Gradually, Not Instantly, Falling in Love with My Son

Six months.

I love you, man…

It’s funny how, despite being married to my beautiful wife, I am also in love with a dude.

The dude I’m referring to happens to be a vegetarian (because he has no teeth yet) and wears diapers.  I love him so much that whenever I leave the house, I carry him around in his little throne, which conveniently attaches to a base unit in my car. (Thank you, Chicco).

I guess there was this preconceived idea (planted in my head from people who are evidently more emotional and dramatic than I am) that when I saw my son Jack for the first time, I would cry, holding him in my arms.  Or at least break out in song with Creed’s 2000 hit, “With Arms Wide Open.”  But I didn’t.  Probably because I had just survived watching my wife Jill endure 18 hours of labor- the first 14 hours of that without any kind of pain reliever.  So at 8:50 PM on November 16th, 2010, my reserve of emotion was gone.  I was just glad that both Jack and Jill were alright.

As I document my fatherly perspective here on The Dadabase, I promise to always be completely honest.  I don’t believe in sugar coating or romanticizing the joys of parenthood to make people feel good or to try to subconsciously instill this subliminal idea that I’m some kind of Superdad, which is something I am overly aware that I am not.  Instead, I write so that people can relate to real life parenting and know that it’s okay to have real life feelings about this stuff. Therefore, I will admit, the love I now have for my son wasn’t instant.

Because at first, it was just a matter of survival, with the constant feedings and lack of sleep and not knowing what to do.  Plus, my wife and I moved out of state with our son while he was barely three weeks old.  Then, I was unemployed for the next four months, frantically trying to find a new job.  But now that the smoke has cleared and I have had the chance to get to know this little guy, I can say without a doubt: I am absolutely in love with him!

Sure, I felt super responsible for him since the moment he was born.  But I didn’t have all these warm fuzzy feelings about him right away.  Maybe in part, because as males, he and I had to bond first.  We didn’t really know each other.  I wasn’t wired with the motherly instincts my wife was.  First I had to figure out what to do with Mr. Baby Dude- because it’s hard for me do anything and feel good about it if I totally don’t know what I’m doing already.

But four months of unemployment is a good way to bond with an infant.  And now, I totally have warm fuzzy feelings about him.  Throughout the day at work, I look at our family portrait on my desk and think about how blessed I am to have such a sweet and thoughtful wife, as well as an adorable and hilarious baby son.  I am in love with them both; obviously in different and relevant ways.  There’s no shame at all in admitting I am totally in love with not only a beautiful woman named Jill, as well as a handsome little fella named Jack.

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  1. by Ferne

    On May 25, 2011 at 8:03 am

    Nick,

    It’s funny you felt that way, as I felt the same way when my son was born. I thought I was supposed to feel this overwhelming emotion of love, but it was more instinct to take care of him rather than love. Now, without a doubt, he’s my favorite little human being on the planet, but it is refreshing to know that it wasn’t just me. I feel that people might be afraid to speak about those types of feelings, since it’s so hyped that the love is instant for your child, but for me it wasn’t.

  2. by Rhonda H.

    On May 25, 2011 at 9:45 am

    Great post Nick! I am kind of feeling this way while just being pregnant. Honestly it didn’t sink in for months & even now I sometimes don’t feel as “connected” to baby as I should, even though physically we could not be any more connected. I would think a LOT of moms & dads feel like you, and will appreciate the honesty of this post & your whole new blog! Excited for your new adventure!!

  3. by Vanessa H

    On May 26, 2011 at 6:51 am

    Really enjoyed this blog, Nick! Though I’ve never had children, I often wonder about those parents who profess instant love for their newborns…it’s a lot of work and reading your blog validates what I always thought!

    Jack is so handsome and growing up fast! Looking forward to future blogs! Say “hey” to Jill for me!

  4. by Nick Shell

    On May 26, 2011 at 8:06 pm

    Thanks Vanessa :) Glad to share the truth with ya!

  5. by Nick Shell

    On May 26, 2011 at 8:06 pm

    Thanks Rhonda. Yep, I say you’re feelings are completely normal :)

  6. by Nick Shell

    On May 26, 2011 at 8:07 pm

    I didn’t realize so many other people felt the same way until I wrote this :)

  7. by Samantha

    On May 26, 2011 at 9:32 pm

    I felt very similar and I’m a mom not dad! I had nine months with my son while I was pregnant and when he was born I felt like a protective mommy bear, but still was not instantly over the moon “in love” per se. Not at all what had been built up to be by people like my parents.

    But it did come. I remember complaining I didn’t want to get out of bed when my son woke from his nap early. He had reflux and was a terrible sleeper and a pretty fussy baby overall. As I approached his swing to pick him up he smiled at me for the first time! He was happy just to have me near him. That was it. I was in love.

    Now that I know how I “bond” (or not bond) I’m becoming a gestation surrogate for another couple. Taking what makes me different from most of my mom counterparts and using it for good.

  8. by Nick Shell

    On May 26, 2011 at 10:57 pm

    Samantha, that’s awesome what you’re doing. And I know what you mean about the magic about making your baby smile for the first time! :)

  9. by paula

    On May 31, 2011 at 12:44 pm

    I so understand all of your feelings and can relate!!!!!!!!!! it’s wonderful isn’t it?

  10. by Nick Shell

    On May 31, 2011 at 1:38 pm

    Thank you Paula, for taking the time to let me know I am not alone in these thoughts.

  11. [...] This mother fell in love with her son gradually — not instantly (Parents.com) [...]

  12. by Christine

    On June 16, 2011 at 10:16 am

    OMG!!! I am totally glad this blog is posted. I, as a mother, have felt this way and have had to fight feeling bad over it. I tell anyone who will listen the same thing. I don’t feel bad about not having the instant warm and fuzzies. Just with any other relationship, it takes time to get to know a person. I don’t think it makes you any less of a good parent. So it is not to say that you don’t take care of your children and take care of them to the best of your ability (first child or not) but it takes time to develop a relationship. For fathers and mothers to know and accept that fact will make for less parents feeling inadequate – like they are not good parents. Take care of your children but also take time to get to know them. This is a skill that you will constantly have to do well into their adult years.

  13. by Tonya

    On June 16, 2011 at 10:30 am

    Same here……and I’m a Mama! It took a while to feel that crazy love. Probably directly related to recuperation, getting a little bit of sleep, feeling human again;)

  14. by Nick Shell

    On June 16, 2011 at 11:20 am

    Here I thought this was just a “dad thing” to feel this way. I realize it’s common for moms too. Thanks for sharing :)

  15. by Nick Shell

    On June 16, 2011 at 11:20 am

    You’re exactly right, Tonya!

  16. by Kate

    On June 16, 2011 at 11:26 am

    My husband phrased it so well after our son had a health scare when he was three months old, he said “I was so confused, I didn’t have any real connection to this thing, in fact most of the time I didn’t really like it, and yet all of a sudden my heart was breaking at the tought he might be in danger.”
    In a way I am glad we had that scare, because in those hours in the emergency room, suddenly we became a family. Now that my son is 18 months old, he and my husband are inseperable! And although he always chooses Papa over Mama, it make smy heart soar to see them so in love.

  17. by Nick Shell

    On June 16, 2011 at 11:54 am

    I’m glad to hear everything worked out okay. I like your husband’s honesty. Great to hear the experience has brought you all 3 closer together :)

  18. by Jen

    On June 17, 2011 at 9:04 am

    Exactly the same for me even as a mommy! So well put and it’s great to be so honest about it. I would have done anything for my son from the moment I saw him. But it was more of a “make sure he’s OK”, and just a survival time for my husband, our son, and I. Now we adore him more than anything and just looking at him or even thinking about him makes me smile and even cry!

  19. by Nick Shell

    On June 17, 2011 at 10:01 am

    Jen, it’s comforting to know that I am not the only person to have felt this way. You and I are definitely on the same page!

  20. by Christina

    On June 17, 2011 at 9:53 pm

    :’) this is adorable!

    Fun facts: My husband’s name is also Nick, and our son was also born on 11-16-10 :)

    Talk about really relating to your story ha! I enjoyed it, thanks!

  21. by Nick Shell

    On June 17, 2011 at 10:22 pm

    Wow, that’s so cool! Thanks for reading, and finding, The Dadabase :)

  22. by Jackie B

    On June 18, 2011 at 10:47 am

    I felt the same way with my son, he was a complete surprise to us and I was slightly disappointed in having a baby so quickly after marriage (not quite a honeymoon baby more like a month into the marriage). During and After the pregnancy I didn’t feel connected to him, especially at first when it is more like taking care of a demanding pet (you know, it’s feed, change, burp, sleep, repeat). However, around 3-6 months old he finally started to show a personality and it made the difference. However, once I had my daughter (who due to complications showed up 4 weeks early) was an instant bond. I can only think it was due to the NICU experience, she constantly was pulling at our heart strings. I seriously believe every parent and every child is different, we just need to take the time to get to know our children and not be so self-hating if that bond isn’t magically instant.

  23. by Nick Shell

    On June 18, 2011 at 2:56 pm

    Thanks for sharing, Jackie. You’re right; it’s different for everyone, but I wonder if the non-instant connection is the norm instead of the exception?

  24. by Sarah

    On June 19, 2011 at 3:02 pm

    Hi, I just stumbled across your blog today. Happy first Father’s Day!

    The whole time I was pregnant (Owen was born 7/23/10), my boyfriend’s family and friends kept telling him, “oh, you’ll just adore the baby AS SOON AS you see him.” And Steve kept telling everyone that he’s just not that into babies.

    Steve was right. He loves our son, but it’s only been the past month or so that the two of them have been interacting on any level above basic care.

    I, on the other hand, worked in daycare for eight years, so I didn’t have much of an adjustment to make. And Owen, from the minute he was born (the first thing he did was lift his head and look at me, which was disconcerting), has such a huge personality. He’s an easy baby to love.

    My theory is that a lot of people don’t have the instant bond because the adjustment is so overwhelming. If you helped raise younger siblings or worked in daycare, it’s easier to relax around your own child. I think that it’s sad that so many parents expect that bond right away, and then feel like failures or horrible parents if it isn’t there. I want to find those people and tell them that it’s okay to be irritated with your child, that each family will find an equilibrium, and the bond will come.

    Sorry for the long comment, but this is something that Steve and I have talked about (actually, he and I talk about a lot of the issues you address, especially the importance of having a father, and the way a child’s parents’ relationship affects him/her), and I thought I’d throw my two cents in.

  25. by Nick Shell

    On June 19, 2011 at 9:10 pm

    Sarah, thank you so much for sharing. You said it well: “The adjustment is overwhelming.” You have an interesting perspective on the issue, having worked 8 years in child care. That’s interesting. Thanks for reading :)

  26. by Zara

    On July 6, 2011 at 1:07 am

    I felt the same way when my son was born. I was relieved that he was out of me, and all of a sudden I had this stranger relying on me. The first few weeks were unnerving but as he showed personality I really began to fall in love with him. Now he’s all personality and the center of my world!

  27. by Nick Shell

    On July 6, 2011 at 2:19 am

    Zara, thanks for sharing. “Stranger relying on me” sums it up pretty well :)

  28. by Emily

    On July 6, 2011 at 3:51 am

    these are some very interesting comments. i fell in love with my daughter the very fist time i heard her heart beat when i was eight weeks pregnant with her. and when they laid her on my chest and we looked into each others eyes for the first time, it was the most magical moment in my life. raising a baby was the most natural thing in the world to me. it’s what i was born to do. that’s why i couldn’t understand why my husband would look at me like “ok, what am i supposed to do with this?” when i would hand her to him. i knew he would die to protect her but there wasn’t that instant bond. she’s almost 15 months old now and she’s got him wrapped around her little finger. although he would never admit it. but your article helped shine some light on this for me. i thought he was just being a heartless bastard. but now i know it’s normal for the bond to take a little time. thanks.

  29. by Darron Schlangen

    On November 19, 2011 at 4:53 am

    Couldn?t be published any better. Reading this publish reminds me of my old room mate! He always kept talking about this. I will forward this article to him. Pretty positive he will have a very good examine. Thanks for sharing!

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