Backward insight and empirical evidence? Don't ask me, I'm with stupid.

 The following is commentary from one of my posts. Baby blues and postpartum depression are not something that should be dismissed or ignored. THAT'S when it becomes dangerous. Included are links to as many seemingly legitimate sites (that I could dig up in twenty minutes) addressing the myth of all mothers bonding instantly at first sight of their newborn.

"The emotional side is different - mothers are not supposed to "unwant" their children. Most generally experience hormonal changes in pregnancy that nurtures the instinct to love and care for their children."

I don't mean this to sound condescending, please believe me, but this statement is fairy tale like. Forever and a day women have been saddled with children they do not want. Pregnancy does not conjure up some magical love potion, in fact, it's been known to invoke quite the opposite. Giving birth does not a "mother" make. Many mothers do not feel an immediate love for their newborn and the stereotype you describe can be the cause sometimes, I think, of a new mom being unwilling to admit she's exhausted, or just plain "not feeling it" because of the pressure to be this perfect maternal model. It's funny actually, the "rainbows and unicorn" label given to adoption can easily be applied to the act of giving birth and the euphoria and love that's expected to be automatic and "natural". Being a new mom is damn hard work and any chance I get I'll tell them to accept the feelings of exhaustion, that it's ok to feel like you want to chuck your baby out the window because they just won't stop crying and you haven't slept for days. It's when new moms have to pretend these feelings don't exist or that they feel pressure to hide them that they end up doing things I don't even want to go into here.


  1. "Giving birth does not a "mother" make."

    Agreed..but beware of the backlash that I suspect is going to occur. Campbell, purely out of curiousity, how does that concept relate to your feelings on adoption, if at all? A lot of my relationship with my birthfamily is based, perhaps falsely, on the concept of giving birth equaling motherhood.

    I agree with you, just curious about your thoughts.

  2. Hey Amanda!

    This post was really more about dismissing the idea that people don't fall in love or bond instantly with the newborn. That's too much pressure. If a woman doesn't feel it's ok to admit that she's struggling than she and her baby can be in serious trouble.

    The giving birth does not a "mother" make part is almost a different topic, eh? But anyway, I believe that and there's much evidence to that effect. I can think of people I know personally, aunts, grandparents, friend's mom's who really did not want all their kids (if any) and it's obvious in the way they treated or treat them (I listened the other morning to a radio show based on trying to convince some woman not drink alcohol while she is pregnant).

    The way that it relates to adoption for me is pretty simple in that not all women want the babies they give birth to and some of them give them up for adoption. Then we adoptees think that just because a woman gave birth to us that there should be some connection more magical than biology and genetics, which are cool in themselves, but they're not a feeling, an emotion like love. Hey, likewise for the parents maybe. Much of our development (parents AND children because parents develop too) is nurture. On behalf of the nurturer and recipient.

    Giving birth does certainly make one biologically a mother, no negating that. But getting pregnant and giving birth doesn't necessarily make you want to be a motherly mothering selfless throw-yourself-in-front-of-a-truck kind of parent, if you don't want to be one in the first place.

    I wish that statement wasn't in my posted comment actually because I think they're two very different things, getting pregnant and giving birth and not wanting to is much different than wanting to get pregnant and giving birth and then freaking out because you're not feeling it the way you THINK you should or you've been told you should feel.

    I imagine it would be very frightening and lonely because what woman wants to say that they're just not that into their newborn baby?

    This comment blathers on and I didn't address the adoption angle very well Amanda and for that I'm sorry. Too many different serious, conflicting thoughts for one little comment.

  3. I just wrote a blog post that included how much I HATE when people say that about giving birth not making you a mother, but in all fairness...I AGREE with the way you used it in this post. You make a very valid point, and I actually enjoyed reading this, just as much as I always enjoy your posts. Good work! Thank you for sharing!!

  4. I had postpartum depression with my first son. It was debilitating and scary since I had never experienced depression before. I'm not sure if there is a connection between post-partum depression and relinqhishment. I never considered relinquishing - I did love my son fiercely. But he was difficult, a baby who cried incessantly and nothing I did seemed to calm him. He didn't sleep through the night till he was almost 2. He, quite frankly, made me feel like a failure. He hardly ever slept and I was exhausted all the time. At age 8, he was diagnosed with ADHD, which was not a surprise! He still (at almost 12) does not sleep much, only now I don't care!

  5. MrsPerrbear, thanks for seeing the value in the message I'm trying to get across. I'm no expert in this but I know it exists and it can be terrible for mom and baby! I "lol'd" that you'd just included in a post how much you HATE when people say that. It means tons you can see what I'm trying to say.

    Kris..thank YOU for sharing your experience. It didn't happen to me but I remember feeling sooo tired sometimes and thinking, man, could ya just put a sock in it?!?! I need sleep! Then thinking how lucky I was to somehow know it's ok to feel that way, it's normal and how horrible it must be when a person not only doesn't know it's understandable to feel that way but may also be suffering with a pregnancy induced depression.

    I wasn't trying to connect the myth of immediate bonding or postpartum depression to relinquishment it's kind of just how the conversation evolved while talking about all mothers feeling a connection due to the simple fact they've been pregnant and given birth.

    And I love this haha "He still (at almost 12) does not sleep much, only now I don't care!"

  6. I realized after reading my comment how this sentence may have sounded "I never considered relinquishing-I did love my son fiercely." I did NOT mean to imply that women who relinquish do not love their babies every bit as much as I did.
    I was responding more to the not loving your baby right away part of your post.
    I am sorry for the way I wrote that.

  7. Campbell,
    Thank you for visiting my blog, for taking the time to post a comment, and esp. for linking to my post about infant bonding! Instant bonding is indeed a myth, which only serves to worsen a mother's postpartum experience. If she has postpartum depression, well, that just aggravates her feelings of guilt all the more. Your comment agrees with the gist of my post about debunking the myth of instant bonding. You are not off base. It's society in general that's way off base, and putting all that mythical stuff out there to cause first-time mothers to have unnecessarily high expectations is something I'd like society to stop at some point. That can only happen if there are enough voices out there in blogs, the news, magazines, books, etc. join together to speak the truth.

  8. Kris, no need to be sorry! It's clear you didn't mean anything negative toward anyone else. I totally understand what you were saying and responding to.

  9. Campbell, I think that the application of post partum depression can be correct. To a point. The exhaustion, I never experience by the way - and I was young, alone and going to school also. Being tired and wanting to dump them in the toilet or out the window - that is normal. But the fact is your argument is flawed. I bonded with my child in womb - I knew her from the beginning of her life and will till the end of mine. I love her and always will. Bonding is not negated by hormonal flip flops like post partum depression. And no amount of exhaustion can change your love - only your temperament.

    First, there are women who don't want their children - absolutely correct. But then why is the assumption that all women that relinquish don't want their children, when one of the most prominent ways of getting a woman to give up their children for adoption is the argument that I heard over and over, ad nauseum, "if you love her you will give her up"?

    And, no offense but being a mother is also more than just raising a child. Because if that was true all women who have nannies who care for their children, are not mothers. The nannies are. Consider it.

    The only definition of mother there is, well, is so very simple. Mother is the one that loves you more than life itself. The one that will lay down her own life for yours. Anyone can kiss a boo boo and anyone can make you feel good about yourself, only a mother would die for you.

    I know a lot of First Mothers who feel that way and just as many or at least close to that many adoptive mothers.

    It is not about genetics - not really - it is about secrecy and lies. It is about being told that you have to do something to "save" a child that does not need saving and to "save" your child when the child is perfectly fine.

    That is what it really is about.

    I would say adoption was wonderful if the parents that were adopting were doing it not because they don't want to do it the old fashioned way because it might ruin her figure, or because they "NEED" to parent, or because they just can't do it on their own, or because they have some twisted desire to save a child. I would say adoption was wonderful if no one made a dime of any adoption. Not a single dime. Not a penny - nothing.
    I would say adoption was wonderful if the lies and secrets were ended and honest straightforward truths were used.
    I would say adoption was wonderful if so many of the poor were left alone instead of being told they would be "saving" their children.

    Then, I would agree.

    But using that argument - Campbell, please! I know women who have post partum depression in spades and it can manifest in many ways - my late husband's sister left her husband after the birth of each of her four children. She still loved him, but her hormone flip flop was in charge, not her and it had nothing to do with her bonding with her children.

  10. Hey Lori

    My original post is disjointed. It's really not an argument in anyway FOR adoption. It's more about society saying things like you just said,

    "I bonded with my child in womb - I knew her from the beginning of her life and will till the end of mine. I love her and always will. Bonding is not negated by hormonal flip flops like post partum depression. And no amount of exhaustion can change your love - only your temperament."

    and another woman not feeling like that as easily. I think the point is to educate that the experience of having a child is not set in stone for every person and it can be frightening and isolating if a mother thinks they're so supposed to feel a way, and they don't.

    It's my fault that you would have taken it as an argument in favor of adoption or against mothers because of the way my post was written.

    If one tries to imagine how a woman would feel if she didn't feel the way she knows you or I did, and didn't know that bonding is not necessarily automatic, that she may not feel any attachment while pregnant, or feel an attachment while pregnant only to have the baby and then feel nothing like the way she expected to feel, and then be ashamed to tell anyone or ask for help.

    It's not good.

  11. Campbell, ok - I get that, I know plenty of women that have had trouble with wanting or bonding with their children. I also know that a lot of women are scared to ask for help because the help that is out there, well, at least in the US, it can cost you your child also! Help with problems like that is almost always through social services - so you can kind of see how that would be an issue.

    Personally, I think educating mothers-to-be in safe, non-threatening and absolutely non-social service involved places, would be a huge step forward in teaching young women good parenting skills.

    Good thoughts.

  12. 'Giving birth does not a "mother" make'

    The problem with this statement is that it is loaded. Even though you do not mean it this way, it was the rationale that was used for 50 years to justify forced surrender. :( That we are not mothers, but are only incubators. Like my son's adoptive parents telling me that I am not his mother, but only 'genetic history.' It is a phrase that hurts to hear. Triggering for some of us.

    Now, having said that, I do agree that not every mother will feel a bond with her child right at birth. My own mother admits she NEVER bonded with me.

    I do wonder though, how much this difficulty with bonding might be related to mother and baby being separated by hospital policy at birth (e.g. in my case, Son #2 being put under lights for 6 days and I was not allowed to pick him up much because they 'thought' he had jaundice when he didn't. But, for several days, they kept him in the nursery, bottle fed him against my wishes instead of bringing him to me for feedings, making it difficult for nursing to be established, etc. FAR easier to bond with my 2 subsequent children who roomed-in with me and nursed round the clock.)

    How much does lack of bonding correlate with lack of breastfeeding, when the natural lactation process is suppressed? Has anyone done any studies on this?

  13. I don't know without researching cedar but sounds like a possibility but I would be careful with this angle as well because breastfeeding is another myth of procreation. That bamm! baby is born, both mom and he/she are experts at nursing. Yes, I know there are lucky ones who have no problem whatsoever for one millisecond (so they say) at all with nursing, but some do. We did initially. My son was born via c-section and was very sleepy so between my ineptness and his lack of interest it was a gong show at first. So, although it's best to breastfeed, on all accounts, it has to be presented honestly. It's the most natural, beautiful thing....ok, picture yourself as mom thinking, am I the only one creeped out by the thought of this? I must be, and I better not tell anyone because there must be something wrong with me. Or another mom not wanting to tell anyone she can't get her baby to latch on properly so she's in horrible pain and every time she nurses it's like torture...

    I was thinking about bonding with my son before he was born and I now remember I tried as hard as I could to not get too attached pre-birth. I remembered calling him "the cell" until I could feel him move so that I could protect myself in the event something happened. I did everything possible to protect him and myself from harm while I was pregnant but I was careful to not get too close, just in case. We were lucky ones and all went well.

    Cedar, I'm very struck by something you've said in this comment. You say you were told you were only genetic history. These people are the ones who added the "only", try saying it without that word. It's not an only.

    To me the genetic factor is THE most important connection to my biological people. I don't know them, I don't love them, I don't miss them, I don't feel rejected by them but I wonder about my genetic background, who I'm related to, why I have certain physical features, or talents, or tendencies.

    Genetics are one of the least "onlys" in adoption.

  14. Not sure if this takes things way off course but...
    Post adoption depression is also very real and overwhelming. Being handed a child that is a complete stranger both emotionally and physically can be intensely overwhelming for the parent and the child. A biological mom experiences labor- and international adoption AP experiences jet lag ;)

    The expectations for adoptive parents to instantly bond is as (maybe more so?) ridiculous and potentially damaging to the adopting parent and child.

    The adoptive parent experiences the same shame for not being joyous but feeling scared and regretful.

  15. It's not off course Diane, if one is coming from the angle of caring about the kids. Anything that gets wrapped up in ego or appearances when it comes to parenting can be damaging, can't it?

    "What will the neighbors think?" is a huge issue when it comes to parenting. Way back when (and likely for some still now) a daughter getting pregnant young was cause for shame, negative reaction to a fine young son turning out gay much of the time has to do with the parents being embarrassed, barely passing grades in school are still a pass but yet we still want more. We think it's all a reflection on us as parents.

    In my opinion, if our kids are good people, have the confidence to be who they are and have respect for the world and other living creatures, eventually end up self supporting in a way that fulfills them to some degree, and have a sense of family and care about their own if they choose to have one, THAT'S something to be proud of as a parent and I think to get there we have to be able to admit our mistakes and see our own shortcomings. To be realistic and honest with our kids and ourselves.

    Now THAT'S taking things way off course ; )

  16. "What will the neighbors think?" is a huge issue when it comes to parenting.' true Campbell.

    Ditto to all that you wrote here!


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