I wrote this in the middle of July. I never really finished it, which is why I never published it, but I suppose now is an appropriate time. The top half of this is old, the bottom is new, you’ll get it.
As I write this, my wife is 38 weeks pregnant. This is the furthest along she has ever been, since my daughter was born during the 37th week of pregnancy.
The last time around I was pretty much a trainwreck. And we were not prepared at all. Thankfully it happened on a weekend, and just blocks from my house, so it was easy to roll with the punches. But the major difference is that this time around I feel much better. I’m nothing but excited for this baby. I know what it takes to raise an infant. I remember how frustrating and difficult it was but I know I can handle it better now. I am worried about how my current daughter will be, especially since right now we are not good friends. But it will be what it will be. I’m much more laid back this time around.
Another major difference is my health. When my daughter was born I had just started a new job after being off of work (and subsequently fired) for nine months (I can’t blame the company at all). It was immediately after Christmas which is a rough time for me, and obviously all of the stress.
This time I am secure within a job I’ve had for years, this child was planned out and discussed and thought about greatly before even being conceived. I am still in an incredibly good place with my mental health.
When Jocelyn was born I put away a lot of my pills because I didn’t want to not be able to respond in any way I needed to anytime I needed to. So I knew I would be doing the same with this child. Now, lithium doesn’t really play into this, it doesn’t have a lot of negative side effects for me anymore.
But, I am in such a good place, that this was the time to try it.
And as of last Friday, my son Alexander Arnold Comer, is 6 weeks old. My wife still never made it to 40 weeks, he was born at 38 weeks 6 days, but everything went incredibly well. All of my fears and worries were practically gone the morning of the delivery.
I was certainly much more emotional this time around. I was more present too. I guess that comes with experience. But the odd thing was that I thought I knew what to expect during this delivery and almost everything was different! I cried during almost the entire delivery. I couldn’t stop myself. To me, childbirth is incredibly scary thing, and so dangerous, and so difficult. But none of it ever seemed to bother my wife.
She just powered through everything without much complaint and has adapted to being a mother of two much like she adapted to being a mother of one, which is, without seeming like anything changed at all. No one can deny her natural capacity for motherhood, especially caring for infants.
I do feel like the older Jocelyn gets, the better acclimated I am to fathering her. And honestly, having Alex has just shown to me how awful I am at the whole infant game. I don’t know what I am doing and I feel helpless trying to do any of it. But give me a kid that is easily assuaged with mac and cheese and Disney movies and I can handle myself for awhile.
I am just not comfortable with infants at all. I feel helpless holding one. I get easily bothered and much too angry much too fast. I was this way with Jocelyn too. Thankfully they change so much in their first 3-6 months that they get into a place where I am more comfortable quickly. But those first few weeks of life are so difficult for me, and it isn’t the lack of sleep or crazy schedules or crying, none of that was ever much of a problem for me. I can’t really explain what the problem is but I just lose it quickly.
Another thing about me and my children as infants, I don’t feel connected to them. I hardly feel like their father in some weird way. I’ve had this conversation with 8 new fathers over the last two years and they all admitted the same thing. This is well documented in child rearing books, actually. It can take a father sometimes a year to really forge that relationship with his child. Most of the guys I talked to, including my own experience, felt the switch around the 6 month mark. That isn’t to say you don’t love the child or wouldn’t do anything for it, but just that it is different. It isn’t life altering at first.
And I would never bring this up if I didn’t have a hundred people telling me during my wife’s first pregnancy that “the moment you hold that baby” cliché, and then I held her, and I didn’t feel anything but exhaustion. It’s like a stigma on fatherhood. And I think fathers continue saying this because they feel guilty. I know I did for months. I felt like something was wrong with me. I wondered if I would ever love Jocelyn to the level that I do now. I felt like a bad person. But eventually it just happened.
And I expected that with Alex. But at the same time I was much more excited about his pending birth, so I thought maybe it would be different. But honestly, it wasn’t. I still don’t feel much of a connection with him. I know that probably around Christmas something will switch inside of me and my love will grow and everything will be amazing, but right now it isn’t there yet.
I’m sure plenty of fathers are immediately attached, just like I’m sure it takes some time for some mothers to feel that bond, but I am not sure why we talk about it in terms or ‘normal’ and ‘abnormal’. Why do we feel the need to tell other people how they should feel? Why do we need to create uncertainty and stress into such a difficult and emotional situation? Why is it that we can’t simply view whatever is actually happening as ‘normal’?
So, fathers that experience the same thing, and mothers that might think it is odd for their husbands or sons to be experiencing this as well, just know that it is perfectly normal. It will happen. Give it time.