Do you believe in love at first sight? What about when it comes to your baby before they’re born or before you can feel them moving around? Even though your first “sight” of them is an ultrasound, and you don’t even really feel their presence (other than feeling like you’re going to puke for the first three months) until they start kicking, some women feel connected and in love right away. But what if you don’t? It seems easy to some, but you may be wondering, "Why don't I feel connected to my unborn baby?"
Women’s mental health expert and author of MY self, Kelley Kitley, says it is absolutely common and normal to not feel connected to your unborn child when you’re pregnant. “Many women actually don’t feel connected until their baby is born,” she tells Romper in an email interview. Kitley also says it happens more than people think because folks don’t tend to talk about it due to shame and embarrassment, unfortunately.
Kryss Shane, who has a master’s in both education and in social work, as well as a bachelor’s in human development and family sciences, agrees, telling Romper in an email interview, “Some don't feel connected until they feel the first movements so they know it's real on a visceral level. Others don't feel connected until the ultrasound reveals an image that resembles a baby. Some don't fully connect until the gender is known and names are picked out. In other cases, the connection begins at the time of birth, when the baby can be held and seen."
“Pregnancy is a crazy time," she adds. "Your body is changing, something inside your body is changing, and society is filled with experts and ‘experts’ who are quick to give you their thoughts on your pregnancy." Shane says some women feel supported and like it’s a magical time, but for most, it’s a “time of hormone shifts, feelings of fear about parenting, and feeling as if your body isn't your own. In some cases, those who tried the longest find themselves feeling the least connected to their unborn child, which can feel incredibly upsetting.”
What about after the baby is born? Do you feel that instantaneous bond as soon as they’re out of your body and into your arms? Shane says not necessarily in all cases.
“In some cases, even after the baby is born, it can feel hard to connect. This may be because adults connect with others through shared experiences or shared emotions about experiences, which a baby does not yet have. It can be helpful to establish something special with the baby, whether this is a bedtime routine or introducing the baby to your favorite things,” Shane suggests.
If you don’t feel connected even after the baby is born, don’t be too hard on yourself, Kitley says. “Be gentle with yourself and give yourself time. We connect deeper as time progresses. Some women feel it initially when they meet baby, for some it can take two weeks.” However, Kitley does mention that if you are still not feeling a connection with the baby after two weeks, you should seek professional help. But you should also manage your expectations. “Having a baby is hard work and the transition to motherhood may be more difficult than you anticipated,” she says.
“If, however, the baby has arrived and there are feelings of sadness, a lack of desire to be around the baby or to tend to its needs, or a lack of interest in the baby, it is important to discuss these feelings with your doctor right away. These may be due to hormone shifts as the body heals from childbirth or they may be signs of postpartum depression,” Shane warns.
Need some help bonding and connecting with your baby after feeling like all they do is scream at you? Shane suggests establishing something special between you and your new baby, whether through a bedtime routine or introducing the baby to your favorite things the best you can. “For example, if you love baseball, you may find that you create a bond with your baby through dressing the baby in your favorite team's colors and explaining the game to the baby while you watch together. If you're a music lover, you may find that there's a bond created when you play your favorite songs for the baby, taking time to explain each one to the baby before playing it. While newborns won't understand the game or be able to sing along to the album, you'll be creating happy memories of yourself with your baby, which can help to bond you two."
So while it may not be love at first sight — when you see the two pink lines, an ultrasound, or even when they’re out of the womb and in your arms — don’t worry. You still love your baby and you aren’t a horrible mother or human being for not feeling the connection right away. If you’re really feeling blue, however, it may be time to seek professional help to get your feelings processed and thoughts spoken out loud to an unbiased party. Those hormones messing with your brain are no joke.
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