Childbirth was an anti-climax for me.
After twenty-four hours of feeling like I was being yanked apart like a wishbone, my son was eventually pulled from my womb and unceremoniously bundled onto my chest. He didn’t even cry.
I was waiting for the tears – mine and his – and I was also waiting for the rush of love to blot out the last day of pain, fear, and frustration. I didn’t feel any of that. What I was actually thinking was if a nurse would come to wash out the thick smell of blood from his hair, and whether the bits of human debris that stuck to his eyelashes were bits of my uterus. I then asked no one in particular if I was allowed to hold him. He was lying on my chest but my arms felt like they were pinned to my side, dead. I felt incredibly inadequate and ultimately unprepared for the role of carer for this vulnerable infant, so in that moment the thing I felt most was fear.
The inevitable tedium and exhaustion that characterises the first weeks of motherhood seemed particularly painful because I felt no immediate motherly bond, and for his part he seemed thoroughly unimpressed with everything, including me. He cried constantly, fed with fluctuating levels of success, and when he wasn’t sleeping or crying he stared at me with a deadpan look that made me feel uncomfortable and helpless. Then he smiled at me for the first time, and just like that everything changed.