Falling in love with my boys
Guest post by Distracted Dad
In the months leading up to our twin sons’ delivery, I was on the downhill slope of a recovery from some health problems, the details of which I will spare you from other than to say that it was literally the worst time of my life.
Taking that for what it’s worth, during my wife’s pregnancy, I became more negative more often. I had some happy times as well, but I would get annoyed, bitter, and sometimes downright resentful towards what was supposed to be one of the happiest events of my life. (I will say that I was tremendously happy for my wife, who was living out her greatest dream after years of our struggling with infertility. She was literally – and I’m one of those people that uses “literally” correctly – the happiest person I’d ever seen.)
As the pregnancy progressed, my health continued to improve. I began looking forward to OB visits rather than dreading them. I engaged more easily with people when they wanted to know how things were going. I started to look forward to fatherhood.
More or less.
I still had doubts about being a father. Not just “Will I be a good enough dad?” (well, that too), but “Will I love these kids? Do I even want them? How do I nurture and raise decent children when I’m questioning how they’ll fit into my heart?”. So, yeah…mostly those kinds of doubts. For every positive emotion that I’d feel, the negativity would roll in and bring me down again.
The problem with concerns like these is that they’re cyclical. “If I’m questioning whether or not I’ll ever have love for these kids, obviously I won’t.” That’s the kind of stuff that was going through my head.
Constantly. Every day. My worries made me feel worse and the worse I felt the more I worried.
I talked to my wife about it. I talked to a therapist about it. I Googled it. Everyone said some variation of the same thing: I had cold feet and lots of dads feel that way. I was told some guys don’t feel connected to their kids until the ultrasound. Too late. They feel it when they feel the baby move. Nope. They feel it when they learn the gender. We didn’t, and no. Well, certainly you’ll feel it when you hold your baby for the first time. (I’ll get to that.)
When the time came, we wound up needing a caesarean, and we got scrubbed up and wheeled into the delivery room. By “delivery room” I mean “large operating room with a dozen or so medical staffers and equipment everywhere.” We made it through surgery, and they towelled the womb gunk off our baby boys, wrapped them up, and handed them to me.
I was expecting the instant, unconditional love I’d heard about.
Yes, I felt love, but it was mixed together with so many other emotions I was totally overwhelmed. I guess I expected the love to cancel out any negative thoughts. Sadly, it was just one in an emotion assortment, like a coconut chocolate in a Whitman’s Sampler with a missing guide, mixed in there with those gross cherry nougat things.
This is all a very hard thing to admit. I was not weeping tears of joy in the OR. I was overwhelmed by so many emotions I’m pretty sure there were feelings in there that no one had ever felt before. I felt like I was in a sensory deprivation tank, sort of numb inside and out. Looking back, I remember those first few hours being like a scene in a movie where a character is high; the scene is blurry and distorted, everything is in slow-motion, and the voices are slow and far away.
Soon we were home with our little bundles of joy. And I did feel joy. And anger. And terror. And love.
And jealousy. And pride. And adoration. Sometimes I felt like I was doing things for the baby out of that unconditional love, and sometimes obligatory love. No, that unconditional love didn’t kick in when we got home either.
Something happened as the weeks rolled on, though: I started to enjoy things with the babies, not sometimes, but all of the time. I began looking forward to spending more time with them. I stopped being envious of other people holding them because I felt like they were holding my property, and became envious because that person got to hold onto my awesome baby, and that was a smidge of awesomeness I was missing out on.
(Author’s Note: If anyone wants to hold one of these guys for an hour or so, I’ll pay cash. Let me know. – Future Robb)
It got to the point where I was downright excited to see them every day, and then to the point where I started to work fewer hours so I could stay home and take care of them more. Of course I still get stressed, and I’d be lying if I said crying babies in stereo hasn’t brought me to the brink of madness, and sometimes I gladly hand them off to their mom when she gets home from work. That said, I cried for the first 10 minutes of my commute the first day I left them with a nanny. In retrospect, I think that was the moment I truly realised how painfully, “can’t live without them” in love I was with our boys.
I haven’t been a dad for long, and I know there are many more memories to go, but trying to sort out my feelings towards fatherhood for those first few weeks is the most powerful (and worst) memory of this new dad gig.
Also: Meconium. I’ll never forget meconium.