Not to state the obvious, but becoming a parent is kind of a big deal. One day you don’t have a kid and the next day you do and your life won’t ever be the same. It’s quite an adjustment. Even with nine months of warning.
I don’t care how much time you spend getting ready, how many books you read, how much stuff you buy: you can’t truly prepare for having kids because nothing prepares you for having kids except having kids. Being a parent takes some getting used to and it’s not always easy, especially at first.
Sure, they smell good, if you’re into that. And they’re cute, in a totally interchangeable way. But they don’t bring a single thing to the table, except stress and the occasional gassy smile. So you’re forgiven if after nine months of lead-up and a lifetime of anticipation you’re a little underwhelmed when you first meet yours. Honestly, nothing can live up to those expectations (except maybe the new Star Wars trilogy).
Babies are nothing but little blobs of responsibility. Expensive parasites that drag your life down. Super-fragile flesh balls of potential that spend the first seven-to-ten-plus months of their lives showing you absolutely none of it. All they do is piss and shit and cry and eat and scream.
There’s just not much there there. (The sad twist of parenting is that once you get past the baby phase, there’s often too much there there. Especially when they become teenagers…)
Many new parents are concerned when they have a child and don’t immediately feel their heartlight go on. “Is there something wrong with me? Why didn’t I fall in love at first sight? Why didn’t my heart immediately grow three sizes?” I don’t know why. But I do know it hardly matters. Which isn’t to say it’s wrong to be concerned about it, just that, on its own, it’s not necessarily cause for alarm.
Everyone is built differently. Not everyone feels the same urgency to become a parent, or becomes a parent under ideal circumstances. Just because you don’t fall head over heels in the delivery room, it doesn’t make you a monster. (If there’s one thing to remember about your initial foray into parenting, it’s that BABIES ARE THE MONSTERS.)
I was fortunate enough to love my wrinkly, mucus-covered son from the start – it wasn’t until he turned three that he started pissing me off. But I don’t think it’s unreasonable to be lukewarm at first. Especially for new dads.
For men, pregnancy is a little bit different. (I know: no shit, Sherlock.) Until labor day, it’s all very theoretical for us. Even if you’re the type of guy who says “we’re pregnant”, you’re actually not. Our bodies don’t change. We don’t get fat (for the same reasons). We can still drink. Women don’t have the option of denying their pregnancy, or having one last hurrah before the kid is born. Their bodies have begun changing before they’ve even taken the test, and because they have a biological connection to the kid that men can’t, they immediately have to start preparing. They get dialed in pretty quickly; they have little choice.
Moms drive up a nine-month-long on-ramp, Dads straight teleport. (Or are pushed down an elevator shaft. Depending on your point of view.)
Men aren’t gifted with a physical bond from day one (or cursed, because not every woman views pregnancy through the same “I’m so blessed!” prism, just as not every man is ambivalent). For some of us, it’s harder to grasp until there’s something tangible, so it takes a little time before the reality kicks in. Maybe seeing the first ultrasound does it. Maybe putting your hand on her stomach and feeling that literal kick is the key. Maybe it’s not until the kid actually pops out. Maybe it’s even later.
Regardless, if any parent – man or woman – needs a little time to get used to the new state of things, or to find an emotional connection with the blank slate they carried home from the hospital, I find it hard to fault them.
Babies are boring, stressful, demanding and loud. If I met an adult like that, I’d get the check in two seconds flat. No one wants to hang around that person; they’re not exactly the life of the party. Of course, they’re an adult, you can blame them. You can’t really blame the baby. (Not yet.) But you can be annoyed by it. So long as you don’t ditch it.
Unlike that obnoxious party-goer, you’re responsible for your kid. As a parent, it’s your job to take care of that new person, to weather his or her infancy, no matter how unpleasant, and to be there long enough to see your baby grow into something else, something actually worth your while: an actual human being with desires and opinions (terrible ones) and interests and emotions. And a personality. I can’t guarantee it will be a great one, but at least one will finally exist. So give it time.
It’s okay if you hate your baby, just remember that your baby won’t be a baby for very long. Stick around to see who that baby grows into and you’ll know soon enough whether that initial distaste will stick.
I’m willing to bet it won’t.