Saturday, January 10, 2009

What makes a bond?

In posting my birth story yesterday, I was reminded of the fact that while River spent a few moments on my chest immediately after birth (during which I reacted with some recoiling), he spent his first two hours with Mark. I probably wouldn’t have chosen this if the circumstances were different, but in hindsight, what has been the effect? I would say absolutely none.

He loves me intensely and I love him. He loves Mark, but still prefers me at this stage, even though Mark held him first.

I think of a woman I know who just gave birth to her fourth. With her first three, she was very much an attachment parent. This baby was born premature with some serious health scares. She calls her current parenting “detachment” parenting. She lost her milk as she sat by the incubator one night, fearful her baby would die by the morning. She can’t carry him because he’s attached to a medical device. So he receives a bottle every few hours and spends most of his time in his bassinet.

I think this woman is having a difficult time adjusting her expectations – of realizing that she can’t be an attachment parent to this baby in the way that she wanted to, of knowing that even though she’s not doing what she expected, she’s doing the best she can.

It’s made me think that some people and some literature put too much of a burden on new mothers by making them think that the first moments or the first days will have a long-term impact on the child’s development or the mother-child bond.

Sure, it’s good to hold babies. Sure, breastfeeding is good if it works for both parties. But does it specifically have to be the mother holding the baby or will a warm, loving body suffice? Do these things have a long-term impact? I’m doubtful, as long as the decisions are made with love. If a baby is not held because a parent is ignoring it, I imagine that could be harmful if repeated over time. If a baby is not held because circumstances don’t allow it, I think it’s different. I think the baby will feel whether or not there is love in the interactions. I think they will respond to the vibe they receive.

I wish that women (it seems to be mostly women) could stop beating up themselves and others. I wish they could feel that love is both necessary and sufficient.

What do you think?

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