I have never been fussed about having kids. I have never clucked over my friends' babies, chased kids at weddings or cooed over infants in strollers. I am what you call non-maternal, and I've never been bothered by it...until I became pregnant.
I remember when I discovered I was pregnant. Sitting in the bathroom I searched my mind for what I felt. I'm relieved to say it felt right. I thought this was enough but it took a week of telling people we were expecting to realise I was wrong. Friends and family expected excitement and enthusiasm like it was the fulfilment of a life-long dream, when in fact it wasn't. I could tell people were puzzled at my calmness and it got to the point where a colleague kept insisting she knew I was excited, even if I wouldn't own up to it. I felt under so much pressure to say the right things I started to tell people what they wanted to hear.
"I didn't feel close to my baby throughout the whole pregnancy and shared these feelings with friends" said Anna Hart, 29, from Streatham and Mum to Molly, 2. "I heard on the grapevine that one of them had questioned how I was going to look after my child, as if I didn't have what it took to be a good mother. It made me feel so terrible I stopped talking to anyone and from that point on I really felt I was on my own."
As the pregnancy progressed the feeling of right I had initially experienced began to wear off. I wasn't connecting with my baby in the ways other Mums were and this didn't fit with the accepted view of a pregnant mother. I wasn't interested in discussing babies with enthusiastic strangers, I wasn't glowing like the Mums in the advertisements and singing or talking to my bump just made me feel silly. The more people I encountered and the more books and magazines I read the more my doubts as to my fitness as a mother were compounded.
Lee Mason, 33, from Primrose Hill and Mum to Susie, 2, and Leigh, 2 months, remembers crying for a lot of her first pregnancy. "I didn't feel anything for the baby growing inside me except the occasional annoyance if I couldn't sleep at night. I knew I wasn't experiencing what most other Mums felt and comments as to my lack of enthusiasm by the in-laws highlighted this divide. I tried everything to engender a feeling of love but it seemed the more I tried to encourage it, the more I ended up resenting the pregnancy and myself."
"Baby books proved especially difficult for me as I felt I wasn't fulfilling the role of pregnant mother like I should have been" said Rosie Bryant, 28, from Wimbledon and Mum to Sasha, 3, and Amy, 5 months, "Every time I picked a book up I would read suggestions that I felt uncomfortable with and I'd end up feeling guilty that I wasn't doing what other Mums were. I felt I was neglecting my unborn child."
Antenatal classes proved another stumbling block for me as it was the first time I had ongoing and close contact with a group of parents-to-be. Their knowledge of birth, preparation and obvious love for their unborn children highlighted the huge differences between us.
Sarah Blake, 33 from East London and Mum to Max, 5, and Louis, 1, cut her antenatal classes short. "When I was pregnant with Max I felt happy but not in the buying booties or decorating the nursery at week 12 kind of way. Then I joined antenatal classes and realised how different I was. The others would be busy discussing a point on breast feeding and I would be checking my watch. Between sessions I would end up on my own because I couldn't think of a single thing to say to anyone. I really felt my feelings about pregnancy and birth isolated me."
By the time it came for me to give birth I was panicking. Most of the Mums from my antenatal class had given birth before me and as each newborn was presented to the group I was sure I was the only one who didn't mean it when she said "ahhh". The realisation I still had no interest in babies, even weeks away from giving birth to my own hit hard. If I hadn't been able to connect with my bump, like every other Mum I had encountered, I doubted it would happen with a wrinkly, squished up baby.
I needn't have worried. When my daughter was born she didn't look like any other baby I had ever seen. She was beautiful and tiny and not squished up in the slightest. Holding her in my arms in the pool while she crowed I realised I was maternal. I loved her, I wanted to protect her, I wanted to be her Mum. The feeling I had thought I'd lacked had been there all along. It had just taken my own baby to unlock it and it had happened in its own time.
"When I gave birth to my daughter, I didn't feel anything" Claire Hemphill, 31 and Mum to Chloe, 4, shared. "I had gone through the whole pregnancy looking to the birth like a beacon that maybe my feelings would change when she was born, but they didn't. It took me several months and long periods of stress and tears before I realised I had finally fallen in love with my daughter. Looking back I think the reason it didn't happen sooner was because I put so much pressure on myself to feel things I simply didn't."
The life of a non-maternal Mum is a difficult one first time round. There is the weight of expectation on your shoulders, a pressure to act like a maternal Mum and the worry that you're not normal. The second time round I can do things my way and feel secure in the fact that a connection will come with time. That's if I have a second one, I'm really not that fussed...