A gentle transition to motherhood

The Rabbit Hole

Posted by on Jun 29, 2014 in Blog | 2 comments

I fell further down the Rabbit Hole this week. The love I feel for my kids I’ve always likened to the Rabbit Hole from Alice in Wonderland, for as we fall down it we turn upside down, broaden our perspective beyond the scope of our imagination, and generally feel that incredible sensation of falling into something so much bigger than ourselves.

It took me a long time to fall. I can brush that off with a million different excuses: my kids were in the NICU so I was afraid to bond with them, there were two of them at the same time and I was overwhelmed, I’m a terrible person and clearly a terrible mother. You name it, I’ve thought it. And these days I’m simply left with the guilt that comes from being slow to attach, and the overwhelming sensation of having finally fallen deeply, madly in love. That overwhelming pressure on my heart as it expands past the boundaries I had already felt were stretched to their limits.

But I don’t want to talk about how much I love my kids today. Instead, I want to be brave enough to tell you that I didn’t think I loved them at all when they were first born. I felt….nothing. No, that’s not true. I felt a gripping fear that something was terribly, terribly wrong as I held my son in my arms and thought, “he’s covered in a lot of goo. Gross. I think I’m supposed to kiss him.” And so I did. Because I should. Because that is what a mother who is in love with her baby does when he is first born.

I don’t remember the birth of my daughter at all. She came ten minutes after my son but by this point I was past exhaustion and she, along with her brother, were whisked off to the NICU for observation and I was allowed to sleep. That was all I really wanted. To sleep.

When my son came home from the NICU three days later he would cry and I would have to remind myself that it was my job to take care of the problem, whatever it was. And I would. I would solve it, or cuddle him, or feed him….but only to get him to stop crying. So I could sleep. Or eat. Or cry.

The day we brought my daughter home (two weeks later) I felt that gripping fear again. Things were hard enough with one baby at home. I mean, it was HARD. That first night home was the worst of my whole life. And now we are going to add another baby to the mix?

As the months dragged on I slowly adjusted but my heart did not. A good friend once said to me “don’t you feel like you would do anything for your kids? Like you would go to the end of the earth for them?” I remember thinking, “Meh. I guess so. But a nap? I’d go to the ends of the earth for a nap.”

Six months went by, and slowly but surely I began to open my heart to my children. Around this time my primary care physician (who also happens to be a dear friend) came to check up on me. We talked a lot about how I was feeling and she said something that cracked my heart wide open.

“My kids were in the NICU too. And it took me six months to bond with them. I think I was worried that they weren’t going to live and I just couldn’t let myself get attached until I knew, really truly knew that they were going to make it.”

I’ve learned over my years as a hypnotherapist that when you get an emotional response from a question, thought, or statement that you’ve hit something important. The flood gates opened when I heard this, for somewhere in my subconscious mind I knew that it was true.

I’m an open, honest, straight talking, heart on my sleeve kind of person. I don’t put up walls. And here it was, a forcefield that I had created to protect myself from feelings so big and so terrifying that I couldn’t possibly let myself feel them if there was even a chance these little people could be taken away. Of course I didn’t recognize this wall for what it was. I don’t build them. I have nothing to compare it to. And yet, our minds are so amazing at protecting us, at helping us to SURVIVE that I created the ultimate wall.

After that, I could see the Rabbit Hole. I could see that we weren’t going back to the NICU, that these little people were mine, all mine, and so I jumped into the great unknown and fell….hard.

Today, as I continue to tumble through the Rabbit Hole, I’m still left with a guilt that weighs so heavy on my heart sometimes it is unbearable. How could I have let myself block out all that love? How has it impacted them? Will they ever forgive me? Will I ever forgive myself?

We talk in HypnoMothering about bonding being a love story – like Disney movies, they are all different. Some take time, some are instant. Neither one is better or worse, they are just different. But the good news…the GREAT news…is that it is a love story. It has a happy ending. You reach the Rabbit Hole and eventually….you fall.

Kira Dorrian and Tracy Adams are Seattle-based Clinical Hypnotherapists and HypnoBirthing® Practitioners, each a mom of twins. Together they have created HypnoMothering™, a class designed to help prepare women for a gentle transition into motherhood, and a safe space for new mothers to be seen, heard, and supported.

2 Comments

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  1. Dove Elbers

    Kira, thank you for writing this. My older sister has a terrible relationship with my mom. I think I have always been afraid that my daughter and I will not have a strong relationship and that she will distance herself from me. Like you, I didn’t have the best opportunity to bond with her right away when she was born. Reading your post is helping me to remember that firstly – she might not distance herself from me and secondly – I too feel guilty for the time is has taken me (and continues to take me) to really feel connected with her. She’s thirteen now and she doesn’t often come to me for attention. This triggers my fear that I am not, have not and will never really be able to meet her needs for connection with me. When I can remember and experience the times of connection with her it feels SOOO good and I love her and I love myself. I wish I was in that place with her more often. In the meantime, I feel so grateful to you for bringing this picture of self-empathy and openness to the shift. Dove

    • Kira

      Dove, I can’t believe I never responded to this. Thank you, also, for being brave enough to share. It makes me feel less alone too. Hugs to you and your daughter. No matter how complicated it may seem, there is love there.

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