I had a challenging relationship with my little one from day one. My wife’s labor was very rough. She endured more than I could ever imagine for numerous days. The day of his birth was hard to stomach: my wife had a challenging C-section and he had trouble breathing as soon as he came into this world. During two unforgettable hours I thought I might be losing one or both. I imagined a life without them and it brought me to tears and left me jilted for some time. Today, nearly a year after, my breath becomes shallow just thinking about that cold morning in the OR.
The first time I saw him he had contraptions all over his face and tags all over his body. I saw him and I understood, mentally, that I was a father. The thought process was clear. He was my son, he needed me, and as a father I must protect and nurture him. Understood.
But the pathos took a long time to catch up. Maybe it was the shock of what I just experienced, or maybe I just didn’t “get it” in a visceral way. Over the first few months I tried to understand my relationship to this cute new little stranger who relied on me for many things.
I don’t know where it changed, but I am certain that it did, because every time I see him now I am awash with warmth. I see him sleeping and I wonder what he is dreaming about. I hear him cry and I literally cannot hear anything else because I am zeroed in on him. I see him smile and all of the sleepless nights, rigors of life, and aching body go away instantly. I see him look up at me, smile, and feel safe enough to fall asleep instantly, and I realize what I am here on this world to do.
Just the other day, as I held him while he was asleep, I looked at him and thought:
“Look at you. Needing me to hold you every step of the way. One day, you won’t need me to hold you anymore. Then you’ll want me to leave you alone. Then you’ll move away. Then I’ll need you. Then you’ll need to hold me. Then you won’t have me. Then one day you’ll hold someone else in your arms, too.”
I was all nerve endings. This is odd for me to say because I am not a guy who gets wrapped up in emotions (my wife can attest to my unimaginative Valentine’s day ideas…)
There’s this all-consuming force that has taken over and wants to do anything in its power to love, protect, and make him as happy as possible.
Why am I saying all of this? Because I am sure I am not alone. Parenthood is crazy tough–the hardest job in world and the best job in the world–and being a father comes with “expectations.” People tell you what it should be like: “Oh, you will fall in love at first sight…You will change forever by the very first day…You are not feeling like that? That’s weird, because you should.” Should quickly becomes a stress trigger as a new parent.
I felt all those pressures and thought, maybe something is wrong with me.
But I was just taking a longer route getting to the same destination. The path was different, not better or worse. And that’s the point: the journey to anything important, be it parenthood, marriage, or a new career, is full of different, and whenever you hear that there’s a right/wrong way of doing things, I suggest you be wary of that advice. All that is important is that you are trying your best and keep on trying–the rest sorts itself out in due time, your time.
For any parents out there who are struggling to enjoy parenthood, or feel distant from their little ones, it’s OK. Take your time. They will be all love today and in a few months. Try your best and keep trying. You’ll feel it one day, and when you do, it’s impossible to ignore the shift in every single thing you used to feel, think, or do.