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The Truth About Bonding

When my youngest daughter, Page, was born, I was almost too startled to look at her. The video my husband took proves it. I lie there shaking my head. I point to the clock. I talk to the amazed nurses and doctor. "I can't believe it!" I say again and again, not quite ready to focus on this new creature who slithered into the world three weeks early and barely 30 minutes after I'd arrived at the hospital.

Everything about those first days with her seems rushed, in retrospect. After the delivery, I held her in that agog way awhile, then her temperature fell and she was placed under warming lights. She was fine  -- perfect  -- but the interruptions kept coming. Nurses. Doctors. Flowers. Breakfast. Three loud, giddy siblings. Two nights of insomnia. One case of exhaustion. Then Page developed jaundice severe enough to require multiple pediatrician visits and home phototherapy, which involved her sleeping on what looked like a baby tanning bed with awful goggles over her eyes. All while I tended her older brother and sisters. Sometimes when Page made her squeaky newborn mews, I'd be surprised to see her there, half forgotten in the hubbub.

What a contrast to the leisurely, cooing extended love-in with my firstborn. I had all the time in the world to ogle, snuggle, and absorb the enormity of what had just happened. And yet I'm "bonded" just as tightly to each child. Our introductions were just a little different.

Bonding is a concept that both expectant and new parents often worry about: Is it happening? What if it never does? Am I doing it right? But that enduring and deep connection between mom and baby almost always unfolds over time, even when you can't see it at first. And the way it happens has many influences. So let the following truths help you relax as you nurture closeness.

Paula Spencer, a mom of four, is a contributing editor to Parenting.