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My Husband Didn’t Bond With Our Newborn (But Everything Turned Out Okay)

Rita Templeton originally posted this on Scary Mommy.

I don’t know what I expected, but it wasn’t indifference.

He held our baby, of course. Posed for pictures, face-to-face with our squishy newborn, smiling. Changed an obligatory diaper here and there, and napped with the baby on his chest, as most dads do. But I couldn’t shake the gnawing feeling that my husband wasn’t as in love with our child as I was, and it planted a seed of fear that he wouldn’t be the kind of dad I’d hoped he’d be.

Maybe I was paranoid, having grown up largely without a father myself. For my children, I wanted a hands-on dad, the kind who would teach them how to ride a bike and take them fishing while dispensing tidbits of fatherly wisdom. My own father, before he decided he was tired of the role and split, was pretty much just a fixture — a placeholder in the traditional “Dad” slot, the breadwinner, the dude who changed the light bulbs and unclogged the toilet. Never the type I’d confide in or even hang out with. Hugs — or any outward demonstrations of parental love, really — weren’t his thing.

But my kids, I vowed, would have a real dad. The kind who would show them every day how important they were to him. The kind who was present, and involved, and active. Like the dads on TV. Like the kind I always wished I had. And when I decided I was going to commit my life to the man who would be my husband, it was partially because I saw in him the potential to be that amazing sort of father I wanted for my future children.

Yet here we were with our newborn son, whom I had loved instantly, from the moment I saw his puffy little face. I was smitten. I could have stared at him for hours, and I did sometimes, absorbing every detail of his long lashes and his miniature fingernails. My husband wasn’t nearly as infatuated with him. He was supportive, helping with whatever I asked him to help with, but I got the clear sense that it was coming more from a place of duty rather than the desire to care for his baby.

The weeks ticked by. Months went past. I was disillusioned. Maybe that’s just how men were? Maybe I had it all wrong, this idea of how fatherhood was supposed to look. Or maybe I had just inadvertently continued a pattern by choosing a man like my father, aloof and uninterested. I was scared and stressed.

But after a while — I’d say around the six-month mark — something shifted, and it was like my husband’s relationship with our son just sort of took off. He discovered the most surefire ways to make him laugh and delighted in the fact that the baby’s laugh was a tiny version of his own. From that point on, they were like two peas in a pod, to my profound relief, and I realized something: My partner, fatherhood-wise, was just a bit of a late bloomer. He had only begun to bond with our son when the baby was old enough to demonstrate something tangible in return — a smile, a laugh, reaching out his chubby hands.

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