I had a really interesting conversation with someone whilst in Germany about how dads find it difficult to bond with their babies. The conversation went along the lines of,
“I hope my daughter is okay with my husband as he’s s a bit useless”
Me- “I am sure she is fine. How old is she?”
“Only 7 months”
Me- ” Oh he will be fine the only way us dads get to learn is to actually jump in at the deep end having to be of use”
I went on to explain how I felt pretty redundant in the first few months of Etta’s life. Alice’s dad told us that there was no point in us both being tired all of the time and that me being awake for the night feeds would just mean that we would both be useless in the day. With Alice breastfeeding we really took that piece of advice on and I didn’t even cheer lead the night feeds, Alice wanted to exclusively breastfeed and to not pump unless she had to so my role was to be the one who was switched on during the day, look after Alice so that she could look after Etta.
To say I felt useless would probably be a bit too much, I did a lot of rocking Etta to sleep, taking her for walks to sleep and to give Alice a rest as well as the day to day stuff of cooking cleaning etc. I managed to do all of this but still not feel like Etta actually needed me and it was only whilst talking through my experience on Wednesday that it dawned on me that the reason why I was so terrified to have Etta all alone was that I hadn’t properly bonded with her.
On day 1 she arrived and Alice was terrified but took care of her, and took care of her so well and she didn’t need me for anything and 6 months in when I had her for my first full day that I went through those same emotions of 100% being needed. It was then that I finally felt like I was a parent to Etta. I guess what I am trying to say is that it was only then that I experienced that real connection like mothers do when their baby is placed in their arms for the first time. Sure I knew I loved her unconditionally and I knew I would do anything for her the moment I saw her but it wasn’t until I felt like she needed me that I started to bond.
Remember that the bonding of mother and baby is part down to how mum interacts but there are also a hell of a lot of hormones involved with pushing mum and baby together, with us dads its purely down to our interactions, we have the emotions but not the hormones to help us along the way.
I am not trying to get sympathy for us dads because I know a lot of the time we can be bloody useless, I myself will often take the easy way out, but before you give us a hard time, know that we might be feeling like a bit of a spare and unnecessary part in the new-parenting game and that even though we might not open a conversation about it, it’s something we need to talk about.