Helen has recently given birth to Rob’s baby in prison but is struggling to connect with him. Initially she didn’t want to hold him or attend to his needs and when he cried she was getting increasingly irritated by him. It is quite common for new mothers to struggle to connect with their babies in the first few weeks and even months of their lives. This is as a result of the intense physical and emotional challenges of giving birth and having to care for a new born baby who is not able to give anything in return for the high levels of care they need, for the first 6-8 weeks, not even a smile. The struggle to connect with a new born can also be attributed to the expectations that we have about having a new baby and being a mother, not just the ones that we have developed in the 9-10 months whilst we carried our baby but the ones that society has been whispering to us all of our lives. Put bluntly, having a new baby is rarely the Disney film we expect it to be and this can leave us feeling a little bewildered, possibly annoyed and a bit like we are doing something wrong.
For Helen this ‘normal’ challenge of motherhood is coupled with the fact that Jack’s father is a man who physically, sexually and emotionally abused her. Helen will understandably want to distance herself from this man but at some level will know that he will never truly be out of her life because half of her son’s DNA belongs to him. Helen’s separation from her eldest child Henry and threatened loss of custody of him will add an additional element of anxiety and confusion as she tries to connect with her new baby, trying to develop a new relationship with a child when one with an existing child is under threat will drain her capacity to make this connection. All of this is of course in the context of the fact that Helen is experiencing high levels of anxiety as she faces an uncertain future for herself and her two children and is separated from her friends and family and their support when she needs them the most.