Bonding With Your Baby Isn't Always Instant and That's OK
"Falling in love can take time. I'm a slow burner, myself. But I know I'll get there. And if you're in that place, know that you'll get there too." Read more inspiring insight from moms on Twitter.
June 26, 2019
While it's certainly not always the case, the parent who carried their little one from conception to delivery may have an easier time connecting with their child emotionally, given the head start they get on bonding and a bevy of other factors, from hormones to wiring in the brain. That advantage might leave the parent who did not give birth struggling with their role and feelings about their child. Slate parenting columnist and mom of three Nicole Cliffe took to Twitter with some words of wisdom for the parents who did not give birth, and the thread has since gone viral.
"I give two pieces of advice to the person who is not giving birth (often but not always the dad.)," Cliffe wrote. "1. When they look real rough, wrap them in your arms and say 'you are a wonderful mother/father.' 2. Sometimes it can take months to fall in love with your baby. It WILL happen."
She went on to share that her partner Steve "faked it for nine months the first time around, and now they are one soul in two bodies. It can be hard to develop an emotional attachment to a loud blob that objectively ruins your life for several months and separates you from your partner. And it's been SO much easier for him with the other two, because he's not wandering around like 'am I broken and unable to love my own child,' he's like, 'oh, soon enough you will be one of the most important person in my life and I will die for you.'"
The writer made a point to note, "This can also happen to the person who GIVES birth, and that comes with all its own hangups. But it's so normal. Falling in love can take time. I'm a slow burner, myself. But I know I'll get there. And if you're in that place, know that you'll get there too. It doesn't mean you have PPD, but keep an eye on the checklists and be honest as possible with your care provider. Honestly, though, it's common as dirt. Your home has been INVADED by a tiny dictator!"
- RELATED: 6 Ways to Bond With Baby
Cliffe went on to detail the "a-ha" moment for Steve: "I had taken our oldest to Canada for 3 weeks (she was 9 months old, as previously stated), and when he met us at the airport she LUNGED for him and wouldn't allow anyone else to hold her, and there was something in that moment that became wild love. And they have the most beautiful father-child bond I have ever seen. It just took a little time."
The writer concluded, "Ultimately, it's very difficult to NOT fall in love with a vulnerable creature you are responsible for caring for. Love is an action, etc."
The response to the post ranged from moms sharing their own experiences with a "slow burn" to others sharing advice for the partner who hasn't given birth. One mom with the Twitter handle inthefade wrote, "I had such a traumatic childbirth with my daughter (I just tweeted a thread about it) and was in such pain when I came home that I felt a small resentment, which scared me. I wish someone told me it was ok to not feel that immediate bond."
SabrinaCallahan thanked Cliffe for the thread, sharing, "Thank you for saying this. I was in such a dark place after my first. This is so important to hear."
- RELATED: 12 Ways for Dad to Bond with Baby
DaniAndi4 concurred with the part about taking some time to fall in love, writing, "SO SO true. My youngest screamed for 7 months making him very difficult to love, but then everything calmed down and we began to get to know him and instantly we all fell in love with him. He’s now 6, and I tear up just thinking about him, he’s so wonderful."
Jedrek weighed in with a tip for "non-birthing partners" struggling to "click" with their child: "They need to put their energy into pampering their partner, so that they can take care of the kid."
Thankfully, we've seen more public discussion about postpartum mood disorders in recent years, slowly taking the stigma out of something experienced by up to 20 percent of moms. But as Cliffe points out, there are often emotional bumps in the road of new parenthood—for both the birthing and non-birthing parents—that have nothing to do with a formal diagnosis, but that should be acknowledged, as well.
Here's hoping her thread has reassured moms and dads who are struggling to immediately forge an emotional bond with their L.O.s that not only are they not alone, but there's no race to "falling in love."