Building a better bond

February 19, 2011 at 7:28 am

It is now officially my “due date.” I’ve never been pregnant this long before. My other children came 9 days, 5 days, and 10 days early. All of my mother’s six children came either 9 days or 6 days early. I’m not certain, but I think all of my sister’s kids came early as well. I was under the impression that the women in my family “cook ‘em fast.” So my husband and I have been quite surprised to see this pregnancy continuing as long as it has. But I’m totally OK with that. I’ve learned some important things over the past week, and I feel I have God’s and my baby’s wise choice of timing to thank for those valuable blessings. I’d like to share some of what I’ve learned.

You may be aware from prior blogposts (Pitocin on the Brain, On loving baby slime, Mothering my children, healing myself) that bonding with my freshly-born babies has been a struggle for me in the past. With each child, the bond has come more quickly, but it has still never happened as quickly and strongly as I would like it to. My past experiences have led me to believe, at times, that I’m not capable of experiencing that instant “love at first sight” some parents speak of. But it doesn’t keep me from fantasizing about experiencing it. Especially when irrational fears creep up in the recesses of my consciousness filling me with doubts that I’ll even be able to love this new baby at all.

As I’ve been preparing for the birth of our fourth child, I have been thinking a lot about that moment immediately following the birth, wondering how I will feel, and hoping I’ll finally be able to experience that sudden, ecstatic, euphoric, intense love for my child that I’ve never previously felt (at least not immediately). At the same time I don’t want to set myself up for disappointment by expecting or hoping for it too much. It’s a tough balance to figure out.

But, a couple of days ago, I decided to take the matter to God. I figured that if anyone knew how to help me experience that profound love, God would. And if anyone wanted me to experience that love, God would. So to God I went.

Before I get into what God taught me, I want to first explain that I’m already aware of (and planning on doing) many things that have been shown to help mothers and babies bond following childbirth: no drugs to reduce my baby’s (or my) alertness, low lighting, immediate skin-to-skin contact, breastfeeding as soon as possible, delaying unnecessary procedures, etc. But I knew there had to be more that I was missing, so that’s why I sought divine spiritual instruction.

As I asked God for guidance, delved into my scriptures, pondered, and received direction, I was able to identify some of those missing pieces I needed to maximize our initial bonding experience.

1) A lifestyle of loving action
God showed me that I needed to be loving others (particularly my own little family) better. And that means loving them not just in word, but in deed. And that means more praise and gratitude, more random acts of kindness, more hugs, more kisses, more cuddling, more massages. I was reminded that when I live a lifestyle full of love, affection, and service for those around me, I further enhance my capacity to love more deeply, until eventually I am able to feel and give “perfect” love. I found this scripture particularly instructive: “If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us . . . . God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. Herein is our love made perfect” (1 John 4:12, 16).

It is that perfect, deep, God-like love I’m hoping to experience as I give birth to my baby (and in my day-to-day life as well). So I’m realizing that enhancing my capacity to experience that love isn’t something I can do in a moment, or a day, or a week. It’s a lifestyle change. I consider myself a generally kind and loving person, but I have been humbled to recognize over the past couple of days just how much more I can and should be doing. And I’ve been amazed to see the blessings and ripples that have come as I’ve tried to implement a lifestyle of more loving action.

And, really, it makes complete sense.  A person living a lifestyle of loving action is a person flooding him/herself constantly with oxytocin.  The higher our oxytocin levels rise, the more intensely we are able to bond with others.  Mothers experience the highest oxytocin peak of their lives at the moment of birth and immediately afterward.  A 2007 study from Israel found that women experience varying oxytocin levels throughout pregnancy, but those women whose oxytocin levels were rising at the end of pregnancy experienced a higher maternal-fetal bonding.  So, essentially, God (who knows our bodies and their processes better than anyone) was telling me to implement behaviors that will cause an increase in my oxytocin levels leading up to this birth.  And I’m most definitely enjoying the fruits of those behavior changes and hopeful that they will enhance my capacity to bond with and love the child we will soon welcome into our home.

2) Forgetting myself in the service of my baby as I give birth
This was a major epiphany for me. I realized, with some degree of shame, how selfish I have been in my previous births. So much of my energy had been spent focusing on enhancing my experience, thinking about my own needs, etc. I was so wrapped up in the intensity of what would (and did) happen to my body that I essentially forgot about the baby coming at the end. The baby became an afterthought to my own experience. So it’s really not surprising that those initial moments after the birth weren’t full of deep love for those babies. Instead I spent that time trying to come back to reality, trying to recover my focus, thinking, “Oh! Right! This wasn’t just about getting through something really hard, it was really about having a baby!” God helped me to see that if I want to feel a deep love for my baby, then I have to keep my baby in focus throughout the entire birth experience. Seems pretty obvious as I write it now, but it was a total paradigm shift for me.

So my goal with this birth is to “lose myself,” forget about me, and fill my heart and mind with my baby. Consequently, I’ve been thinking a lot about what childbirth must be like for those sweet babies and their fledgling fresh-from-heaven spirits. This baby and his/her spirit have never been born before. This experience is such a departure from everything he/she has ever known. It could be extremely traumatic and frightening for my baby, especially if I allow my own fears and discomforts to overwhelm my mind and body. I want to do whatever I can to ease and soothe my baby’s transition into mortal life. Remaining calm, serene, and relaxed as I give birth has now turned into something entirely different than it has been in my previous births. It used to be about improving my own experience, but now it is a labor of love for my baby.

I plan to stay focused on my baby and staying calm and serene for his/her benefit by doing lots of visualizing. I will visualize a crowd of loving (and familiar) spirits who have prepared my child to come to earth, encouraging and ushering my baby’s immortal spirit across the veil between that premortal realm and our world, and myself welcoming that newly created and unified soul into my arms. I will imagine myself as a vessel, carrying and protecting a very special/sacred soul as we navigate an intense journey through water, blood, and fire and the rejoicing I will feel when we reach the end of that journey together safely. I will visualize my baby descending through my body, completely aware of all of my emotions, thoughts, and sounds. I will, God-willing, flood my heart and mind with reassurance and encouragement for my baby: “Everything is going to be OK, baby… You’re safe… I’m OK… We’re OK… You don’t need to fear… We will get through this together… I will never leave you alone… We love you…”

***

Two days ago, as these new revelations descended on me, I was flooded with gratitude and love.  I thought I was finally “ready” to welcome my baby a week ago, but what a blessing that he/she knew to wait.  How grateful I am that my baby allowed me to discover and receive these valuable insights in advance of his/her birth.  I really think they will make a world of difference.  And again, today, I was able to learn even more important lessons.  This baby’s wisdom continues to awe and amaze me.  The longer he/she waits, the more I learn (and realize how much more I have to learn).  And my heart is already filling with love for this baby for giving me these precious extra days to prepare and receive much-needed guidance and counsel.  I thought I was ready, but my baby knew better.  And I’m realizing, with greater clarity, that it’s not full moons, barometric pressure, spicy foods, sex, or pomegranate seeds that put us into labor.  Our babies come to us when the time is right.  And usually we’re pretty poor judges of that time ourselves.  So I’m letting go.

I don’t know when this baby will arrive, but I’m full of hope that his/her arrival will be something really special.  I can’t wait!  (But I will.) :-)

Related stuff you might find interesting:
Babies are Conscious, by David Chamberlain, Ph.D.
Birth And The Origins of Violence, by Dr. David B. Chamberlain
Olfactory mediation of maternal behavior in selected mammalian species
Oxytocin: The Hormone of Peace and Trust, by Linda Fehrs, LMT
A Review of Scientific Evidence Supporting the Link Between Altruism and Health, by Barbara Velazquez, Ph.D.
Can Kindness Cut the Risk of Heart Disease?, by David R. Hamilton, Ph.D.