lot of it was due to perhaps having coped too well with Jessica’s journey through her first year xxx

  6. What a brave and honest post, beautifully written as always.
    I think it’s a good thing that you can be honest and share your story, I can imagine it was an incredibly difficult post both to write and actually post.
    I have suffered with depression on and off for the last 13 years and though everyone is different I believe it does help to share, both for the person sharing and the people who read/listen and realise that they are not alone. I think that this post will help a lot of people and it’s a great thing that you have done in posting it.
    I can’t remember where I heard this but someone said ‘depression is not a sign of weakness it is a result of being strong for too long’ not the exact quote as it was years ago when I heard it, but it rang true for me then and I think it definitely fits you too. You are so strong and you have dealt with so much.
    I am glad that you have the support of your health visitor, GP and twitter. ‘You are not alone’ such a true and important message!

    1. Thank you Jenni – I was very nervous about actually posting it but wanted to share my story in the hope that it might help someone else. I am sorry that you have also suffered with depression on and off – I love the quote you shared, it is one that I have heard before but is so true. Thank you for your lovely comment x

  7. I’m sitting with tears rolling down my cheeks!! I know so many mums who suffered with PND and although I didn’t myself I do remember how tough those first couple of weeks are and especially second time round when you have to be up early with your eldest and struggle on! Thank you so much for sharing and I truly believe your story will help so many xx

    1. Thank you – if it stops another mum staying silent for as long as I did that will be a good thing. Thank you too for sharing my post via Twitter x

  8. This really is an amazing post – so very honest and open. It’s so important to speak about challenging experiences in order for people to realise it’s really common and can affect anyone. I’m sending this post to a friend of mine who suffered so badly with PND that she is scared of having another child – both understandable and heartbreaking at the same time.

    Thank you for sharing your own story. You will no doubt inspire a huge number of women to feel more comfortable in themselves … and what an achievement that is x

    1. Thank you Lorna – I hope that my post will help your friend. I have known people who have struggled first time and found second time round was less of a struggle – I think it also helps that you are probably more aware of signs and symptoms second time around and so are more likely to seek help sooner. I hope all will be well for your friend if she does decide to have another child x

  9. Great post. I had PND with my first child, who also happens to have had heart surgery, and I found it really hard to contemplate having another one because I was terrified of it happening again but thankfully it didn’t. I think it’s such a good thing to talk about because one of the worst things for me was thinking that I was the only person who felt that way and I thought I was a terrible mother and person. In reality a LOT of mothers feel that way and we wouldn’t have to beat ourselves up so much if we just talked about it more. Glad everything is going better for you

    1. Thank you Emma, it is sad to think how many mothers must feel so alone in feeling this way because it is something so many of us feel we cannot be open about. I hope your first child is now doing well after their heart surgery x

  10. Such an important post Louise and so very brave of you. My story is more similar to Sarah’s, not that I actually realised it until I had my second, and saw how different it could be. We do all need to talk about the realities more x #thetruthabout

    1. Thanks Sara – definitely agree that being honest about how difficult motherhood can be is important to help others who may be struggling x

  11. What an honest post. I think it is quite common for mothers to feel this way whether formally diagnosed as PND or not – I know I did. I really hope your story helps someone else xx

  12. Louise, you’re so right when you say that sharing this (as opposed to staying silent), breaks the stigma of PND. With more of this open attitude, hopefully more women realise that there is absolutely no shame in having PND, or indeed seeking help. You’ve written such a frank and beautiful account of your story, and I’m certain that many will take a huge amount of comfort from your words.

    It is very happy news to hear that all is well and you are at peace with life with your younger daughter. Take care and thanks for sharing your moving story xx
    #TheTruthAbout

    1. Thank you Fiona, the online PND community has helped me realise just how many mums struggle on in silence thinking they’re alone in these kinds of feelings – by being more open we help to give them a voice too x

  13. Your post rang really true for me and I wanted to say thank you, and echo how important it is to get support. My first was also a heart baby and we had a very traumatic first couple of months, though he’s fine now thankfully. I was terrified about having another and really struggled to feel connected throughout my pregnancy. I’m sure that the fact I was able to bond with him when he did arrive was down largely to the support I received including counselling during pregnancy and really supportive midwives and health visitors who understood my anxieties. The NHS came up trumps for me again, and it is so important to ask for help. It’s all so much more complicated when you’ve had a hard time first time round. Recognising and talking about this kind of thing has to be the way forward.

    1. Thank you – I think having that traumatic time first time does have an impact and I’m so glad that your heart baby is fine now and that you were able to bond with your second thanks to all the support and counselling you received. Being open about these kind of things does make such a difference x

  14. Oh hunny that can be so hard. I am glad you got help though even if eventually. its hard to know what is right to do when our emotions are everywhere. I had a similar issue with breastfeeding my first and my second. My first was easy and went over a year and my second had cracked, bleeding, latching problems and I got hospitalized even three separate times with severe mastitis and to feed through mastitis I swear was worse than labor. I dreaded latching her and even use to put a towel between my teeth to bite down in pain until she was latched. It was a long 6 months of feeding in pain. horrible. I can relate so much. its crazy how the experience isnt’ the same. Just shows you each baby is different. Thanks for linking up to Share With Me. Sorry if you had any trouble commenting on my site today as the host is being transferred there are a few glitches to fix. Apologies. #sharewithme

    1. Thanks Jenny, what a struggle you had with breastfeeding second time around and well done for managing to feed for 6 months, that takes some determination to get through all of that. Lovely to link up to Share with Me and thank you for hosting x

  15. Wonderful post lovely and I am so sorry to read about what a hard time you have had. I am.glad you got support in the end but it is a shame it took such a long time. It can be so hard to realise you have pnd when you are in it as you are just desperately trying to get on with things. I have found things really hard this time but thankfully things are improving and I am finding I am bonding with LM more amd more every day. Great post lovely and glad you have a supportive group on twitter too 🙂

  16. Such a moving post, Louise, and I know that you sharing your story will make a difference to other mums who are struggling in the same way. You’ve had a very tough time with both your babies in the early days and I’m glad to hear that things seem more settled now. I hope this post encourages others to seek help if they need it and will direct people to it if they need it.

  17. Your honesty is amazing. I want to thank you for trusting us readers with this topic. I have always wanted to share some more than what I am sharing at the blog but cant cuz I don’t trust myself that much yet to be able to do a topic some justice like you did here.

    #sharewithme

  18. Firstly thank you for posting this! I’ve written about my PND story too and I truly hope that by sharing our stories, our realities of Motherhood in all it’s forms, we can start to dissolve the stigma around PND and help others going through it. Secondly, congratulations for posting this! It know how hard it can be to put into words the scary emotions, the pain, the grief for a beginning that wasn’t. You’ve shown such courage. Thank you x #sharewithme

    1. Thank you – it was very hard to put it into words and share but as you say, it really does help to break down that stigma and help other mums feel that they are not alone which makes it worth it. So sorry that you also suffered with PND but glad you felt able to share your story too x

  19. Wow, what a beautiful and honest post. I can imagine it must have been quite difficult to write but I am sure this will be so helpful to many mums out there who are having similar feelings. Thank you for sharing xxx

  20. What a brave and honest post, thank you so much for sharing. I do understand many of your feelings- I struggled to bond with my second child and I think it was due to many reasons. It was hard, and I still feel guilt about it all. I hope you continue to receive the support you need x x x x x

    1. Thank you – there is a lot of guilt that comes with motherhood at times, thankfully things are much better now

  21. This is a very brave and honest post. I think that stories like yours need to be shared so that ladies in the same situation as you don’t feel as alone. I can understand why you feel like this as the two births and your babies needs were so completely different. I hope that you continue to get the support you need for this. #MummyMondays

  22. I think its really great you have been able to share this, for yourself and for others who will hopefully find comfort in reading something they can relate too.

    Thanks for linking up and hopefully see you again! #MummyMonday xx

  23. Such a great honest post. Thank you for sharing. I hope you sharing your struggles may help someone else in similar position too! I struggled to bond with my little man to start off with because he was poorly in hospital and when we finally got home I was just scared. I remember the first time being alone with him when he was like 5 weeks old and I cried pretty much the whole day. But it got better and easier. Now he is my best friend 4 years on 🙂

    thankyou for joining in on #mummymonday – love Gemma (host) xo

    sunshineonacloudydayblog:)

    1. Thanks Gemma – sorry that you also struggled to bond with your little man but so glad that it got better for you x

  24. I’m so glad I read this today. I’m feeling so awful for not being able to bond with my second. Everyone says you do but 8 weeks in I still haven’t. Is the twitter chat still going? Thank you so much for sharing your experience xx

    1. Helen, I am so sorry to hear that you are feeling awful because of having a similar struggle to bond although I am glad that my post has helped you to know that you are not alone in feeling this way. The twitter chat is still going – I haven’t joined in for a very long time but I have double-checked to make sure and the timings are still the same (#PNDHour, Wed 8-9pm) if you do want to join in. They were such an amazing source of support when I was struggling. I hope you will find it just as helpful if you do join in and hopefully that bond with your little one will come sooner rather than later. I can honestly say that I look at my second child now and feel amazed that I ever found it so hard to love her – the bond is certainly very much there now. Sending you a big virtual hug and hope that you start to feel better soon xx

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