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Thu, 26 November 2015
LOVING BABIES
I am lucky enough to be the mum of three beautiful girls.  Right now I have some close friends about to embark on the beginnings of their parenting journey but I am personally in the phase of ‘lasts’.  My youngest (and my husband assures me LAST) baby is three years old now  and I find myself wondering – is this the last time she will come into my bed and snuggle through the night with me? Is it the last time she will use her pet name “mu-mar” instead of the more grown-up “muesli bar” (which she is now able to say).  Already she’s fiercely independent, probably as a result of trying to keep up with two older sisters. And her hair now smells like strawberries from the berryilicious ‘big girl shampoo’ she uses not that unforgettable baby shampoo hair smell that is unique to newborns.

I know I am lucky to have experienced it three times. That incredible feeling when you hold your baby for the first time.  After the post-flurry of birth, I remember the still of my room as I held each of them for the first time.  That time when everything else fades and you are just holding them, gazing at them, with a mixture of awe and wonder (we created this), love (how amazing she is) and terror (especially with the first one).

I remember the way they each looked, that slightly quizzical newborn look with the beautiful wide eyes as they locked eyes on my face. Apparently, as humans we are genetically programmed to ‘fall in love’ with our own babies – when we look at them we get flooded with oxytocin which is like a love hormone, this is more the case for mothers, but also happens for fathers.  As we feed, rock or snuggle our babies we also release dopamine, another natural chemical that causes pleasure in the brain.  If I think about the amount of time I spent gazing at my newborns, I don’t think I have had that same focus on anything else in the same way in my life.  

Having said that, I know it’s not like that for everyone.  I’ve had one friend who had a really difficult birth, and then her baby was in the special care nursery for a week. I remember her saying she found it hard to connect to her baby and it wasn’t until they were home together where it was quiet and she was physically recovering, that the feelings of love and wonder developed for her.

What I didn’t know when I had my children was that babies brains are best stimulated by contact with you – not doing anything special, just being with them, stroking them, whispering to them, cuddling them, giving them time and showing them love.  Apparently the best thing for babies is to be with you, interacting with you, so that makes me feel better about all that time on the couch now.  There is lots of parenting advice out there about resting and letting others do things for you but a little part of me always felt a bit guilty about how much time I just spent cuddling and being with my new babies in those early weeks and months.....now I tell my husband I was promoting our baby’s brain development!

Those really early special times are over for me now, although occasionally I see glimpses of them when I stroke a tired and upset cheek or when I tuck the blankets back in around their sleeping bodies.  But I have a connection with my children that draws from those early days, the emotions, memories and hormones, it was the beginning of the relationship that we have started together.

What is your experience of those early baby days? Leave us a comment.
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