Friday, 4 April 2014

The Non-ternal Instinct

I've never been a particularly maternal person; a fact that was demonstrably clear a few days ago... 

I was at a mother and baby group with some friends who have babies around Blake's age, when everyone attending got into a circle to sing songs. The general mood in the room was one of elation while my internal adult recoiled in horror. Luckily my friends were also less than keen to join the circle and we hung around at the back, me clutching Blake like a protective talisman. However, it was at this point that a conversation took place about the song that was reverberating around the room, wailed by toddlers and seemingly delirious mothers. One friend admitted that her baby loved this one, while the other friend conceded that her boy was a fan of Wizard of Oz. I felt compelled to chip in: 

"Blake likes Nicki Minaj."

He does, he loves her. I don't own one single baby friendly song, and I'm working on the principle that the words mean nothing to him anyway, so it shouldn't really matter if the song is about drugs. Should it? 

This incident is not the first time that I've questioned my maternal instinct (or lack thereof). I never really wanted children before Mr Meaney came along; it just wasn't something that I saw in my future. But, when you meet someone that you want to breed with, a change happens and biology takes over: suddenly I wanted nothing more than to produce the fruit of this man's loins. However, wanting a baby and being maternal are really quite different things. Even when I was so full of baby that I thought my seams would split, I found myself making awkward and inappropriate jokes at midwife appointments and avoiding other people with babies. Being pregnant seemed to mean I should want to hold every precious newborn that crossed my path. I didn't, and I was beginning to worry about holding my own when he finally arrived.

Of course, when he was handed to me in hospital, I was more in love than I ever imagined being and his warm, wrinkly skin seemed to be the only thing that calmed my post-op morphine shakes. After a little while in recovery, the midwife made herself scarce to allow us to get to know each other and Mr Meaney went outside to make ten thousand phone calls. I was alone with my precious son, and I desperately didn't want to be: I was bloody terrified. What happened if he moved? What happened if he cried? Seriously, what happened if he shit? In fact, whenever I had to change a nappy in my hospital bay, I put the curtain around me so that the other mums on the ward couldn't see me make a total hash of it. 

For the first few weeks, I felt awkward holding him; unsure of how to support his head properly and completely clueless as to how I was supposed to wind him. Even now I hate taking him to baby clinic to get him weighed, certain that all of the other parents (not to mention the dreaded health visitors) are judging the way that I cack-handedly wrestle his arms into his jumper. Despite being perfectly happy and content at home, he would cry when we were around other people's houses and I was sure it was because I felt uncomfortable. Not with him, but with the way other people saw me with him.

Here's the thing: I was doing just fine. Perhaps I didn't have the classic maternal instinct, but I did have a Blake instinct. Just because I wasn't the most natural when it came to holding a fragile newborn didn't mean I wasn't able to learn as I got to know my son. I've managed to keep him alive and well using nothing but my body for fourteen weeks and he's an incredibly happy and settled little man; at least half of that credit is mine. When he's upset, I'm one of the only people who knows just how to settle him, and he looks for me whenever I leave his sight. Blake adores me, you can see it in his eyes. I'm no longer just a handy milk machine; as he gets older his need for me has turned into real love, and that's my doing. I may not be the most graceful person when it comes to getting him dressed, and I may be quietly looking forward to returning to work for a few days next month, but I still know I'm a fantastic mother.

I think there is a lot to be said for maternal instincts, but not having one doesn't mean that motherhood isn't for you. To this day I'm still as awkward as it comes with other people's babies, but I know my own like no one else, and that's all the instinct that I need.

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