One reason patients want to become parents is because they have a lot of love to give. Often before, or while trying to become pregnant, they add a canine family member. Or two. And maybe a cat.
Sometimes they’re called ‘furbabies’, but we all know dogs aren’t babies. However, dogs are marvelously responsive to their humans. The emotional bond is warm and rewarding. Pet therapy in its simplest form. Hugging a furry dog or talking to a dog can create a meaningful connection when other aspects of life just aren’t going quite right. Dogs improve their owner’s mood with the dog/ human interaction. They can be good listeners when the people in your life have heard it all before. Sometimes when the world seems dismal after another month without a pregnancy, a dog will give someone a reason to get out of bed. A much loved pet may not be an official “therapy dog” but the effect of unquestionable loyalty and loving their human just the way she is can be incredibly therapeutic.
What happens if I have a baby?
So what about all those doggy germs when a baby comes home? Unless your newborn is immunocompromised, your newborn will become part of your dog’s ‘pack’ and some of those common household germs will help develop your child’s immune system. An excellent article explaining the relationship of doggie germs and babies in detail can be found online: Are Pets the New Probiotic?, New York Times, June 6, 2017.
Let me share this story with you. When I was finally pregnant, after years of trying, the two dogs had been in my house for years. Whenever someone came to the door, the dogs loudly announced the event by barking. When my premie, long awaited babies came home, their tiny ears didn’t react to the ruckus at the door. No crying, no startle response. I feared my newborns might be deaf. Then the ‘Ah Ha!’ moment. I realized that they had heard it all before, in utero. The babies hearing was just fine. Barking dogs were the beginning of living in our household menagerie which went on to also have hamsters, rabbits, and guinea pigs as the kids grew.
Having a dog or two may just be the beginning of expanding your family. When your child finally arrives, your dog will be there to help you teach empathy, gentleness, and responsibility as your child grows. Finally, there is nothing quite as useful as a dog for cleaning up the food on the floor that falls off the high chair.
Kris Bevilacqua is a clinical psychologist who offers counseling and support while patients are navigating their fertility journey.
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