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Bonding With Baby

Get a Head Start

When my wife, Susan, was pregnant, we celebrated Mother's Day in style. She was showered with gifts and flowers from both me and our families.

Just a month later, though, on Father's Day, Susan and I, along with a handful of relatives, gathered at my grandmother's home for lunch as we frequently do. I wasn't expecting much -- maybe a coffee mug, maybe a heartfelt speech. After all, Isabelle wasn't even born yet.

My mother cleared her throat. "It's really nothing," she said, handing my wife a card. "I just wanted to show you how much I care." Susan was touched. I stared at them in disbelief. My mother is giving my wife a card on Father's Day? Doesn't anybody understand the irony here? I guess not. Around the room, everybody -- my brother, my dad -- was talking about the weather and the Cincinnati Reds.

No wonder it's difficult for dads to immediately bond with their babies. Moms-to-be have intimate contact with the baby for nine months, and they get their own cheering section. Dads-to-be don't even get coffee mugs!

The lesson? Special father-child relationships need to start at the beginning. Bond with your baby, even before he's born, if you can.

I admit it can be hard to connect with a 3-month-old fetus, but you can still do things that matter, from putting money aside for a future college education to learning how to change a diaper. You can make a will. If you smoke, you can quit, since secondhand cigarette and cigar smoke can affect both the mom and her passenger. You can paint the nursery, since expectant moms should stay away from the fumes. Buy a baseball glove, or a stuffed animal, or an outfit. I bought our baby a sleeper and was blown away by how I felt about a meager $12 purchase. Every time Isabelle wore the outfit, you'd have thought I had discovered plutonium or invented cheese by the way I acted.

Touch your partner's belly often and feel your baby kicking. Talk to the baby so she can get used to the sound of your voice. Listen to classical music with your partner and know that your baby can hear and enjoy the music as well.