Monday, November 9, 2009

Bonding with baby

You see it portrayed in films, read in parenting magazines and heard from friends and family about the bond between a mommy and child. You know how it usually goes: mommy has baby, mommy sees baby, mommy then falls in love and develops this instantaneous connection. During the course of my 9 months, I thought I had prepared myself in every way possible. I read What to Expect When You're Expecting, among many other preggo literature to get me ready for this life altering experience called mommyhood. I researched BPA (no way was I having non BPA bottles for my child-only the best!). I weighed the pros and cons of breastfeeding (I made it to 2 weeks then switched to formula) and found through actually viewing the research studies, there was really no significant reason for me not to use the stuff. Some researchers suggested children using formula may not be as intelligent or may contract illnesses much easier than children who were nursed, however, I have to say that H did not get sick ONCE until he was 14 months. He merely had a tiny cold when he was 2 months old that was only a runny nose. And that was for a day, so I'm not even sure it was a cold. And he is one healthy happy kiddo. Boo-ya!
I also knew I would be dead tired after having a child and would need help. So my mother happily volunteered to come stay with us for two weeks to be the second set of hands. And thank God she was there. I don't know what I would have done without her...seriously.

But getting back on track here, I did a lot of research, did a lot of planning, and definitely a lot of preparing. One thing I didn't prepare myself for was my emotions after I had the baby. I thought I would bond with that baby right away. But it didn't happen for me. What was wrong with me? Surely something, because everywhere I went there were smiling moms with newborns, looking as if they'd finally found their long lost soul mate. That wasn't me. Don't get me wrong: I was just as elated and excited as the next mom. I couldn't stop staring at his little scrunched up face. He was so beautiful! I nurtured him in all the ways I needed to-fed, bathed, diapered, and put him to sleep. And I wanted to hold and cuddle him. I couldn't stop thinking how simply amazing it was that this little guy had been forming inside of me for so long and voila! Here is he. In my arms. And then the guilt would seep in. Where was that connection? I kept willing for that bond to come. Every day I would think maybe I'm one of those moms who lack maternal instincts or a motherly bond.

But slowly, day by day, bottle after bottle, gas bubble smile after gas bubble smile, I felt it. By the second month, I was hooked. I couldn't get enough of my blossoming little boy. I could finally feel whole as a mother.

What I didn't know then that I know now is this: bonding is a process of learning. It is, although contrary to popular belief, uncommon for a new mom to 100% connect with their newborn. Why? By learning about your baby's likes, dislikes, discovering his little sense of humor and how he reacts as a human beings brings you closer every day. It's like any relationship really. Say, for example, you go for a date with a really good looking guy. You like him and want to spend more time with him yet you aren't invested. You're not invested because you haven't bonded with him, truely. To authentically create that bond you must learn and get to know the other person-his/her likes, dislikes, attitudes, character, quirks, etc. The same goes for a newborn. This is a little anticipated person but you don't know anything about him. But the good news is you will. And sometimes it takes time. It could be a week, or two months, or even six months.

I was able to get through this time with the support from my family. I also recognized I had the baby blues, or Postpartum Depression. This phase didn't last significantly long, but as I remember I was weepy and would lock myself in the bathroom and cry for no reason. However, some moms get much worse and feel like harming themselves or their children. Lack of sleep, over stimulation,or just plain feeling overwhelmed contributes to the postpartum, as well as disjointed hormones. If you're feeling confused, having rapid mood swings that are out of character, seeing things that aren't there or want to try to hurt yourself or the baby, then go see a doctor ASAP. This is known as Postpartum Psychosis and should be looked at immediately for the saftey of the new mommy and the child(ren).

If you are having a hard time connecting with your new baby, you can try some of these techniques:

1. Face to face interaction. Gaze into your babies eyes. You may not think he's responding/reacting, but in actuality babies love watching smiling faces, changing expressions and listening to your voice. Eventually he will be able to express and react!

2. Baby massages. I did this with my son as an infant and at 14 months I still do. How do you feel when you have a great massage? Pretty fabulous, right? Baby feels the same way! This relaxes, calms stress and helps baby sleep.

3. Develop a routine. This usually is after he/she is sleeping through the night. But there are things you can do before that as well. Reading to baby, talking, singing and bathtime are a few examples of bonding activities you can do with your child even before he has a bedtime. Taking the time out of your day to spend some quiet time together can also help to strengthen the bond and provides time out of an already hectic day to focus and learn about each other.

Over a period of time, you will eventually get to know your baby and figure out what works and what doesn't. Don't expect to know everything; there are no "super-moms" although we strive to be. It's all about trial and error. Spending quality time together be it playing, reading or cuddling is an important factor in creating a strong bond between you and your child. Don't stress! This should be the most exciting time of your life; just roll with it. However, if you're feeling any Postpartum Depression symptoms or feeling too overwhelmed to carry on your mommy duties, seek help. Your baby doesn't' have a voice, but you do. And to be the best mom you can be, getting through this time with assistance might be just what you need to do.

It was for me...and I'm ever so thankful to my family and friends.

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