A worried mom recently asked if her husband would be able to bond with their baby if his military duty kept him away during the birth. Moms and dads bond with their babies in different ways, and often that immediate after-birth bonding time is interrupted for some reason. Here is what I shared with her about my own memories of bonding with my baby.
It is natural for you to want to share this important event with your husband. It is a symbolic time of becoming a family. For some military parents, and most adoptive and step-parents around the world, that birth time may not happen. When a baby needs an incubator at birth, or mom is sick from a C-section, that time after birth is again taken away.
The real bonding of parenting is in the caring for that baby or child. Adoptive parents and step-parents know they are "real" parents when they are comforting a sick baby or kid at 2 AM. The real parent is the one who is there, doing the parenting. But, even when you are there, bonding doesn't happen in a splash of light accompanied by angelic choirs, at least for most parents.
Bonding with my daughter was a process. While I was pregnant I really tried to "bond" with her. I did everything I could to protect her, even giving myself insulin shots four times a day to make sure she was safe. But love? That was not really how it felt. I just couldn't wrap the word love around a face I could not see, a personality I did not know.
When she was born, I was mostly numb those first few days. I was fascinated with her, and ready to do damage to a nurse who threatened to take her and give her a bottle when she was refusing to nurse, but she really didn't feel like MY baby until she was a few days old.
I had a rough pregnancy after many, many years of infertility. So many times I was afraid I was going to have a miscarriage or that the preterm labor would not stop and she'd come far too early. I was on bedrest a lot and had severe gestational diabetes. Then, when she was born, they took her away immediately and worked on her breathing for about 15 minutes or so. I was terrified and all I could see was her tiny bottom, legs waving in protest as they suctioned her nose and throat. This was NOT the birth bonding I pictured.
Then, once they said she was ok, I got to hold her. But it did not feel real. I had held so many other babies that were not mine. I could not wrap my mind around this tiny baby really being MY daughter. She refused to nurse for the first few days, and the night time nurse was awful - she kept telling me that I was going to give my baby brain damage if I kept refusing formula for her (the DOCTOR said my baby was FINE and did not need anything but the small amount of colostrum she was getting, but the nurse was horrid about it). So, I did not sleep pretty much at all for almost 3 days.
Once we were home, I was worried sick because she was still not nursing consistently and she was really jaundiced and had to have the special lights and daily blood tests. Finally, at 5 days old, she started eating as she should - and I was able to start getting a little sleep.
That sixth day, I remember looking at her tiny little body snuggled up to me. Her sweet little face was so perfect, she looked like a baby doll. Then, that is when I burst into tears and realized that this amazing little girl was mine. She was healthy and she was going to be ok, and she was mine. Thirty-six years of wanting to be a mom more than anything in the world, and I had this baby that was so precious and perfect. That is the moment when I realized just how fiercely I loved this baby.
So, if your husband can't be there for that one "perfect" moment, I don't think it is going to change his relationship with your baby. If he acts like a dad, they will bond and everything will be just as it should - no matter when they meet for the first time.