By Phyllis Klaus, MFT, CSW
As with pregnancy, bonding with baby develops over time. It, too, is a process that, with your care and attention, will deepen and progress with each passing day. Do you remember when you learned you were pregnant? Surely it was a deeply emotional moment.
A second before, you were responsible for yourself and a second after you were forever linked to a new being growing inside you. The bond you feel with your baby isn't as instantaneous; it will grow slowly yet steadily over these months of pregnancy until the day you meet your child and begin life as a family.
"Bonding" refers to the feelings of love and empathy that parents develop for their children. During pregnancy, sometimes that love is manifested in the form of dreams and fears about your baby and future as a mother. Positive, loving dreams can help you connect with your little one, but fearful ones can diminish your confidence about your baby's health or your own capabilities. Let your health-care provider worry about your baby's health. Then give yourself space to deal with your other fears in a way that works for you. Write in a journal or draw pictures of what's going through your head. Share your concerns with your partner, as well as with your girlfriends, pregnant or not. Expressing your thoughts will help you deal with them and accept your child into your life.
Another way to begin bonding with baby is to send him loving messages. During a quite moment, put your hands on your abdomen and send happy thoughts and energy to the baby: how excited you are to meet him, what you plan to do when he arrives, how you can't wait to have him as part of your family. Many women say this activity makes them less anxious and worried about their pregnancy.
The Power Of Your Partner
Your partner is a major factor in how you feel about your baby. If your partner is excited about your pregnancy, watches over you, protects you and takes care of you, you will likely feel closer to your child. But if your partner is unhappy or hesitant, then you may have doubts and worries too.
Your partner may be nervous about being a dad because he's unhappy with how he was parented or his own childhood. That's why now is a good time to talk to him about how each of you grew up, both the good and the bad. Discuss what kind of relationship you had with your parents. You don't just have to start a conversation out of the blue; wait until a situation presents itself. Your friends might tell you they don't have a set bedtime for their toddler, or you may see a couple in the supermarket letting their child select a sugary cereal. Use these incidents as starting points for conversations; discuss how your parents handled such issues and what you would do with your own child. By talking about your upbringing, you can establish a unified front on how you will raise your kids and address any fears that your partner may have about being a parent.
You should also discuss your feelings about the baby, how he has and will alter your life. When you and your partner can talk freely about the many changes that a baby will bring to your relationship, finances and lifestyle, you can continue to support each other and see the baby as enhancing your life instead of disrupting it.
If your partner feels removed from your pregnancy, help him with this simple exercise. Have him put his hand on your abdomen, and when he feels movement or when you tell him you sense the baby, have him say, Hello, baby. If he does this a few times a day for a week or two, he'll feel more connected to both of you. Pretty soon, the baby may even kick his hand at the sound of your partner's voice.
Your child was conceived out of deep love. That's why bonding with baby doesn't have to wait until she's born: It really starts the moment that you find out you are pregnant, and it continues throughout your pregnancy. Not only is it a way for you to get closer to your child, it will also help you grow closer to your partner. And becoming an even more solid couple will help prepare you for your newly bestowed title: parents.