The paternal bond

Debarati Palit Singh
Sunday, 13 May 2018

How would-be-fathers develop a special bond with their unborn child over the period of nine months

It is believed that a woman is reborn the day she knows she has conceived, but for a man, it’s the actual birth of the child that makes him feel like a father. Most couples will agree that it’s the woman who instantly develops a bond with the child the moment her pregnancy test is positive but for the man, that’s not the case. Men are concerned about their wife’s health, their unborn child’s future, additional responsibilities and all kinds of practical decisions they have to make as they take up the role of a father. It is over the next nine months that the fathers-to-be progress to develop a bond and protectiveness for their child. 

Consulting Psychiatrist Sayantani Mukherjee says the reason it takes men time to develop a bond is because they can’t physically see the child in front of them. “In case of women, there are hormonal changes that create that kind of nurturing and emotional bonding. Further when they breast feed, there is a love hormone called Oxytocin, so the bond with the baby develops even further. In fathers, hormones kick in later when they hold the child and interact with it. That’s why it’s a slower process for them. The more they interact with the child, the stronger the bond becomes,” explains Mukherjee.  

She claims that the ability to form such emotional connections varies from person to person. “We cannot attribute it to gender, in fact it has to do with the kind of individual you are. Some men are very emotionally attached to their child. It’s a social belief that men are macho and practical but that’s not always the case,” she adds.   

Rahul Sinha, father to a month-old daughter, says that when the couple found out about the pregnancy, his main concern was the health of his wife Deblina. “The first month went by worrying about her health and well-being. As I started visiting the gynecologist with her for sonography tests and watched my child on the screen, I became more emotional and got more attached,” says Sinha. 

Similarly, Jeet Kumar too calls sonography tests a way forward to connect with the child. “Honestly speaking, it’s hard to define the feeling I had when I caught the first glimpse of my child. That very moment, I realised that my wife and I are going to welcome another living being to the world. Now, not just my wife but I too look forward to seeing my child on the screen during sonographies,” says Kumar whose wife is seven months pregnant. 

He claims that the format of a nuclear family helps the bond between father and child grow stronger. “We are just two of us, there is no one else to take care of my wife. I am there with her through every phase  and that has kind of helped me understand what an emotional roller coaster she is on.”  

Amit Gupta, whose wife is six months pregnant, says that it took him some time to get used to the fact that his wife is expecting. “My wife had become emotional the moment she got to know she was pregnant. She was concerned about the health and safety of the child. But for me, it took a few months. Over time I have got emotionally attached to the child and now I am equally concerned about my baby and my wife.” 

He can’t seem to find the right words to describe the bond he shares with his unborn child. 

But many men develop an instant emotional connect, like Anupam Das whose wife delivered a son a couple of weeks back. He says that it’s a myth that men need time to bond with the child. “I felt the same kind of love, affection and anxiety, as my wife,” he says, adding, “When I got to know that I am going to become a father, the feeling was awesome. The bond started that very moment. As my wife is a working woman, I tried my best to ensure that she didn’t face any problems. I helped her as much as I could. It was a journey that made me more mature.”

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