One of the best things about this second pregnancy has been feeling more confident and prepared for all the wild changes my body is going through — like the intensity of that first trimester fatigue and the round-the-clock bathroom breaks.
Of course, I know that not every pregnancy is the same, so I wasn’t caught off guard when I started experiencing symptoms that hadn’t popped up during my first pregnancy. For example, a couple of weeks into my first trimester, I could smell everything; and around week eight, I started waking up every morning craving nectarines and watermelon doused in Tajín.
But one feeling I wasn’t prepared for? Not feeling super connected to my baby.
Maybe it’s because I have a toddler who I spend all of my free time with. Or maybe it’s because I’m not pregnant during a global pandemic, when I had time to sit at home and think about the tiny person growing inside me. Or maybe it’s just what happens when you have a second kid?
Whatever the reason, all I know is that, instead of spending every waking moment checking my Flo app to study the baby’s development and reading birth stories online, I’ve been coasting through this pregnancy on autopilot. The wonder and beauty of it all have been hitting me only during the big moments, like when I first saw the gummy-bear-shaped form during our first ultrasound, and when we found out the sex (it’s a boy!). But I’d love to experience those feelings more throughout this pregnancy — not just during the milestones.
One thing that helps? The flashlight trick. The first time I heard about this ritual was during my second trimester with Ella. I told my mom that could finally feel Ella’s gentle kicks and flutters, and my mom asked: “Did you do the flashlight trick?”
I had no idea what she was talking about, so she pulled me into the bathroom with a flashlight in hand and turned off all the lights. She turned the flashlight on, I rolled up my shirt, and she pressed the light up against my round belly. Within a few seconds, I felt a *thud, thud, thud*, as Ella’s body pushed against the light! It was sweet and surreal.
Now with baby #2, when I start to feel distant from him, I stow myself in the bathroom and shine a flashlight on my belly. And every time I feel him move, a wave of love and gratitude rushes through me. In those couple of minutes alone together, I start to dream about the type of person he’ll be, and feel a deep longing to feel his weight in my arms and smother his cheeks with kisses.
I know I must not be the only person who had a hard time connecting with my baby before meeting them in real life, so I was curious how other moms bonded with with their babies in utero. I asked writer Catherine Newman, who told me:
“I remember my pregnancies felt so *hypothetical.* Plus, I’d miscarried before, so I was always nervous about jinxing everything. Still, I sang James Taylor songs to the baby (and felt a little silly), and my partner read Goodnight Moon to the baby (and felt a little silly) and then later? I realized that you might as well lean all the way in because you can’t preempt grief anyway — not really — so why dampen your enjoyment?”
Illustrator Ruth Chan is pregnant right now, and she says introducing her favorite foods to her baby has been one way to get to know each other: “I eat something I love (cake, cold noodles, poutine), and ask our baby if she likes it, too. Sometimes she’ll kick/punch in response, and I like to think she is doing a happy dance.”
Aren’t both of these tips sweet? Being pregnant is an incredibly intense and vulnerable experience, and all sorts of feelings and experiences are normal. You’re never alone.
What about you? Did you instantly bond with your child when pregnant? If not, did any rituals help you feel closer? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
(Photo by Guille Faingold/Stocksy.)