As Proud Mama was approaching the end of the third trimester I was completely terrified that I still didn’t *feel* like a father. It seemed to me that if I had done my part to help bring this child into the world that there would be some new feeling of fatherness (I am informed by my spell checker that this is not a word but I am choosing to ignore it). What terrified me so much was my belief that there was simply no way that overnight I could just snap into being a father. It turns out that for me at least, and some other fathers I know, that’s exactly how it happens. So if you find yourself in the same boat and aren’t feeling quite fatherly yet, don’t worry. The instantaneous change was an overwhelming feeling or protectiveness for the wee one that just entered my life. I marveled at how perfectly evolution handled making certain that the young are well guarded. Even in the throes of his worst stages of colic, where I contemplated bartering with the Romani for 3 goats for my son, I still felt that powerful need to protect him. More gradually I came to recognize his cry, not so much specifically what it meant, more that it belonged to my son. Before he came along, all baby cries sounded alike to me. Now that he’s here I can immediately tell when he’s crying versus another baby.
I think the most shocking thing I found was that feelings of love were slow to form for me, or at least they felt like they were. It’s perhaps the most insidious side-effect of colic, but it really does put a hamper on forging that deep attachment with your baby that you hear everyone talking about. Try to relax a bit, I can say from experience that it just slows the process down but the attachment absolutely forms. My advice here is to acknowledge that your child is difficult and not that you are negligent or faulty in some way. If you had a coworker who screamed at you for four hours a day you wouldn’t want to work with them, and this is no different. Your baby is difficult, but they are still yours and I promise you, it really does get better eventually.
Tangential story time, since I seem to have brought up colic in yet another post. All parents talk, that seems to be a defining trait of the role. Kids seem to give adults something to talk about, and parents (as I have learned) really like to talk about their kids. If you find yourself a parent to a colicky baby and you are talking to friends and coworkers about it, some will sympathize with you. I have also learned how to tell if the sympathizer you are talking to actually had a colicky baby or merely a fussy baby. If their response is “Oh yeah…my child had colic, but we got past it *smile*” then they had a fussy baby. If on the other hand their eyes grow wide, they develop a facial tick, they laugh maniacally, or they faint, then you have found a kindred spirit. I’m still too near to the colic to say if it permanently scars you, but all signs point to it at least marking you; the parental equivalent of the thousand-yard stare.
The point to that tangent is that colic is harder than most parents with non-colicky infants realize. If you find yourself in a position where you don’t feel like your love runs as deep as it should for your child, please be kind to yourself. Try to remember that the fact you are even thinking about it says you love that kid. It’s getting buried under that fourth straight hour of screaming and crying, but I swear to you it is there. Take my advice from the last post – find ways to relax, breathe, get help, etc. When the colic starts to pass and you begin to sweep away the debris, you’ll find the love had been there all along. More importantly you’ll find that through all that, you’ve been a dad, and that’s something pretty special and amazing.