During pregnancy, it's so easy to get caught up in a whirlwind of excitement and decisions- announcing your news, preparing for labor, researching baby products, decorating a nursery, attending your prenatal appointments, taking childbirth, breastfeeding, and infant care classes...it may seem that there's something on your to-do list from the moment you get that positive test result. Amidst all the life that's happening don't forget that your body is busy nurturing a brand new person (maybe more than one!) who will impact your life in ways you can't imagine yet. Most women assume they will love their babies immensely; some may fear that they won't be able to love and care for an infant as they think they should. Whatever you find yourself feeling when you picture meeting your baby for the first time, there are steps you can take while pregnant to lay the foundation for a close attachment to your child.
Babies develop their sense of hearing around the 18th week of pregnancy and can recognize familiar voices at the time of birth. Talking to your baby is a simple way to forge a connection. If you find it a bit awkward to have a one sided conversation try reading a book aloud, narrating your day, or singing. Get dads, partners, and siblings involved too!
Notice your baby's behaviors. What time of day is he most active and do certain foods affect movement? Will she return a few belly taps with some kicks? Recognizing your little one as an individual makes them seem more like a real little person. Tuning in to your baby's patterns also lets you know if anything's amiss and helps you practice for reading baby's cues after birth.
Harness the power of touch
Get comfortable touching your belly and feeling your baby's position. Those little kicks and nudges can be a fun form of interaction. Bonus: Your baby's position can have a huge impact on your labor process and birth outcome. By assessing how your baby is lying, you may learn if you need extra help to get baby into an optimal position for birth. Learn more about belly mapping.
Work on a keepsake project
Knitting a blanket, keeping a pregnancy journal, or making a special nursery decoration are all good ways to set aside meaningful time to think about your baby and emerge with an item that you and your child can treasure. You can also use this time to create art or affirmations to have with you during labor.
Examine your emotional state
Determine if there's anything in your life that may affect your ability to bond with your baby. Ambivalent or disconnected feelings during pregnancy often stem from unresolved issues in your life. Depression, anxiety, family relationship problems, substance abuse, frequent disagreements with your partner, financial hardship, lack of support...all these and more may cause you stress or make you doubt your feelings as a parent. Take steps to come to a healthy place in your personal relationships and to build a supportive network for yourself. If you need extra help the Helen Ross McNabb center is a wonderful resource in Knoxville.
Create a quiet time or ritual
Be purposeful in setting aside time to relax and be still. Commit to just being in the moment with your baby. Book a prenatal massage or yoga class. Take a warm bath, a walk outside, or spend time reading a favorite story; anything that helps you carve out time for yourself.
For adoptive families
If you're planning to add to your family through adoption you may wonder how you can bond with a child that you don't know or have little contact with. All mothers give their love freely but adoptive mothers risk their hearts in a special way; often dealing with periods of waiting, uncertain circumstances, or infertility. You can modify the above suggestions as you are able for your situation and consider unique approaches too.
Write letters to your future child
Make a scrapbook or keep a journal detailing the adoption process
If you are entering into an open adoption, foster a relationship with the birth mother and keep informed of the pregnancy. If you are adopting an older baby or in the process of foreign adoption, take time to learn about that child's heritage and culture.
Start a meaningful tradition that you can carry on with your child once your baby has come home, such as reading a book or singing a song.
However you're getting there, embrace the journey to parenthood. What matters most at the end of the road is that you're ready to meet your baby, give them the best start possible in life, and create a new chapter for your family.