After 14 hours of labour, three attempts with the vacuum, and an eventual c-section, I held my first born against my chest. As I lay flat on my back, unable to get her to latch on to my breast, I felt elated and exhausted but not yet a mum.
In the following days and weeks my stomach was often in knots as I floundered among butt cream, onesies and dummys. While the baby slept, I hunched over parenting books, brow furrowed, willing myself to speed read. As many mothers before me, I limped along surviving on 45 minutes of sleep and enduring “baby Jaws” attacks on my cracked nipples.
Still, I felt like a babysitter on a crash course, not someone’s mum.
When Easter came, and we gathered around with my raucous group of in-laws, my daughter was four weeks old. My relief at unloading my baby bundle at the party was quickly replaced by concern as I watched her being passed around like a popular side dish. The lights seemed as bright as the surface of the sun, the room’s talk and laughter at max level decibels, and my newborn began to wail. Older, experienced mums attempted to soothe my daughter to no avail. Distress pounded in my chest until I couldn’t take it anymore.
I swooped my daughter into my arms, booked it to a back bedroom and sealed myself inside. She gratefully latched on to my breast and sucked peacefully in the calm room. It was then that I felt the full weight of protectiveness and the powerful satisfaction of being the only one who knew what she needed and could deliver it. For the first time, I truly felt like a mum.