I was asked recently to recall my most precious memory.
You might recall yours easily?
You might be getting married soon and hope that will be the memory you’ll cherish the most forever.
At first I struggled to think of mine.
I have two gorgeous boys and started to feel guilty that my ‘precious memory’ was with one and not the other.
But then I realised it was one memory. Of bonding. This happened with both of them but in very different ways.
Let me explain.
It was two o’clock in the morning and it felt as though only myself and baby Alfie were awake ….
I was giving him his middle-of-the-night feed.
He was already three weeks old. He was gorgeous. He was everything I’d always wanted and dreamed of. But I hadn’t bonded with him yet.
I loved him but I was also pretty sure then it was a forced feeling, because it was expected.
What made it worse was family and friends constantly telling me that my love for him must be overwhelming and instant. Because it wasn’t.
But that particular night, I looked down at him and he looked up at me and finally it happened.
In a split second I saw my twin brother in him. There was this amazing connection. Something that at the time was missing between myself and my brother.
But I have never forgiven myself for not loving Alfie instantly.
The story was so completely different for me and my second, Ed. I loved him from the moment he was laid across my chest.
How could my experience of their first few weeks have been so different? They were both born healthy by C-Section. Both utterly gorgeous.
As you can see here … they’re like two peas in a pod.
So what was the difference?
For me. Simple. A bottle and the breast.
I cannot vouch for other women’s experiences. Some women bond with their babies whichever way they feed them.
But my choices were intertwined with so much other stuff, so many decisions, limitations and expectations … and of course failure.
When I had Alfie I had only been off work a week. I was freelance at the time and there was a huge pressure to return to work. I knew I would be doing just that within six weeks so I used that as a perfect excuse not to breast-feed him.
I told myself there would be no point.
But deep down I was afraid I wouldn’t succeed. Either with breastfeeding or being able to return to work and be as successful as I had been before I left.
I was ashamed that in the end I prioritised getting back to work over being a mum to my beautiful baby boy.
But that decision made it easier for me to feel detached from him rather than bond with him.
In complete contrast. I had a permanent job at the BBC when I went off on maternity leave to have Ed, weeks before he was due.
I knew I had a job to go back to and I knew this time there needn’t be a rush. There was no financial pressure and by then my priorities over work and my children had changed.
So when Ed came along I was braver. I decided to breastfeed him.
It didn’t run smoothly and it was hard work but I succeeded.
Despite the challenges, the ups and downs, and all the disruption. I can safely say, under my own terms, I successfully breastfed for almost a year.
And to top it all off. I then returned to my career at the BBC and have continued to successfully juggle my family and work life and even start up my own business.
I guess my problem back then was worrying about failing. But we define our own success. It doesn’t matter how you achieve success or what you’re successful in, be unafraid.
I wish I hadn’t been so hard on myself with Alfie. But I am glad I have forgiven myself.
My most precious memory, and not just then but every day since, is the bond I have with my two gorgeous little boys.
Because I appreciate how precious our children are. I offer The Story Of Your Family baby films. Here’s one I made for Lee and Cabriera when they moved into their ‘forever home’ with their gorgeous newborn daughter, Prudence.