From the moment that smiley face popped up on my pregnancy test, I was over the moon to be pregnant with my first child. I was finally going to be a mom, and from that moment on, I felt a deep connection to my unborn child. Even when I didn’t know the sex, I found myself bonding with my baby during pregnancy by constantly talking to them, caressing my stomach, and doing everything in my power to feel a connection to my child. My first pregnancy experience was also why I was surprised I didn’t feel the same instant connection when I became pregnant with my second child.
I did cry tears of joy and ran out of the bathroom to tell my husband and daughter when I found out I was pregnant. I was ecstatic, especially since we had been trying for around a year, and I was so happy to finally have a sibling for our daughter. But feeling the same connection to the baby growing inside of me that I’d felt with my first pregnancy was missing. I now know I’m not alone in feeling this way.
Why am I Not Bonding With Baby During Pregnancy?
“Difficulty connecting with your unborn child during pregnancy is more common than most may think,” explained Gayle Weill, LCSW, a licensed psychotherapist. “It could be due to an unplanned pregnancy, stress, hormonal changes, or past experiences.” Difficulty getting pregnant, having a previous miscarriage, or worrying about adding another child to the family can all affect how you feel during pregnancy.
I had my own theories about why I wasn’t bonding with my baby during my pregnancy. My first OB-GYN appointment had not gone well. The doctor made an off-handed comment that the fetus hadn’t fully formed yet and told me what would happen if it didn’t form (I’d need an abortion). Not exactly what you want to hear during your first appointment. I found a new doctor, but those comments made it hard for me to completely relax and move forward in a positive way with my pregnancy.
Additionally, life is very busy and crazy when you already have a child. Plus, our family had a lot going on—such as selling a house, moving to a new town, and transitioning for our daughter. I also suffered from severe morning sickness, much worse than with my first child, and that made some days unbearable, to the point that I couldn’t wait to not be pregnant anymore and have my baby in my arms. No doubt, this is all made for a more difficult pregnancy. Yet, it was still confusing for me. Even as the months went on, we had a name picked, and I would refer to the baby by his name and touch my stomach, but I still wasn’t connecting.
How Can I Bond With My Baby During Pregnancy?
“In many cases, this [not connecting with baby during pregnancy] is not a reason to assume there will be long-term issues. Seeking support and communication from your partner or other loved ones or meeting with an attachment therapist can help a pregnant woman overcome this and form a stronger connection over time,” said Weill.
What else can you do if you feel you’re not bonding with your baby during pregnancy? Licensed Clinical Social Worker Elizabeth C Meyer said you can talk to your baby while you are still pregnant; your baby will learn to recognize your voice and will begin to feel calmed by your voice! “Studies have shown that rubbing your belly can also help you to bond with your baby,” said Meyer. “Some moms like to talk in a sing-song voice to their baby; others feel silly doing that and prefer to just talk about their day or share their hopes and dreams for their babies.”
For me, I started connecting with my child more towards the end of my pregnancy. I think being more mindful about getting everything ready for his arrival got me more excited. I had his sister help me pick out clothing and toys. We set up his crib and stroller together. I wanted to make it as special for me as for his big sister. I think also mentally seeing everything come together for him made me realize, “Wow, soon we will have an actual little baby boy,” and that got me excited.
The day that my son was born, all of these feelings melted away. And when my beautiful boy was held up to me for the first time, I broke down in tears of joy, just the way I had when his sister was born. When I held him, and his little finger held mine, and he looked me straight in the eyes, I melted. I belonged to him now. All my fears about not connecting with my son quickly drifted away as I fell completely and utterly in love with this beautiful boy.
If You’re Still Having Trouble Connecting With Your Baby After Giving Birth
Of course, not everyone feels that instant connection after their baby is born. If you still feel like you are having a difficult time bonding with your child after their arrival, it would be good to seek out some additional support. Know the signs of postpartum depression and get help. Studies show that when babies are cared for and their needs are attended to consistently and predictably, this helps babies to have secure and stable relationships.
Remember, you’re not the first mother to feel this way, and it certainly doesn’t make you a bad mom. Taking care of your needs will help you better care for their needs—and help you connect better with your baby.
Editor’s Note: If you, or someone you know, are experiencing postpartum depression or postpartum anxiety, please seek help from your healthcare provider or reach out to a close friend or loved one. If you are having suicidal thoughts or thoughts of hurting your baby, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline immediately at 1-800-273-TALK.