When I was a little girl I had an imaginary friend. She came every where with me and I even made space for her in the car. She slept in my bed, bathed with me and in fact was ‘one of the family’, being acknowledged by my mother even though I was teased horribly by my brothers.
When I discovered I was pregnant for the first time – I once again experienced the feeling of having an unseen person with me all the time – but this time it was for real.
When my daughter was born I had this incredible sense of knowing her already. Perhaps my imaginary friend was my future baby waiting in the wings for the time when she would start to make her way into the world.
I believe that bonding starts long before birth – very soon, in fact after conception. 21 days after conception your baby is the size of a grain of rice and the heart has started beating strong and steady under your own heart.
Most women are not even aware that they are pregnant and yet others feel a change in their bodies very early on. A woman’s body starts to make huge adaptations to accommodate and protect this new life - within hours of fertilisation.
Once a pregnancy is confirmed and you are given the news – it can seem quite surreal. You are now “with child” and although you know something massive has happened, you don’t yet feel all that different. In 280 days or so, this speck of life will develop into a 3kg (more or less) baby girl or boy.
As you move through the first trimester, it is normal to experience emotional highs and lows. The thought of getting through the pregnancy, birth and then the lifelong challenge of raising a functional, happy child seems overwhelmingly daunting. But never fear – each child comes into the world for a reason and if this baby has been given to you to love and cherish – accept the honour, privilege and blessing of your gift.
What is pre-birth bonding?
Bonding with your unborn means creating a relationship with your child from the minute you know s/he is there. These moments of interaction – be they words spoken to your child, a thought about your child, or a touch of your abdomen intended affectionately for your child, are the first steps in building the bridge towards a healthy development of that individual.
Bonding is a 2 way process in which mother and child build a close attachment. Bonding before birth is the optimal time to begin building the relationships that will encourage baby’s independence, trust, and self worth - as well as family strength, understanding and love.
The strength of this bond depends a lot on how the mother looks after herself and her baby during pregnancy. And this does not only apply to mothers, but to fathers as well. Babies come into this world needing nurturing, food and love, which a mother supplies.
Fathers on the other hand supply protection to both mother and baby, and that is why 2 parents are needed – because human babies are defenseless and helpless for a very long time.
Bonding during the 1st trimester
I remember the day I was told I was pregnant. I was ecstatic and after telling my husband I sat still for the longest time trying to get my mind around it. I remember saying out loud “Well little person – it’s you and me together for the next 9 months – ready or not here we go”.
I did not feel foolish or shy that I was speaking to a blob of cells – I felt the presence of a miracle deep within my body and I was so proud.
But it isn’t like that for everyone. And that does not mean there is something wrong with you. We all conceive in different circumstances and if your pregnancy has been a bit of a shock or has happened at a time in your life where you may not feel so stable – take heart.
Most of the time love “grows on you” just like the pregnancy does.
Talk to your child
In the beginning, start by talking to your child – like you would if she was sitting next to you. Talk with your child on a daily basis. Be aware that as each day passes your child is becoming increasingly aware of its environment and its being.
The first trimester is the most crucial time in your baby’s development and a time where you have to be good about looking after yourself and getting rid of bad habits like smoking, drinking alcohol or taking drugs of any sort. This already shows that you care and that it matters to you that you build a strong, confident body for this baby.
Sing to your child
Towards the end of the first trimester begin singing and reading to your child. Start taking time out everyday if possible to focus completely on your baby, especially just before you fall asleep and first thing in the morning on waking.
Bonding during the 2nd trimester
Touch your belly when your baby begins to move
About halfway through the second trimester you will begin to feel your baby move. What an awesome moment. Respond by touching your belly with gentle prods or shaking and jiggling your belly. Not only is this good for your baby emotionally, but is also fantastic for development of the nerve pathways to the brain and you are stimulating the sense of touch which is the first sense to develop (at 5 weeks gestation).
Share your delight with your child
After every scan you have, share your delight with your child. Tell her how well she is growing and how proud you are. Your baby is already getting used to the sound of your voice and the foundations of her language are being laid down every time you talk – you speak her ‘Mother Tongue’.
Read stories and sing to your baby
At 26 weeks the auditory nerve is fully functional and the little bones in the ears (the ossicles) are fully developed – adult size. If you have not already begun to, now is the time to start reading stories and singing to your baby.
Encourage dad to get involved. Babies learn to recognize their father’s voice – especially if he has been talking to and touching his baby, by massaging your abdomen.
Get to know your baby and she will get to know you. Take the time to know her movement patterns. You will soon recognise if she is a cool cucumber or a hot chilli pepper by the movements and the vigour that she displays.
Bonding during the 3rd trimester
Tell your baby about your life and the life she will have
In the third trimester as you go about setting up her room and her own special place, tell her what you are doing in anticipation of her arrival. Tell your baby about the family she is coming into and about all the preparations that are going on in your home at that time.
Tell her if you have animals, special old toys that you have kept and cleaned just for her and any other exciting stuff that is going on in your life.
If you have an off day or you feel tired, frustrated or afraid of what is coming – share this with her as well. She lives in the middle of your body – she feels what you feel, but does not understand the negative feelings that pass. Always reassure her – especially if you have had a shock, or have been having a hard time – be it physically or emotionally.
Life happens and children sense that from an early age. They need an explanation and reassurance that it is not their fault – even when they are still in the womb. Don’t pretend that sad feelings don’t exist. Don’t feel guilty for having them.
Letting your child know that she is valued, wanted and loved heals any ills that come your way and will not affect your baby negatively. Never underestimate your power of love and the incredible benefits and healing it can bring.
The time before birth while your child is growing inside your body is a unique opportunity to get to know her. Use this special time to escape the pressures of the world every day for a few moments and take the time – make the time to let love grow as you build a relationship with your own special miracle.
So talk to, touch and enjoy your baby. That special link and amazing bond will connect you over time and distance for the rest of your life and the life of your child