Bonding With Baby, Perhaps a Little Too Soon


Finding out the sex of your baby — as Jeanne recently pointed out in this post — can be a dicey proposition, for many reasons. But one key one? The sense of attachment we sometimes develop to our kids, even when they’re still in utero.pregnantbelly

A reader to the New York Times Motherlode blog, Amanda Goehring, wrote a thoughtful letter to blogger Lisa Belkin about the bond she formed with her unborn daughter. Or rather, the daughter she thought she was having. Times blogger Belkin shared Goehring’s response in its entirety, in which she talks about her despair once she realized — courtesy of an ultrasound a few weeks before her due date — that the little girl named Lucille she believed to be growing inside her was actually a boy.

“I cried all the way home. I cried for two weeks. I tried to will the baby I was carrying to be a girl, to be Lucille. But he had never been Lucille. I realized, to my disorientation, that I had never known my unborn child, hadn’t known the first thing about him. There was a stranger inside of me, a stranger with a penis.”

Now, some people might read that and think she sounds a little melodramatic. But I understand what it feels like to imagine the lives we might lead with our kids even before they start. Like Goehring, I also thought I was having a girl during my first pregnancy. But unlike Goehring — who was told during her 20-week sonogram that her child was definitely female — that notion was quickly proven false early on, so I didn’t spend months looking forward to the fun “girl” things I would do with my daughter once she showed up on planet Earth.

After reading this post and reflecting on my own pregnancy behavior, I initially wondered if it’s healthy for potential parents to spend too much time fantasizing about what our relationships with our children might be like — the flouncy gingham dresses they might wear, or the baseball games they might play in. Gender expectations aside, are we already imposing certain expectations on our children by doing this, before they even have a chance to be born and report for life duty?

After thinking about it more, though, I realized it’s inevitable. Every parent who is expecting a child — carrying one, about to adopt one or anticipating one from a surrogate — can’t help but do a little excited, advance planning. You can’t wait to sit down and watch “The Wizard of Oz” with them one day. You know, for certain, that you’ll want to expose him to music and that, as a result, he’ll become a world renowned pianist.

Of course, none of us know. And all the pre-birth stuff is just a little game we play, one that — in cases like Goehring’s — can sometimes lead to temporary heartbreak when we realize our child is not at all what we imagined. But it’s human nature. We can’t help it.

Envisioning how wonderful our babies will be is the great, pre-parental hope. And finding out how wonderfully different they are than everything we ever dreamed? Well, that’s one of life’s most joyous surprises.