I didn’t love my daughter the minute she was born. Or at the very least, I didn’t feel like I did.
My daughter was born on a Sunday afternoon in August 2012. She arrived without (much) trouble, and it was a great day. My wife and I were blessed with a healthy and happy baby girl. We named her Avery, for no reason in particular.
The first three days of her life was an interesting experience for all three of us. By the time we came home from the hospital, I was tired. More tired than I’d ever been. I can’t imagine how my wife felt. She did, after all, do most of the work.
And so we started a whole new chapter of our lives. We were a family now, not just a married couple. And it felt…fine. I looked at my daughter and admired her. She was beautiful, of course. But I didn’t feel any outpourings of emotion like I expected I would.
Maybe I was just overtired. Maybe some evolutionary trait causes a man to be a little less “connected” to his child. Maybe I had built up this event (probably the most important in my life to that point) so much in my mind that the result felt a little anticlimactic.
So time passed. I spent the days at home working with my daughter by my side, since my wife was a fourth-year medical student (read: unimaginably busy). There were days when I accomplished nothing, because playing with Avery, or feeding her, or sleeping was more important. And there were days when my wife couldn’t get home soon enough.
I concentrated on being the best parent and husband I could, regardless of how I felt or didn’t feel.
It was a lot of work, but to be able to see my daughter develop and grow was worth it.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying I had some male version of postpartum depression. That’s some serious shit right there. I was happy, having a good time. My own feelings just seemed…underwhelming. I was disappointed in myself for not feeling enough.
Jump forward to today. Avery is almost 17 months old. She has grown up so much over the past year that it’s hard to remember how small and immobile she was when she was born.
She does things now that I can only describe as heart-melting. She dances next to me while I play the piano. She brings me a book from across the room, then snuggles up next to me so we can read it. She gives me “kisses”, which really means she approaches my face with her mouth wide open (think large-mouthed bass or sea lamprey) and latches on. It’s adorable, and gross, and, if she decides to chomp down, painful.
I can’t tell you exactly when I started feeling like this little person was more important to me than anything in the world, but I can tell you that it’s a unique, awesome, humbling experience. It’s also something that I can’t really describe, not with words anyway.
So I guess my point is that if you’re a new dad, or going to be a dad, cut yourself some slack. Don’t worry if you don’t feel anything right away. I’m not entirely sure we’re meant to.
Just do your best to be a good husband and father, and give it some time. One day you’ll wake up and wonder how you ever lived without your kid. And that day is a magical one.