I have a heart for babies and the connection they need beginning before birth. When extenuating circumstances arise and it is not feasible to raise your own child, the connection built into pregnancy is jeopardized. If you are a potential birthmother or adoptive family, this will be great information for you as you prepare for the transition that lies ahead.
As a birthmother preparing to let go, you are usually advised not to bond with your unborn baby. I have spoken to adoption agencies over the years and inquired about working with adoptive families and birthparents to assist in transitioning the baby between the two homes. I’ve expressed the need for the baby to have a bond with his mother especially when he will be raised by another family after birth. Their concern is generally that the birthmother may change her mind or the process would be more painful if a bond were created. I understand that concern. I am saddened at the same time that the baby’s emotional needs are not given the same level of importance as those of the adults involved.
If your decision ends up being for adoption, you may want to consider what you can do to provide the best start possible for your baby. Interacting with her as she is developing in your body would be at the top of that list (along with physical nutrition). Can you imagine how lonely it would be to live in a world where no one notices you? Babies kick our bellies and move around as a way of communicating. They notice when we respond. They have a need for connection which comes through our responses. This gives them a feeling of well-being and belonging. Whatever their world is like in the womb is what they will expect (and many times will create) outside the womb. You have an opportunity to start your baby’s life with love and trust.
I also advise adoptive families to bond while they are preparing for their new addition. Sometimes the birth family is known in advance and sometimes not. In either case, send love, warmth and joy to your potential baby in whatever ways are possible. Many adoptive families don’t think to bond until they have the baby in arms; others don’t want to in case things don’t come together. I understand; it’s a risk. How devastating it would be to love this child only to have circumstances change and she not join your family. That would be heartbreaking.
What I am proposing is a depth of love that is beyond human; it is of God. It’s a different mindset. What if we looked at the value that bonding and relational interaction provides for an unborn baby and that became our focus? What if the birthmother was willing to sacrifice even more in order to provide emotional well-being for her baby? What if the adoptive parents were willing to do the same? What if babies in this transitional place received more love instead of less? What if they were loved by two families from the very beginning instead of feeling the fear and loss that so often accompanies these situations in those developmental months?
I have not gone through adoption personally. However, I was married to an adoptee. I know the impact it has. I also have two close friends, one who was adopted and one who was a birthmother. Based upon my experience as a mother and as someone who works with families on bonding, connection and trust, pregnancy and birth are invaluable bonding times. Many birthmothers are listening to advice from people who are trying to be helpful. I don’t think those mothers fully understand the deficit being created in the lack of bonding during pregnancy.
There is risk on both sides. When you look at the upside, however, this gift will last an entire lifetime. If you hold back the bond on either side, look at the deficit to this child. And what happens if both sides withdraw during the process? The baby goes without any bonding or attachment during this essential time. That just breaks my heart.
I know that things cannot be perfect and I also know that babies need and deserve bonding in utero. Bonding with your baby before birth is one of the most self-sacrificing ways you could ever pay it forward in another human being’s life.