They say that when you are pregnant, you will feel a special connection for your baby and fall completely in love with them. That doesn't happen for every woman, and we are made to feel a little less than motherly for it. But what happens if you don't form that bond even after your baby is born?
I have six children. I have always developed those maternal feelings quickly after my kids were born. That is, with all of my kids but one—my second son.
It was my third pregnancy and it turned out, I was having twins. All was going well until my 28th week when we went in for a routine ultrasound and found out twin A, our little girl, had suffered a stroke.
The rest of the pregnancy was a blur of emotions and prayers. At 36 weeks, it was show time, and the babies were born. My little girl went to the NICU and her brother went to the nursery. When it was time to go home, she stayed in the NICU a few more weeks while he came home right away.
I believe having to care for him saved my sanity. He was a really easy baby. Very laid-back and happy to amuse himself. He didn't want to be held all the time, and in fact, preferred to be left to his own amusement in the bouncy chair.
When he was diagnosed with autism at age 3, I thought that explained the lack of bond. But at almost 12 years-old, I am still not sure we have bonded.
Don't get me wrong—I love him and I feel the need to protect him, but there is no connection between him and me.
As a peer mentor for over 10 years, I have found this to be a common guilt in many of the people I have mentored. Many of the parents I have helped admit a lack of connection to their child with special health care needs, a desire to not have this life, and shame for feeling these feelings.
I feel the same things in many ways, but I refuse to hide it. These are my feelings and they are shared by so many other parents. If we can all be honest about our children and our emotions, maybe we can find a way to work through it. But hiding and denying the reality will not help anyone.
Honesty, an understanding support network, and the reassurance from other parents that having these emotions does not make you a horrible person, a bad parent, or lacking in some portion of your humanity, can help us all deal with the daily struggle of making better lives for our children and our families. Remember you are not alone.
With every passing year in the world of being a parent of a child with special health care needs, you have the day to day struggles, the fun holidays, and some surprises. Good and bad.
It's important for my family to have only supportive people in our circle. Connecting with other parents and parent groups made a huge difference. Here's how.