How the Nonpregnant Parent Can Bond With the Baby
How to Bond With Your Baby in Utero When You're Not the Pregnant Parent
So you're gonna have a baby! This should be cause for celebration, but instead you find yourself concerned that you won't have the same ability to bond as your pregnant partner. This fear is totally normal. But it's absolutely possible for the nonpregnant partner to feel involved and bonded with your future child.
The key is to be active in preparing for their birth, says Angelique Snyder, PsyD, a pediatric psychologist at The Children's Hospital of San Antonio. Focus on actions that will help motivate you to emotionally prepare for their arrival, says Dr. Snyder. Do research on items for the registry, prepare the nursery, ask friends for advice, or do meal prep before they arrive. Also, it never hurts to help with chores. "Ask your pregnant partner in what ways you can support them, and make sure they are specific in their requests. What is one thing you can offload from their to-do list?"
When Corrita Lewis from It's a Family Thing was pregnant with their son, she says her wife was afraid she wouldn't bond with the baby. "I reassured her that he'd love her as his mom just as much as he loves me," she says. But to make her wife feel more involved with the pregnancy, Lewis made sure let her know when the baby was kicking. "It was adorable that he always started moving around when he heard her voice. We talked about it whenever she felt left out or became overwhelmed by not feeling connected to the baby."
Kristin Addis of Parenthood Adventures adds that openness and honesty was crucial for her and her partner, too. At the end of the day, forging a connection can be as simple as relying on the five senses. "Touch the belly when the baby kicks, and know that your voice is also one they're going to be used to hearing, and all that matters," she says.
Still, if you're feeling worried about your ability to bond with your growing little one, POPSUGAR spoke with family experts to provide manageable steps to help communicate with your partner during this time so you both have the best parenting experience.
Be Honest With Your Own Needs
If you're worried about not being able to bond with the baby as much as your pregnant partner, Kimberly O'Connell, LMFTA, MT-BC, a couples therapist at Joyful Counseling, says to remain open and curious about these fears. "Think about what you might need, then express your feelings," she says. The clearer you can be with what's going on in your internal world, the more clarity you get around what you need to be different."
It might sound something like this, "I'm so glad we're through the first trimester and you are feeling better! We were totally in survival mode with you feeling so unwell, but now I would love to connect with you and the baby more. Can we set aside some time tonight to snuggle and talk about what we're excited about?" And remember communication is a two-way street. "Ask permission to touch your partner's stomach and listen to the heartbeat," Dr. Snyder says. "Physical touch can be comforting to both of you!"
For O'Connell, setting aside time to talk about what her and her partner were both excited (and anxious) about was incredibly helpful. "We also talked about ways early on that Dad could get really involved (e.g. before I feed at night, he changes the diaper)," she shares. "When we could talk about expectations and how we were going to partner, we felt more connected with well-defined (but flexible) roles. We're also both musicians, so making music together when I was pregnant was very connecting — and we have three young kids who absolutely love music now!"
Build Intimacy With Your Partner
"If the partner who is pregnant has emotional capacity, invite your partner to share in the experience by opening time and space for them to ask questions," O'Connell says. The nonpregnant partner doesn't have access to the internal world the pregnant person is experiencing so it's helpful to share. "You as the pregnant person might also open up safe space for your partner to feel like they can express if they are feeling connected to the baby, or to share their concerns and anxieties, as well as what they need to feel like they are experiencing your pregnancy in a way that helps them feel emotionally prepared."
Taking time for the two of you to build memories together with your baby before birth can also kick-start that sense of bonding. "Think about your natural rhythm as a couple and then start talking out loud about how you want to do those things as a family," she says. "Daydream what it will be like to do your favorite things together as a family of three."
Below are other ways partners can work together to build memories that both parents can participate in, according to O'Connell:
- Cook nourishing foods together
- Take photos with the growing baby bump
- Create a registry together and add things both partners want
- Watch bad rom-coms about being parents
Talk to the Baby in Utero
Set aside time to talk to the baby in utero together. "While this may feel weird, speak to baby in utero as you hope to speak to them when they come into this world," Dr. Snyder says. "Spend time letting them know what you think and feel, even if it's just day-to-day activities." For example, while in the car, Dr. Snyder says to practice letting them know how your day went, how you look forward to meeting them, and how you wonder what their personality will be like.
Additionally, O'Connell suggests the below ways to connect during belly time:
- Share hopes and dreams for the baby with the baby
- Sing to the baby
- Write a letter to the baby and read it out loud
And if talking to your partner's tummy still feels daunting, simply start with snuggling the baby belly to get a sense of closeness
Attend Every Appointment That You Can
This will help you feel like a part of the pregnancy process. For those who can't make it in person to the doctor's appointments because of work schedules or otherwise, ask if your provider can video call you in. Lewis says her wife couldn't attend the doctor's appointments but had her on video chat and recorded every appointment so she could know what was going on directly from the doctor. "Luckily, our doctor took an ultrasound at every appointment so she got to see him regularly," she says.
And if you can't join doctor's appointments virtually, consider another predelivery activity, like signing up for prenatal classes together so you can ask questions and learn alongside your partner. There are also plenty of pregnancy and parenting podcasts and audiobooks to catch up on. O'Connell recommends setting aside time once a week to discuss what the two of you have discovered.