After giving birth to both Toby and Martha I opted for delayed cord clamping so that all of the blood could transfer into our precious new babies to give them as much of a health boost as possible. In fact Martha stayed attached for a good couple of hours. What I’ve discovered however, is that even long after I’ve birthed my baby and the cord has been cut, there’s still a phantom umbilical cord there.
Before Toby arrived, I imagined myself as a real earth mother, all babywearing and breastfeeding with my beautiful child and I gazing adoringly at one another during each feed. As they grew up we’d do loads of sensory play, dance to our favourite music, bake, arts and crafts. You know the score.
Then along came Toby.
Phil cut the cord, I breastfed, I gazed adoringly at my beautiful new son. We got home, he screamed, he screamed some more, he refused to feed, he didn’t sleep. We managed to keep breastfeeding and he also took a bottle. He continued to scream. I wore him in a sling, then he’d sleep. Silent reflux, trial and error with medication, stopping breastfeeding at 4 months because I was emotionally drained, trial and error with milk intolerance, no energy.
Earth mother I was not. Illusions shattered, I cried a lot because, as weeks turned into months and then a year and more, I felt a constant pull from the phantom umbilical cord which Toby didn’t. We had lovely times – especially once his reflux was under control – but he didn’t have a name for me, chose to go to others over me, didn’t seem to feel any special relationship with me at all.
Then at 18 months I was called Mummy, music to my ears after hearing him build up an impressive vocabulary list on which I didn’t feature. Since then I’ve felt that our bond has grown and grown; cuddles, not wanting me to leave, asking for comfor when he’s hurt and running to me with a smile on his face when I pick him up from nursery. The tug of the phantom umbilical cord is there, but it’s a positive one now and not tinged with sadness.
Martha was a mummy’s girl from the start. Quiet, sleepy and contented she was far closer to the image of a newborn I had previously imagined. Breastfeeding was hard at first but we both worked at it and soon we were masters at it – to the point that to this day Martha won’t accept a bottle! Where Toby would go to anyone and seemed indifferent to me, Martha panics if I’m not there and loses her confidence if someone else holds her. She’s getting better at it but the moment we’re apart I know that she feels the pull of the phantom umbilical cord as much as I do.
We recently moved Martha into her own room and I sobbed about it, not ready to not have my baby girl by my side at night. It’s been a hugely positive step for all of us though and one of my favourite moments every day is when she wakes up and as I enter her bedroom I’m greeted with the most perfect smile, her arms and legs wriggling with excitement at seeing me.
Toby and I now have a lovely bond and if he’s hurting then he comes to me and when he’s happy he comes to me. He’s so clever, so funny and the pride I have in him brings tears to my eyes as well as the pull in my heart and my stomach knowing that he is my son.
Through an invisible link, I am connected to my children and I always will be. Even when they have kids of their own I know that the phantom umbilical cord will never be completely cut because that’s the love of a mummy. I’m absolutely positive that daddies have a similar pull to their children too and I’d love to hear how that feels from a dads perspective. For me though, I was physically connected to Toby and Martha as they grew inside of me. That cord fed them, nourished them as they grew into mini humans and whilst the cord may be long gone, in reality I still spend every second of every day attached to them.