What does bonding mean to you? This an important question to reflect on as you journey towards meeting and connecting with your new baby at the end of your surrogacy journey. Society’s portrayal of post-partum parenthood can sometimes lead us to believe that bonding is automatic and
present from the moment a newborn takes it’s first breath. Although this may be true for some, this is not the case for everyone.
Bonding, like all emotional attachments, is a uniquely personal experience and is felt and expressed in a variety of ways, and according to a very personal timeline. If you are having fears about bonding with your baby after birth, you are not alone. Most expectant parents are curious or feel some doubt as to how they will connect with their newborn and this worry is even more poignant during a surrogacy experience.
Whether you have dwelled on this aspect or not, says nothing about your ability to parent positively and has more to do with your tendency to be introspective and self-evaluate. The very fact you feel this concern validates the potential you do have to care and bond with your baby when the time comes.
Will I be able to bond with a baby I didn’t carry? To set the record straight you have, in so many ways, carried your baby born from surrogacy. From inception to birth you have been there and carried him or her in your heart for 9 long months in the same way as any other parent-to-be. You have experienced all the very same feelings of impending joy, hope, fear and longing any expectant parent has.
When a baby is born through surrogacy an emotional transfer takes place as the newborn transitions from the care felt in the surrogate carrier’s uterine environment to the hands-on, interactive care of the intended parents. This transfer is very meaningful and is an exciting time for new parents. These initial emotions , as well as the emotional output to follow, are all part of the early bond-building process. Until your baby can process language, there is intuitive communication taking place, whereby your baby can sense your joy and your intention to care, support, provide and protect. This isn’t to mean that bond formation is limited to the first few days of life. There is a lot of time ahead for you to foster a connection through your attentiveness to your baby’s needs and by your nurturing responses.
After surrogacy, it is common to feel at the very beginning as though you are ‘babysitting’. Despite all the hope and energy that has gone into a surrogacy journey, an intended parent’s body has not been physically prepared for birth, and with this comes hormonal influxes to assist with attachment. Consistency and responsiveness to your baby’s cues for care will reinforce your role as your child’s primary caregiver in no time.
Tips to boost bonding
• Learn about and practice “skin-to-skin kangaroo care”. “Skin-to-skin”
involves placing your newborn against your bare chest so as to feel
authentic body heat, sounds, and smells and to activate baby’s senses
as they are reminded of their environment in utero.
• Chat and smile! Babies enjoy the sound of your voice; they may not
understand your words just yet, but they feel the emotion from your
tone. Spending time engaging in this way, builds trust and security.
The more they hear, see and feel from you the more they get to know
you and rely on you as the source to fulfil their needs.
• Provide swift and consistent responses to your baby’s needs. Being
attentive to your baby’s need for soothing, food, warmth, rest, touch
and hygiene will teach your baby that the world is a comfortable and
great place to be and that you are an unwavering source of comfort
• Reach out for support. Being a new parent is a huge transition and
lack of sleep can be mood altering. You are the most important
person in your baby’s life and your emotional health is intertwined
with your child’s. Parents who feel mentally well provide better care
and comfort to their babies. If you feel incapable of bonding and/or
caring for your baby, seek outside help and receive support sooner
rather than later.
Words on bonding from our intended parents:
“Participating in the Doula preparation classes while our surrogate was ‘pregnant’ was really helpful, we were able to make a ‘plan’ and this helped us feel connected before we even met our daughter. I worried a lot about bonding with her but took it one day at time and feel really in-tune to her now”
“My partner bonded faster than I did, it took me some time to understand my own feelings, and I’m proud to admit I made a real effort to bond. Activities like baby massage helped as I felt I was physically connecting with my baby”