Am I A Bad Father For Not Loving My Baby At First Sight?

Am I A Bad Father For Not Loving My Baby At First Sight?

Confession time: I may be a bad father. Why? Because I didn’t fall in love with my newborn son the very moment he emerged from the womb. In truth, I don’t think I fell in love until about week three. Does that make me a bad father? I hope not.

Before you report me to social services, let me be very clear: I absolutely adore my son. (I mean look at him. How cute is he?) But it took time for my affection to take root. The problem is there’s this fairytale out there that says parents will fall head over heels in love with their newborn within seconds of meeting them. The unsaid, inherent conclusion built in to that little scenario is that if you don’t go ga-ga right there in the delivery room you’re some sort of cold-hearted sociopath.

Well, I am not cold-hearted. I may be mildly sociopathic, but I’m not cold-hearted. I would consider myself normal, and for that reason I write this post so other parents who have similar experiences know they’re not alone in needing time to warm up to what is essentially a complete stranger. But let me take it a step further.

I’ve probably lost 98 percent of mothers at this point, and that’s understandable. I’m guessing the love-at-first-sight fairytale holds true far more often for mothers than it does for fathers. Why? Because mothers are amazing, first and foremost. Second, they go through nine months of forced bonding with their babies that no father can relate to. When that baby comes out, he or she is no stranger to mom. I can understand why there would be an instant flood of loving emotion when mom finally lays her eyes on her baby and feels that first skin-to-skin contact.

But for me, my son was still a stranger, and I’m not sure I’ve ever fallen in love with a stranger without first getting to know him. The closest I’ve ever come to love at first sight was when I first met my wife. She was standing near the lake shore behind the dining hall at camp, getting to know the director when I walked around the corner… and completely forgot what it was that I was doing. (Cue the “ahhh” soundbite.) I certainly didn’t fall in love right then and there, but I knew there was something special about her… braces and all.

screaming Mack

And so it went with my son. When he came out all slimy and purple, screaming his oversized head off (see above), my first emotion was not overwhelming love. It was more like Oh, wow, that was f***ed up what just happened. At that point, all I was thinking was please someone make sure my wife isn’t dying. Honestly, my wife’s well-being dominated my thinking. There wasn’t much emotion left over for our unnamed meatball at that moment.

But once you named him and got him home, surely you were beaming with love and pride, right? Not so fast. During the next couple of weeks, the reality in our household was one of constant struggle. It turned out, my son is not a boob man, at least not yet. Feeding was an ongoing battle, leaving my wife exhausted and frustrated, and me just frustrated. Of course I loved him, but it was still love with a lowercase L.

It wasn’t until we figured out his feeding preferences, switched to bottles, and, most importantly, saw a glimpse of personality flicker in his eyes that my love for him blossomed into Love. I, selfishly perhaps, needed to establish a relationship with my son at my own pace. Even though I will forever feel a twinge of guilt for it, that’s just my nature. It doesn’t mean I’m a bad father (see below).

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