I never worried about D bonding with Stella. He was with her in those moments after she was pulled from me, when the neonatologists were checking her vitals. He was with her after they placed her in an isolette and wheeled her up to the Special Care Nursery, where he sat and spoke to her softly through plastic.
Thirty-six hours later, after the call to my room saying that she was in respiratory distress, D was the one who walked next to her through the long tunnel connecting Abbott Northwestern and Children’s Hospitals. He was the one who read to her in the middle of the night and who changed her diaper when the nurses said it was time.
All the while, I was nauseous, spinning in and out of sleep.
Much later, when we finally brought Stella home, D was the one who could calm her. I was often at a loss. Nursing was frustrating on good days and left me in tears on bad days. Since the moment she received bottles in the hospital, she preferred them to breastfeeding. I ended up pumping and pumping, and D gave her bottles at 11 pm and 5 am each day. There was no question that D and Stella bonded—they bonded immediately.
With Zoe, everything has been different. I missed out on an hour with her as I was being sewn up after my C-section, but we have been together almost constantly since then. She would love nothing more than to spend the day nursing and snoozing in my arms. And since she refuses to take a bottle, D hasn’t been able to feed her, to connect with her the way he connected with Stella. Much of the time we are together as a family is divided—he is playing with Stella and I’m nursing Zoe. I imagine that this is the way it is for many families when the mother is breastfeeding: the other partner feels a little left out.
I’m not really worried about D and Zoe bonding—they will find there way just as Stella and I have found ours—but it is a challenge to find time for the two of them to be alone together.
With all of this in mind, it was so interesting to read Jennifer Margulis’ new book, The Baby Bonding Book for Dads, which she co-authored with her husband, James de Properzio. It’s a lovely coffee-table book filled with photos of babies and fathers and tips for dads on how to bond with their new infants. (They also have a blog–check it out!)
Many of the things they list as ways for dads to bond—kangaroo care, diapering, face time, and feeding—were things D did with Stella immediately because of her prematurity and her stay in the hospital. But if Zoe had been our first, would he have felt left out? Would he have felt at a loss to connect with her? I think he would have, and this book would have been a perfect gift for him.
There are so many books out there for expectant mothers—dare I say too many? But there are few that celebrate fatherhood and the special connection a dad can have with his new baby. I think this book helps fill that gap, and it would be a perfect gift for the expectant dads you know. I even found in it some good reminders for me: don’t feel stuck at home with an infant, take the baby with you and get out of the house! I also had forgotten this: that when a baby “turns her face to the side, she’s probably telling you she’s had enough…” Zoe loves to be on the changing table, kicking her feet and smiling, but I forgot this cue and think I’ve been keeping her “playing” long after she’s grown tired. Oops.
How have your partners bonded with your children? Has the way your partners bond changed with subsequent children?