The Bunk About Bonding
Touch Simply Works
Yet, there are two compelling reasons for softening your position, as Catherine discovered and went on to implement with her second baby. One, infants and children respond to touch. Letting little Russell into your bed may very well mean that you get all-important REM sleep. Carrying Chloe in a Snugli® may mean dinner gets prepared and you and your husband aren't wigged out during those stressful evening hours. In other words, by allowing the baby into your personal space, you may gain more sanity than you surrender.
Secondly, if you give in to skin-to-skin to any degree, you'll experience the loveliest, and I would say holiest, aspects of parenting. Indeed, more than half of the women I interviewed said their most contented moments of motherhood occurred when they were snuggling with their kids. Seeing your husband skin-to-skin, tiny fingers resting on a wide chest, is spine-tingling, too.
Kim, the mother of three in Maryland, says she loves to rub her children's hair and heads. Never again will Kim resist a head rub from her mom, now that she knows how immensely full of love and delight that gesture is.
Kisses on the Lips
Another mom was embarrassed to admit that she likes when her kids kiss her on the mouth. If you didn't grow up in a demonstrative Italian or Greek family, or even if you did, you may of late have reserved kisses on the lips for romantic life. Then the closeness of family calls out to be expressed, and your lips become healing to boo-boos and pink targets for little puckered mouths that want to tell you they love you.
When I was first married I was amazed that my husband's first impulse, even before consciousness in the morning, was to reach for me. Now my four-year-old, Liam, cannot start the day without making body contact. Though I can't sleep while spooning with my husband, Liam and I meld in these perfectly comfortable ways. If his face is not touching mine, he sleepily shifts to make it so. And even his morning breath is sweet-smelling to me in this predawn sanctuary of mom and child.
Later in the day, Liam will get up on my lap and lift his T-shirt and mine to expose our stomachs so we sit together, skin to skin. In this incredibly literal way, he reminds me that we once shared my belly, and that I will always be the origin of love for him.
This proximity was so off-putting and scary in the beginning. Now, between preschool and soccer practice, dinner preparation and homework, I just can't get enough.
Strangely, by surrendering boundaries and adopting a language of touch, you discover your uncanny, innate power for healing, molding, and emboldening your young. Cheek to cheek, hand to tummy, or warm feet to Popsicle toes with your little one, you will feel a connection to mothers and sons/mothers and daughters the planet through.
Once you get comfortable with the closeness, I guarantee you will be addicted, too. Any anxieties you have over bumbling the bonding process can be healed with hugs and more hugs.
A Delay in Bonding Is Not Harmful
Moms are prevented from immediate, full-fledged bonding for all sorts of reasons. Try forging natural connections when you've been released from the hospital and only get to visit your preemie in a neonatal intensive care unit. Parents who've endured arduous fertility treatments, or those who elected to terminate a previous pregnancy due to birth defects, sometimes have trouble adjusting to a happy outcome.
Krista of Savannah, Georgia, is a thirty-seven-year old adoptive mother who didn't truly connect with her son for about six months. "In large part," Krista says, "I didn't bond right away because I was overwhelmed by gratitude toward his birthmother, and guilty that I was better prepared to raise him than she was." Nothing written about bonding can prepare moms for feelings such as Krista's, which are complex and not easily whisked away, even in the presence of a miracle baby.
From What No One Tells the Mom by Marg Stark. Copyright © 2005. Used by arrangement with Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
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