Cuddles are one of the best things about being a mum. I love giving them. But receiving them from our daughter melts my heart. She gives THE most amazing bear hugs. They’re all the more special because when she first came home, she hated them.
While we waited to meet her, one of my biggest fears was that she wouldn’t like us. After all we’d gone through to become her parents, what if we just didn’t bond?
I was very pleasantly surprised with how well she took to us when we first met. My heart melted when she put her arms up for hubby to pick her up. There weren’t any big signs of anxiety when we brought her home. She was a happy, warm and content little girl and seemed to take everything in her stride.
As with all babies, she cried but could usually be easily soothed. It was a whole different story when she hurt herself or was distressed by something. Our natural reaction was to pick her up and hold her close. She was happy to be picked up but she hated being pulled in close for a hug. She kept us at arms length, literally.
The first time this happened I felt awful. As a new mum, all I wanted to do was hold my baby close and take her pain away. I was devastated she wouldn’t let me. It already felt like we were stealing someone else’s baby when we first brought her home. Her not wanting me to hug her made that feeling worse.
I felt like people were judging me when I couldn’t sooth my baby, particularly when it happened in public. It made me feel completely inadequate when it happened during a photo shoot a few months after she came home.
We were having professional photos taken for Christmas presents. Eldest managed to wriggle her way out of the bottom of the tree the photographer had propped her up in. She fell flat on her face into a bed of leaves. Obviously she got a big shock (as did we).
I felt utterly inadequate when she wouldn’t let me hug her to calm her down. It felt like everyone in the park could see that I wasn’t really her mum. That I was just someone pretending at being a mum and failing miserably.
We mentioned it to the health visitor. BIG mistake. I was hoping to be reassured by her but was very worried by her response. She said it could be a sign of autism and so something we had to monitor.
It could be a sign of autism. But there were also plenty of other things it could be. At nine months old, we had taken her away from the only carers she had ever known. Was it really surprising she was wary of us when she was distressed?
I’m very glad we also mentioned it to our lovely social worker. She instantly put our minds at rest and wasn’t surprised by what we were experiencing. In fact she said it was a good sign.
If eldest had let us hug her straight away, it would have suggested a lack of attachment to her foster carers. That in turn may mean attachment problems with us. Keeping us at arms length until she trusted us was therefore a good sign.
Gradually, over time, little miss would let us hug her more and more. I’ll never forget the first time she let me properly soothe her when she was upset. I thought my heart was going to burst. It felt like such a big thing and made me feel like perhaps I was a proper mum.
Developing a bond with your child, however you come to be their parent, is never straight forward. It’s different for everyone. That’s part of what makes parenting the amazing rollercoaster that it is as everyone experiences things differently.
Receiving big squeezy bear hugs from our daughter now makes me see how far we’ve all come. To her I’m the only mum she’s ever known. I’m her world and she is my universe.