Ah, photographs – beautiful, flattering lies to frame (slash, Instagram) and treasure forever. I can barely look at this picture I posted on Instagram in August 2013 – mainly because Dory is so low in the sling it kills me (but it was our first proper outing with her and it was akin to when now nearly 4 year old Dory proudly puts her top on by herself, but it’s backwards – don’t ruin the moment, just celebrate the achievement and do it differently next time) but also because it was such an odd time. You’re tired obviously, completely shell-shocked naturally and undeniably questioning everything you’re doing. And not depressed, just more . . nonplussed. There’s so much said about the huge joy you’re meant to feel when your baby’s finally in your arms, and thankfully there is more and more being said about the dizzying downs that can come hand-in-hand with the ups. But for me, it was more of an unglamorous plateau. I did not feel ineffable bliss when Isadora Ray Whittaker was finally placed in my arms at 10pm one Sunday night in July. I felt exhausted. I felt a bit irritated with her for hurting me so badly (understatement of the century) and I also felt sorry for her that she was a girl and would have to go through the same thing. That’s it! I didn’t look at her face and love her instantly, I wish I had, I had dreamed of crying tears of joy but the second she was there it was like she had always been there – which I suppose is quite nice in its way too – and I was as matter-of-fact as I always am, politely asking the midwife if she could hold her while I had a shower.
It’s marvellous, and I’m so jealous, that so many people can look at their baby and instantly fall in love with them. But I think it’s OK not to too. Why shouldn’t it take time to bond with them? It’s a stranger you’ve never met who you must get to know, and not a polite stranger either who will hold the door for you and ask if you want a coffee. No, this is a stranger who will cause every single part of your body to hurt and who won’t let you sleep, ever. A torturer, basically. It took me a few weeks to get to know Dory. We had to put our much-loved terminally ill cat down three weeks after she was born – about two days before this photo actually – and I was very upset that our much-loved first child had to go, only to be replaced with this.. baby. I know it sounds bad, but it did not seem like a fair deal. At all.
I really don’t think there’s anything unnatural in taking more time to get to know your baby, and I’ve always been happy to say that when friends have worried in the past that they’re not spending the early days in a happy haze. Not all bonds form instantly, but it can take weeks to build solid foundations – it’s all good, because as the years pass, these roots tentatively put down in those early days will harden and mature to form something indestructible that will last a lifetime. That’s a promise.