#232 In which our hero discusses his initial relationship with his children or, rather, the lack thereof.
This will come as no great epiphany to anyone (anyone who’s had kids, at least) but when your wife is pregnant you don’t really know what to expect. In my case, I am the youngest in my family, and my older sisters all live a considerable distance away; so I’ve never really been around babies that much.
Naturally, I expected to love my offspring… this expectation came not from any sort of experience but, that’s just what you’re supposed to do, right? So when the big day came everything went according to plan (well, if you call a pants-shittingly tense emergency C-section a plan) and we ended up with a baby in the end.
The Scientist immediately bonded with Lily, again, according to plan. It was pretty amazing to watch this tiny little creature respond to my wife, and intuitively understand what she was supposed to do--which, granted, wasn’t anything more than eat and sleep. I stood in the recovery room and watched this wonderful mother-daughter moment full of tenderness, wonder and love.
But while it was cool to watch, I didn’t feel it.
I mean, I expected to have this overwhelming tide of emotion sweep over me, and I’d know that this was my child, and I’d be protective of her and want to scoop her up in my arms and cover her with kisses… but I didn’t feel that way.
Actually, holding my baby felt like holding any other baby I’ve ever held. Of course, with any other baby I would hand her back to her real parents in short order; but I was the real parent this time.
I expected to feel… something more.
And being that I didn’t, it really worried me. I mean, I felt like such an asshole--what, you aren’t overcome with emotion about the birth of your first child? What kind of heartless robot are you?! But there was no denying that while cognitively I loved and accepted my daughter, there wasn’t the emotional attachment right away… certainly not what I was witnessing from my wife.
I fretted that I was a bad dad, that I’d be distant and uncaring from my children. This is far from the model set by my father, so I wasn’t sure where I went wrong. I didn’t talk to anyone about this at the time (The Scientist was far too busy feeding a baby and recovering from the surgery) so I just worried in silence.
But, slowly but surely, I began to become emotionally attached to my daughter. When she smiled at me, I definitely felt something. By the time she was recognizing my face, I was tightly wrapped around her little finger. In fact, she quickly became a daddy’s girl, and would cry out to me first, instead of her mother.
Looking back, this detachment I initially felt probably didn’t last more than several months; and it was certainly the minority emotion come her first birthday. But man, during that time I felt like a real heel.
Then, her sister came along.
You’d think I would have remembered these emotions, but giving how strongly I felt toward Lily, I expected that I’d feel that way toward Macey, too; and right away. But I didn’t. I was again kinda distant. Worse yet, since I felt a strong emotional attachment to #1, but not #2, I worried that I would love one of my children more than the other--and how shitty is that?
I dated a girl in high school who’s sister was clearly the family favorite. It was a bad scene to see the younger daughter (in this case) get all the attention lavished on her, while my girlfriend was starved for a little recognition. I didn’t want to be that kind of father, but I feared I was.
However, just like with Lily, my emotional attachment to Macey grew by leaps and bounds. In fact, just in the last several months I’ve felt closer to Macey than ever before.
But, I’m happy to report, no closer to her than I feel for her older sister.
I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling this way, but any time I’ve ever said something like, “Yeah, I was kinda indifferent about my kid when she was first born” I get horrified looks. I have to quickly add, “But we’re close now! Couldn’t be closer! Yep, real daddy-daughter love going on there!”
And it’s a good thing I love my daughters as much as I do. It might be the only thing keeping everyone alive while we drive eight hours to Maryland for Thanksgiving.