Quick poll – during pregnancy, did you actually feel “connected” to your baby? Have you perused adorable baby bump photos, jealously? I’ll have to admit that I did. It was easy for me to feel like everyone else had this bond with their kiddos that I was somehow missing. My first encounter with what is commonly referred to as “mommy guilt,” was over the very fact that I didn’t really feel connected to my babies during pregnancy. In my mind, how could you feel connected to someone you have no idea about? Someone who’s character is unknown, whose eyes you’ve never beheld, and whose personality is still a mystery (heck, maybe even the gender is too)! I felt this absolute pressure that I had to feel connected to my baby. The reality? I didn’t feel like I really loved him yet.
I decided to unpack this a bit (during my second pregnancy)...why did I feel so distant from my baby?
In part, the media must play a role in this (I mean, if all else fails, you can blame it on that, right?) In all seriousness, what we see in media, specifically social media, is romanticized snapshots of pregnancy. Women supposedly feel this intimate bond with their babies and seem so completely in love with their baby while sporting this gorgeous baby bump. We have all seen the gorgeous maternity pictures of mamas gazing at their sweet baby bumps, in seeming anticipation to snuggle their babies (no judgments – see my own pic below!). There is certainly nothing wrong with those!
Certainly, some of this pressure must be partially self-inflicted. Also, part of it is because during my first pregnancy, I had not talked about this with anyone. I was too ashamed to admit it, and I honestly didn’t feel like anyone else should feel that way.
However, we are told that we have this “glow,” which, does anyone really know what that means? I’m not so sure about the “glow,” but I did find extra acne, an aching back, and dry, flat hair though! Oh, and raging hormones, heartburn, oh, and also uncomfortable sleeping. Yuck.
Besides joking about the physical “glamour” of pregnancy, what also helped me was thinking about some ways that we as mothers continually demonstrate love to our unborn babies (even if we don’t feel it or even realize it):
1) From the first “positive” sign on your pregnancy test (or the second, third, or, yes, the fourth), you purge your life of all things that could be harmful to your baby from unpasteurized cheeses, to alcohol, to even the chemicals in your home.
2) You are concerned about your eating habits, and want to be sure to get enough nutrients. You take your daily prenatal (or try to remember to) and try to eat enough lean meats, fruits, and veggies all while trying to lower your caffeine intake, even though you’re more tired than EVER, which leads me to the next point…
3) You sleep. We need a lot of sleep to develop, so think of how vitally important sleep is when you’re pregnant! It’s hard work to grow a tiny human!! Napping can be extremely beneficial to your baby, your body, and also your mental state that day. So never feel bad about taking those naps, mama!
4) You think about your baby. Whether or not you feel like you’re actually connecting with your baby, there is something to be said about day-dreaming or thinking about him/her. I loved talking with my husband about what we thought our baby would look like, what would make him laugh, and what his unique personality would be!
5) You prepare. Everyone has their own way of “getting ready” for their baby. Although some essential items are important, a baby mostly needs a lot of love. Of course there is really nothing that can fully prepare you to be a parent, but I think doing your due diligence in reading or talking to a few (notice how I said only a few) trusted veteran parents is a great idea. I think there’s also something to be said about too much advice or having conflicting advice as well, so relax and if you don’t agree with someone’s advice, and just feel free to smile and nod.
6) You exercise (with your physician’s approval of course!). Whether it’s a walk outside, a yoga class, or a steady swim, exercise is great for both you and your baby. You get some great endorphins, avoid gaining extra pregnancy weight, can become stronger for labor, and most of all, your baby will be soothed to sleep by the gentle rocking motion she feels. She’s happy and you’re happy!
Given those criteria, I guess I truly can say that I loved my babies during pregnancy, even when I wasn’t fully aware. The fact of the matter is that if we take good care of our children, we do in fact love them, even if we don’t always feel “in love.” The same goes for any relationship, really. If we go beyond ourselves to truly desire what’s best for another person even if it means a sacrifice on our part, we are showing love to that person.
Rest assured mama, the feelings will follow. Maybe not even right when you meet your baby. Give yourself time to get to know your new baby and process this HUGE life-change. The feelings and all that come with them will overtake you…in time. You will be so in love with that bundle and honored to be her mother that you will not remember a time when they were not a part of your life.
In the meantime, don’t sweat it – you’re doing great just growing your tiny human!
“The most important person on earth is a mother. She cannot claim the honor of having built Notre Dame Cathedral. She need not. She has built something more magnificent than any cathedral — a dwelling for an immortal soul, the tiny perfection of her baby’s body…”
– Joseph Cardinal Mindszenty