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Now where did I put that Maternal Instinct?!

post #1 of 22
Thread Starter 
I have just read an article in a local rag entitled 'Is Maternal Instinct really Instinct?' which left me feeling a whole mixture of emotions. Here is just a short piece of the article:

"As a new mother I was always losing things. Something about the postnatal hormonal chaos, coupled with four hours shaved off my nightly sleep quota, had me misplacing my jacket, shoes, car keys and even the car. More worryingly, and despite thorough searches, I couldnt for the life of me locate my maternal instinct.

Pre-babies, I assumed the mothering urge would kick in automatically. As twin boys were plopped onto my chest, I waited for the instinct to engulf me - something with the color and texture of candyfloss - enabling me to enjoy gazing at mewling infants for hours at a stretch and knit matinee jackets. But nothing happened. For some women there is no candyfloss, no overwhelming urge to nurture and protect or keep snippets of hair in lockets. ..."

I felt so sorry for this mother when reading this!!! I couldnt help but wonder what kind of birth experience she and her babies had. I assume it was in a hospital and most likely by c/section (with the babies being twins and all) and then I realised that maybe that had something to do with her lack of maternal instinct. Could the actual birth play a role in the mother-baby bond? I wouldn't be surprised if medication used during routine hospital deliveries dampened or muted a birthing mothers ability to connect with her own innate intuition and instinct. I know that certain drugs mock with the 'bonding' hormone in a new mother.

I also felt/(feel) frustrated because I understand how hard it can be to look after a small child and sometimes I believe that the only thing that keeps me going sometimes is that instinctive drive within me to keep on nurturing, loving, singing, dancing, playing...

Another extract from the article (this one made me what to cry and scream all at the same time)...

"Sam Wilson [not real name], a teacher in her early 40's, was living with her partner in Belguim when their daughter was born five years ago. 'I put Sherry [not real name] into chreche [day care] at three months and went back to work full-time. The fact that I could see the chreche from my office eased the guilt a little but, really, I had no qualms about putting here there. Chreche staff often do a better job than mothers do. They've chosen the job because they love children, and are trained for it - what training do mothers have? Chreche staff can focus on the children - rather than attempting to do 10 other tasks at the same time - and have at least had a good night's sleep.'

When she was pregnant with her son, Sam's partner was transferred to Yorkshire. Rather than spend her entire salary on childcare, they decided that Sam would take a career break and stay at home with the children. 'It was a disaster,' says Sam. 'Lets face it: children arent big on intellectual stimulation. You can seek out the company of other full-time mothers but you soon discover why all they talk about is children - there's nothing else to discuss. ..."

It seems to me that there is a growing number of mothers who are finding it very difficult to instinctively want to take an active and vivid role in the lives of their children. They feel as though they have to go through the motions of motherhood (or what they perceive to be mothers) without instinctively feeling a though they want to.

I do not blame the mothers who feel this way - it is not for me to do so at all. I do however believe that it is not their own doing that has lead them to feel un-instinctive as mothers. We live in a world that glorifies independance and places motherhood very low down on the priority list. Childbirth is viewed as almost an unnecessary painful procedure and the majority of women are braught up beleiving that no women should have to endure that kind of hardship; modern technology has taken care of all the primal, figity bits of childbirth. Not very many women are even given a chance to choose for themselves when it comes to child birth and mothering (and this in a world that prides itself on equality and fairness...).

I for one was never told of the importance of natural birth until I was in a position where I refused to go the medical route (after having a negative experience with doctors) and had to search for alternatives. I was amazed to discover that I knew very little about birth and about the importance of birth without intervention. I was always under the impression that the medical world was doing us women a favour by 'allowing' us to take drugs and have c/sections. Now what about the women who dont question their rights? What about the women who have their babies in hospitals where their needs come second to hospital protocol and the doctors personal agenda? These women are being robbed of experiencing the birth of their children! They are in an environment that calls for surgical precision and routine procedures and the honest truth is that these kinds of practices stand in the way of a mother and child bonding. There are often drugs involved that interfere with hormonal changes needed in order for a woman to be instinctive and open to becoming a mother. And then there are things like separation of mother and child, unsatisfactory visiting hrs which often causes a new mom to feel alienated at a time in her life where she needs love and support the most.

Maybe its just me, but I feel that there is a serious problem out there! Why are more and more mothers finding motherhood such a burden? Dont get me wrong, I sometimes feel like I dont know where to turn and there are times when I crave adult stimulation and a change of scenery, I am human! But I know that I am doing something vitally important and that there is nothing stopping me from asking for a day out on my own. When I feel as though I am not doing the right thing, I try and look for solutions, not somebody else to do my job for me ( and then honestly believe that they can do a better job of looking after my child and seeing to her specific needs because they went on a training course...) Maybe I am just one of the lucky ones who knows where to locate my maternal instinct...
post #2 of 22
That is a hard question. I think everyone has a different personality and there isn't anything wrong with that. I know I was born with a maternal instinct, my mom said as a little girl I loved taking care of others and was maternal. I was watching other people's kids before I even had my own. Yet I know others who although they love their children, and not "kid people" so to say. They just have trouble getting down and understanding things at their level. They don't feel the fulfillment I do being with children all day. My mother said she was glad she stayed home with us when we were little, but she is not a little kid person. She said she had a hard time figuring out how to entertain us and play with us. She liked us much more as we got older. I feel some kids are better off with others watching them, at least part time. The mom I nanny for 20 hours a week, she says she needs the stimulation of work to not go crazy, and her children love being with me, and complain when it is time to go home. Some moms would resent being home to such a degree that I feel their children are better off with someone who is a "kid person" and then their parents enjoy them more because they feel fulfilled. I am starting to loose focus, I hope I am clear with my point. I do agree the birthing process as well as the type of parenting style the mom chooses will affect how much her maternal instinct comes in. To me if she follow a detached rigid parenting style, as opposed to an attached one I think that would affect her maternal instinct more than the birthing experience. I mean moms that have c-sections and their babies spend months in the NICU can be just as attached to their babies as a mom who has a natural home birth, yet I think it is harder to find that maternal instinct when you parent in such a way that is detached .
post #3 of 22
I had very few motherly inclinations prior to dd. I did not like dolls, though I liked playing with other people's kids. Maybe it's because I see myself as a kid that I can get into a good game of redlight-greenlight-1-2-3?

Anyway. I had my dd. Bit of a surprise pregnancy as I was on the pill at the time. I honestly feel that BFing her made us bond. I mean we went through so much together learning how to BF. I just fell in love with her. Every time I nursed her I felt like we were becoming more and more of a bonded pair. Now that she's a weaned 2 year old I still feel a very strong attachment. She's never spent so much as a night without me (though I have come home late a few times ). I think that's one of the reasons BF is so important. The hormones it causes your body to secret combat PPD. Suffuse you with a sense of well-being and help you bond. It is worth doing. I feel terrible for these women who have no bond tho their babies. That is sad. I'm sure it happens to many people and can be very depressing for all parties involved.

post #4 of 22
I don't think I had any maternal instinct before ds was born. I was a dog person - not a kid person. But dh and I adored our dog and I guess I assumed I would rise to the occasion when I had a child. Wow! Maternal instinct went into OVERDRIVE! I agree that BF probably enhanced the bond. I had planned to go back to work but quit my job before my maternity leave was up. At 3 1/2 years, we're still BF'ing and co-sleeping, and starting to look into homeschooling. I'm soooo thankful that my maternal instinct found me!!
post #5 of 22
Yes, many women who had their children by c-section have had bonding issues with their children. Sometimes bonding never happens, or it takes months or more. Many women even have thoughts and doubts that the child is really theirs,e especially if the cesarean was under general anesthesia.

post #6 of 22
I have always had a maternal instinct too. I think that factors negating or diminishing that instinct are complex. I think it's simplifying things too much to pin it down on birth, or bf, or anything else. I'm an adoptive mom and I did not give birth. It did take me a few weeks to bond with my ds, but even before the relationship was completely in place, the maternal instinct was there. The minute he was placed in my arms, my whole focus was on him and his needs and learning to love him. Actually, the maternal instinct was there--for him--long before he came. My arms were waiting to be filled.

I do think that bf helps to enhance that bond--but it is not in and of itself the bond. I was able to bf my son for about six months using a nursing supplementer, and I have no doubt that it made a difference, especially during those first weeks when I was trying to feel like his mother. But all my other adoptive mom friends who weren't able to nurse at all have had the instinct kick in instantly, and the bonding occur very naturally, without the benefit of bf or birth. I guess I think that all the biological helps like hormones are wonderful helps designed to jump-start the bonding process and help mothers recognize the instinct that is there--but they are just aides to discovering the instinct, they are not the instinct itself. Motivation and desire can overcome just about any biological lack. In saying this, I'm not saying that something like PPD can be overcome by willpower; it can't. I'm just saying that there are factors other than pysiological ones that have a great impact on bonding and the maternal instinct. Personally, I think the maternal instinct is more of a spiritual thing than it is physiological.

I do think parenting style is a big factor. I know that AP really helped me! AP is going to shore up your ability to feel and hear your instinct, whereas other more detached styles are going to encourage you to ignore that instinct. The less focus you give it, the more it will disappear.

I hope any of this made sense!
post #7 of 22
I think if doctors and hospitals would make breastfeeding a priority instead of telling moms not to feel guilty if they don't want to because formula is almost as good, we would have moms who don't feel so detached. We forget that there is a hormone release that comes with breastfeeding that encourages bonding. I can't image I'd have had the same feeling overwhelming love for my children if I hadn't nourished them from my own body after they were born.
post #8 of 22
Ok, maybe I'm a little odd, but I had a bit of a detachment thing going on with my first. I didn't really feel "maternal" or anything, even though as a kid I'd always been the motherly babysitter-type. I didn't feel some fierce bonding to her.

I had a natural birth (no drugs, immediate skin-to-skin, no taking her away), co-slept, breastfed, slinged, stayed home, the works.

I think it was mild PPD.

With my son, no such thing. There was an immediate 'click', a fierce maternal instinct turn-on. I don't know for sure why it happened for my son and not my daughter, but I do know that it had nothing to do with my parenting style; that was in essence the same. I think that it had to do with the level of stress I was under. With my first, I got pregnant out of wedlock. My parents were quite unhappy. I lived in a loud, conflict-intensive house (can't go 15 minutes in my parents' house without an arguement, and although people there know that these are not serious arguements, I am convinced that even 'friendly' semi-yelling matches are not healthy for the body in terms of hormones, etc) with 6 other people. We lived there for 6 months before we moved into now-DH's apartment, when suddenly life became quieter and more stable. I seriously think that this had EVERYTHING to do with, well everything. Instead of my daughter having to focus on avoiding the negative arguement-energies all over my parents' place, and instead of me having to expend so much energy on keeping the peace, we got to expend energy on each other. And that made ALL the difference. And I think that this also made ALL the difference when it came to my pregnancy with my son, and to his infancy.

So I, personally, when I read this story, think WOW, these women don't even know how overwhelmed they really are. They think they are handling it, and don't know what the cost is to them and to their "maternal instinct", which, I am afraid, by the time you come home and try to SAHM with a 2 year old is just not going to kick in easily. They just weren't willing to put their energy on their kids and FIND that maternal instinct, if it didn't come to them at first. I'm sure it wasn't THAT lost.
post #9 of 22
I agree with the last poster. With my first I had no attachment. I was 19 and didn't breastfeed, co-sleep, basically no AP and was in the military and went back to work right away. We still are not close. She actually lives with her father and stepmother. For many reasons, but we have never really "clicked". My son was born and I felt it "click". It may be because his father was there supporting me and I breastfed right away. It was a bad birth experience, but it was fine as soon as he came out, easy recovery, so we really clicked. My 3rd is here and I am doing everything AP. We even EC so I feel we have a really great connection. I am bonding more and more with each child as I get older.

I'm not saying young moms can't be good moms because that is not true, but myself as a young mom was not a good mom. I wasn't ready for a baby and it showed. I definitely have that instict now, but I think a lot of factors go into it. I always wanted to be a mommy and have 5 kids. I played with dolls constantly, but I just wasn't ready for the real thing at 19. I had ppd with all 3 also.

But I would not bash a mom for feeling detached, it is something you can't control.
post #10 of 22
We have already had a discussion on here regarding whether a "natural" birth makes you more attached and the majority said no. Yes, some women who have c/s don't bond well, but so do some women who have vaginal deliveries.

I have had both a completely natural vaginal delivery (no drugs) and a c/s and if anything I was more bonded after the c/s.

I think whether or not you bond has a lot to do with your personality, your own issues, your support system, your baby's temperment, etc.
post #11 of 22
Raven, I think you're confusing two issues here. There are women who feel motherhood is a drag or "burden", and there are women who have delayed bonding with their babies; these include women who have "natural" deliveries.

Shortcomings in hospital care and priorities is a separate, and sometimes related issue. There are a plethora of women who had c-section or drugged births who bonded immediately, whose babies were alert and perfect, and who might have even felt nurtured during their hospital stay. Like every challenge in life, including motherhood, it is not necessarily the event itself, but an individual response to it that determines the outcome.

Save your pity for those of us who did not have a natural birth. Some of us are certainly more natural mothers than those who did. A more urgent concern is the general lack of support for mothers in our society, in general.

post #12 of 22
Originally posted by Ubertulip
There are a plethora of women who had c-section or drugged births who bonded immediately, whose babies were alert and perfect, and who might have even felt *nurtured* during their hospital stay.

I especially felt nurtured when DH would go get me fresh canteloup and sushi from Whole Foods Market. Beat the "snacks" they had in the Maternity Ward fridge.
post #13 of 22
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the response...
I just wanted to express once again that I do NOT judge moms who feel either like they feel motherhood is a drag or mothers who find it hard to bond instinctively with their babes. I just felt that there could be some explanation to mothers feeling like their babies were aliens and they couldnt bond with them.

I feel really sorry for mothers who have gone/are going through this!

I dont feel like motherhood is a complete breeze - there are many days where I cry b/c I feel like I am failing in some areas, but the instinct has never left me to want to look after and love my child.

It was a bit narrow-minded of me to assume that one or two factors could produce feelings of detatchment.... I just wish every mother "fell in love" with their babies - I can only imagine how hard it must be to look after a baby while feeling so confused on the inside!

Thank you for sharing your personal experiences and views with me!
post #14 of 22
Well I am a young mom and I had two c-sections and I had no problem at all bonding with my children. With my son I was planning a birthing center birth with midwives but got pre-eclampsia very badly and had to have an emerg c-section at 34 weeks. He was taken from me and airlifted to a bigger hospital and I didn't see him until he was 4 days old but I couldn't have bonded faster than if he'd been placed right on my chest. I wasn't able to breastfeed him either but I still had no problem with maternal instinct, it was those instincts that led me to AP and natural parenting. I was 21 when I had him. I had my daughter at 23, I was planning a home VBAC with the same midwifes but after 25 hours of labour and at only 5 cm her heart rate dropped to low 80s so we rushed to the hospital for another emerg c-section. We nursed 1.5 hours after birth in the recovery room and she's been latched on ever since! LOL (she still doesn't take any solids at 7 months and nurses 10-12 times a day. I had extreme sadness over having to have c-sections but it did not affect my ability to bond with my children. Holding them close to me was so healing. I plan to have a vbac (or try anyways) in hospital (can't have home birth after 2 sections) with my next but if I end up with another section I know from experience that it's not the birth experience that makes you a mother, its the baby!
post #15 of 22
"Yes, many women who had their children by c-section have had bonding issues with their children. Sometimes bonding never happens, or it takes months or more" I would really like see the studies done on this. Have you ever had a c-section? If not how could you know this to be true?
post #16 of 22
I had a c-section and I don't quite understand what that has to do with any kind of maternal instinct (or bonding for that matter). I certainly did not want one, I had it after a full labor and 3 hours of pushing in which my daughter did not progress after the first 1/2 hour. After she was born, I was diagnosed as having an abnormally small pelvis and a prominent tailbone (the tailbone I did know about from previous internal exams) which kept my daughter from descending properly.

If you saw me with my daughter from the first minute she was born until now, you would be hard pressed to find two more bonded people.

The bonding issue I would assume comes more from a form of ppd or just a particular personality.

By the way, the hospital staff could not have been better. I roomed in with my baby and they were very helpful in assisting me to find a comfortable breastfeeding position. I also had a lactation consultant assigned to me in the hospital. It was a very beautiful experience for me, despite the circumstances.
post #17 of 22
Do I have a Maternal instinct?

Unfortunately I didn't give birth to DS and I wasn't the one EBF'ing him.

Raven - I really liked your post. I even read it all!!

I do also find it scary. Why does it seem like I am the odd and unatural one because I parent my child and don't let someone else do it? What sort of self image do people have where they believe someone else can nurture and take care of their children better than they can? Maybe I just realize how important really caring for my child is. Is that an instinct?

Thanks Raven, I appreciated the ideas in your post. Most interesting.

then a little bit T

'Lets face it: children aren't big on intellectual stimulation. You can seek out the company of other full-time mothers but you soon discover why all they talk about is children - there's nothing else to discuss. ..."

I'm not sure what this person is saying with this quote but I'm sure I don't like it.
First of all I don't think she has been paying enough attention to the way her child learns if she thinks it's not stimulating.
Second stay at home parents are fairly representative of society. Do you have deep discussions with everyone you meet? If you meet someone at work, why would you expect to have more than work in common with them? Real friends with whom you can discuss 'stimulating' things can be found anywhere ... even among stay at home parents!!!
post #18 of 22
I don't think that all maternal behavior and attached, loving feelings are instinctive. I'm guessing that only a small part of our mothering comes from true instinct. The rest we learn from the people around us.

Those of us who didn't segregate ourselves from children when we became adults, who hung out with moms and dads when we were still single, have a better sense of how to relax with babies and how to relate to them. The person who wrote the article quoted in the OP doesn't sound like she had much preparation. She just thought, "Oh, I'll have a baby and then I'll know just what to do." And she had twins! I mean, that's really hard.

It's a lot easier to feel instinctive about baby care when you have good support, lots of information and good mental preparation for what parenting is.
post #19 of 22
Wow, this has been a really interesting thread. You immediately touched a chord with me re: the c-section thing. I had one as they discovered (after 20 hours that ds was transverse. I had given in & allowed them to give me some nubaine(sp?) because the pitocin they gave me (my contractions were so light I couldn't feel them, and my water had broken hours before..) was making for terrible crampy contractions, but NO progress! Anyway, I don't know if it was being awake & without food for 20+ hours, the nubaine, the epidural I had for the c-sec, the surgery, or what -- but I have a hard time remembering details or feeling very close with my ds at first.

I loved him <--- lots , but I didn't have a huge urge to hold him.be close to him. If he was happy (ie sleeping) I was content to leave him in his bassinette. Now I look back at all the hours I missed when I could have been bonding with him (not that we didn't have plenty of 2 hour nursing sessions -- boy that boy loves to suck!!! :LOL), and wonder why, why, why! He slept in our room in his bassinette for as long as he would that first week or so at home -- now I have a hard time not touching him when he is sleeping. I know I'll miss him when he moves to his crib.

So I guess what I'm trying to say is that I didn't feel the "instinct" to nurture, only one to meet his needs at first. I believe part of it was from how tired I was -- and drugged up!! But the rest of it? Not sure if it would have been that way if he had been born vaginally. That said, we're very bonded now -- he's been sleeping on my chest for an hour & a half and I don't want to put him down to brush my teeth so I can go to bed. :LOL
post #20 of 22
Originally posted by captain optimism
I don't think that all maternal behavior and attached, loving feelings are instinctive. I'm guessing that only a small part of our mothering comes from true instinct. The rest we learn from the people around us.
Excellent point, but I think I'm going to disagree just a bit. I think more of it comes from instinct and that instinct is influence by those around us. I think maternal instinct is in just about every woman. We are mammals and mammals are wonderful mothers.

I do think that the people around us have a huge influence though, and often in a negative way. I grew up believing what I heard - babies will be spoiled if you hold them all the time, that they need to CIO, that they will test you from day one and you must be in control, etc etc etc. Now, I had no maternal instincts at that time (the hormones weren't there) and I thought it all made sense to me.

Had I not taken a turn in attitude, I would probably have been shocked or even frustrated when my hormones kicked in and I felt those strong urges to hold and pick up my baby. I would possibly have ignored them or actively suppressed them. Fortunately, I discovered AP and realized I could embrace my instincts, and that's exactly what I did. But I can see how other women would suppress them. I don't know a single mother who did CIO and did not have to fight those urges, even though they thought CIO was the best thing for their baby. That alone tells me that it's hard to fight Mother Nature.
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