Preparing for Parenthood: The Unconditional Love for a Child

By: Ty Bailey

Updated October 06, 2021

Medically Reviewed By: Lauren Fawley

Whether you're planning to have a baby, pregnant after trying to conceive for some time, or find yourself with an unplanned pregnancy, you're going to experience a wide range of emotions. Bringing a child into the world is a big deal and will forever reshape your life and future, It is normal to have worries during this time. along with all of the fears surrounding caring for a growing child, affording a baby, handling diapers and feedings and possible health issues, wondering how you'll function without sleep, and all of the other basics of parenthood, you may also be stressing about the bond with your future baby.

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Pregnancy And The Growing Bond With Your Baby

Pregnancy is one of the most unique experiences a woman (and her partner) can ever be a part of. There are so many changes to your hormones, your mind, and your body that it can easily be overwhelming. Those who were planning to conceive may be thrilled from the very beginning when they see the two little blue lines or the plus sign indicating a positive pregnancy test. A lot of parents-to-be that are naturally the caretaking types and have experience with children may immediately feel comfortable and have no trouble growing attached to the tiny life growing inside of the mother's belly.

For the parents that may not have planned to bring a little one into the world though, the experience can be pretty scary at first. Not only have you not planned for the changes you'll have to make in the next nine months (more or less), but also maybe you aren't the type to have ever been around children or thought you would ever have any in the first place. You may have absolutely no experience in caring for another little human being at any point in your life, and the weight of the responsibility seems overwhelming.

As months pass and the life inside of you becomes far more real and evident, typically normal attachment begins to grow along with your baby. You'll feel the little wiggles and kicks and grow to learn what your baby thinks about when you eat certain foods or drink a cold drink-these often get pretty strong reactions! It may get frustrating as your belly begins to make things like bending over or even putting on a pair of socks far more difficult than before, but your new growing baby will be with you every single second of every day, and you'll probably find yourself talking to them about what's going on throughout your day. They'll fall asleep inside of you and sometimes even wake you up in the middle of the night with little flutters as they shift to get comfortable too. They'll respond to your voice, your eating habits, and even to the water thumping down on them when you take a shower.

Even if you feel inexperienced or concerned about not caring for your baby properly, your child will not love you any less if the two of you take a while to figure things out and learn how to be a parent and child together. A well cared for child may have its needs met, but it will not be able to thrive without the love of a parent. You may have trouble figuring out your baby's wants and needs and different cries, but loving that baby with all of your heart despite any struggles will guarantee the absolute best for them in the long run.

Ways Fathers And Partners Can Bond With A Child In The Womb

Fathers (or partners in general) may worry about bonding with a new baby since they aren't the ones carrying it and they're technically "outside" of the entire process. However, at around 16 weeks gestation, a baby in the womb is capable of hearing and learning to recognize voices outside of the womb. Fathers or partners can bond with their unborn and growing baby by talking to them through the mother's belly as much as possible. They can read them stories in the womb, tell them how much they love them, and even play them some of their favorite music for the baby to recognize once it's born.

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Once a baby is born, its eyes take weeks to continue developing into seeing clearly (though they can roughly begin to learn faces when very close up such as during feedings). A baby's ears though will be functional at birth and though they may be disoriented as they are located outside of the womb and learning about all of their other senses, they will recognize the sounds they heard while growing inside of their mother, and this includes recognizing voices!

It is also a great idea for a father or partner to be as involved as possible during the process of pregnancy. Educating yourself on the baby's fetal development, the experiences the mother will be going through each varying week (they need your love and support too- it's not easy!), and attending any classes with the mom regarding breathing exercises for labor and learning about your new little one are wonderful options for being involved when you may feel a bit left out and unable to do much before the baby arrives.

New Parent Fears And Being Prepared Before Baby Arrives

Once the day comes and your baby arrives, even parents with previous child experience during their lives may feel overwhelmed by how huge of a responsibility they've taken on with having to care for a tiny, helpless little infant all on their own. How will they know what the baby wants when it's crying? How often are they supposed to feed him or her? Breast milk or formula? Are they eating enough? How do you change a diaper properly, especially when they have a blowout? What's normal for a baby? What's not? It's a lot to take in, and it's a lot to learn that varies on an individual basis depending upon the child.

Lucky for you, there are many resources to aid in the learning process when you feel like you just want to give up or are so flabbergasted by an inconsolable child that you find yourself crying along with them. (It happens. Don't feel bad about it.) Every parent experiences these emotions at some point or other, even after having multiple children. No two kids are alike, so even veteran moms and dads may find themselves in stressful situations at times and needing additional input.

Before and even after having a child, there are classes available at pregnancy resource centers as well as some hospitals to teach you everything you need to know about your growing child (both inside and outside the womb) and that also include courses on parenting styles and useful information such as how to perform infant and child CPR. Generally, all of these classes are also available at no cost to the parents and are simply provided to help as much as possible for those who feel the need to get some guidance and additional information before and after their child has arrived.

There are numerous apps available (some for free and some for a small cost) that can help you to track your child's development while you're pregnant and regularly prompt you with questions to discuss with your doctor to be sure all bases have been covered and your pregnancy is as healthy as possible. For the big moment, there are contraction timing apps to help you not only keep track of real or false (Braxton Hicks) contractions nearing the end of your pregnancy, and those can notify you when it's time to start contacting your physician and heading to the hospital as the frequency and intensity of those contractions begin to indicate true labor. Being able to make it to a safe medical setting before your baby arrives is ideal in the event that any complications were to occur.

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Once your little one has arrived, there are even more apps to help with tracking the number of feedings and diapers to ensure your baby is meeting the standard requirements for their age, and if something is amiss, they will notify you of when to contact your child's pediatrician to be sure they're feeding and doing everything else properly. Libraries and book stores also carry numerous titles on all of the ins and outs of pregnancy, caring for your little one as they develop, and even literal guide books of what to expect each week and the milestones you need to be aiming for or aware that your baby may have missed (which may indicate a health concern).

If any mental, developmental, or physical health problems may run in your family, it is also best to mention this to your doctors. They can provide testing for many conditions, but they will also be able to help you become aware of the signs and symptoms associated with those conditions so you're better able to understand and help your little one. Some parents may unknowingly think their child is just being fussy for no reason (because children do sometimes do that) or behaving badly as they get older (because some serious conditions have symptoms displayed in this manner), but arming yourself with knowledge in the event it's something more serious will help you to understand that your child is having trouble coping and unable to properly express their needs or pains or problems to you.

Post-Partum Depression

One of the most heartbreaking and difficult conditions a new mother may find herself trying to cope with is post-partum depression. This is a serious mental health condition that is common in new mothers (even repeat mothers after they've recently had another child) and may be hard to pinpoint at first. Having a new baby is exhausting and you will be incredibly tired and still very sore as your body heals up from pregnancy and birth. To feel irritable or worn out or maybe even a bit weepy from getting overwhelmed is a pretty normal and reasonable response when adjusting to parenthood. However, there comes a point when these symptoms indicate a much more serious condition, post-partum depression.

As your hormones fluctuate wildly and begin returning back to their non-pregnant state after your child is born, this can cause sleep issues, irritability, and very likely some mood swings as well. Postpartum depression lasts more than just a few days, though, and has far more severe and disruptive symptoms. The mood swings can be much more severe, the depression is overwhelming, your eating habits may go to the extremes (not eating or overeating), there is a lack of interest or enjoyment in things you once liked, you may have sleep troubles, severe anxiety, panic attacks, excessive anger and irritability, feelings of hopelessness, and excessive crying. As the condition worsens, suicidal thoughts become a possibility. You may feel worthless and helpless as a mother. The ability to bond with your child seems impossible. It may even get to the point that you're at risk for potentially hurting yourself or your child. (20% of postpartum deaths of mothers are due to post-partum depression-related suicide.) Postpartum depression is a serious and fairly common mental health concern that needs to be addressed with your doctors immediately to help you receive the proper treatment, pull yourself out from its grasp, and get back to enjoying your life and not missing out on the time with your baby that will pass far more quickly than you realize. Untreated depression and other psychological conditions can also impair your ability to care for and bond with your baby and can lead to potential emotional problems for them later on as well.

Many mothers are scared to speak up out of fear that they will be considered crazy or someone will try to take their children away. As the prevalence of this condition has become more recognized and found to be more common among new mothers, doctors are now becoming far more educated on it and expanding their resources and treatment plans for helping mothers overcome postpartum depression and get back to having a happy and healthy life for them and their children. The stigma is fading and professionals are making themselves available for patients to confide in them without punishment and find the proper treatment plan for each individual case.

Though it may not be on the same level as the mother dealing with so many physical and mental changes that contribute to postpartum depression, there is also a phenomenon known as "paternal postpartum depression" that applies to the fathers involved. Fathers with higher risks for mental health concerns, a history of depression or anxiety, or financial struggles may also exhibit some of the symptoms commonly found in mothers with postpartum depression. The stresses of bringing a new life into the world, trying to stay on top of finances and provide for their family, waking up often during the middle of the night, and possibly even managing the new dynamic of their relationship with the mother as they both adjust can lead to feelings of hopelessness, mood swings, irritability, exhaustion, doubts about their ability to be a good father, and other symptoms found in the criteria for postpartum depression. It is also important that fathers speak up and receive treatment as well to ensure that they are able to care for their families, and especially be mentally and emotionally capable of bonding with their new child.

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Bonding With Your Baby After Birth

Once your baby is born, it's likely that you may have an even easier time bonding with your little one if you may have struggled with wrapping your head around the reality of a tiny human being living inside of your body. Every daily experience you have when caring for your new child will bolster the developing bond between you and him or her. Especially for mothers and those who consistently interacted with and spoke to the baby while it was in the womb, the child will come into the world recognizing your voice and therefore be far more capable of being soothed by what is familiar to them compared to anything else. You may become frustrated at times from the lack of sleep and the initial stages of learning your baby's cues to figure out what they need (and sometimes it may just be the need to be loved on and snuggled), but you will consistently be building a relationship with that child and they're learning that they can depend on you for the rest of their lives.

One of the most rewarding things in parenthood is when your baby first learns to smile, and your face and voice will be one of the very first things they ever recognize and react to! Their love for you is unconditional and you'll likely find the feeling to be completely mutual. The feelings you'll experience for your little one will be unlike anything you've ever experienced before, and that will certainly help too when the nights get long and the diapers get pretty intense. Constantly holding, rocking, gazing at, and talking to your baby will not only help them to develop more positively compared to babies that don't receive as much attention, but your child will become even more comforted and feel secure in their environment and in the relationship that they will have with you both now and later in the future.

Some individuals may worry that having had a bad relationship with their own parents might mean the same for them and their own children, but this is completely untrue. Regardless of any neglect or abuse you may have experienced as a child, as well as having no real examples of how a parent and child relationship is supposed to work, you can actively make the choice to not repeat the mistakes of those before you and certainly succeed in having a wonderful bond with the children of your own.

As Children Grow Up

As your child grows up, their worldview and personality will change over the years and you will definitely hit some bumps in the road.

If you've established a great bond with your child from day one, your chances of making it through these stages unscathed are significantly greater than the alternative. No matter how mad or sassy an older child of yours may act towards you during certain phases, they will still love you and know that they can turn to you when in need and trust you with the things they're going through. This is essential to a child's development into a happy and healthy adult. They may drive you absolutely insane sometimes and even blatantly hurt your feelings when they lash out, but this will not affect the extent to which you love them (though it may certainly impact how much you like them at the time!).

Every child, regardless of age, still needs a parent to act like a parent and establish boundaries and provide guidance as they grow up, but you won't have a little baby anymore that needs your constant care with every little thing. Your little one will become their own individual person and start caring for him or herself, which allows for far more opportunities to bond and spend time together in other ways and by being able to hang out and enjoy hobbies and great conversations together.

The maternal love you have for your child will last you the rest of your life, but it will grow and develop into a variety of different types of relationships, as your offspring grows into a fellow adult as well. However, they'll still always be your little babies.

Further Information

For more information on emotional bonds, developing healthy relationships, coping with previous unhealthy parent and child relationships from your past, or to speak to someone if you're at risk for postpartum depression, BetterHelp is available from the comfort of your own home and provides counseling and professional resources that can fit your schedule and needs with minimal effort.


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