In the months leading up to the birth of my daughter I read something that has stuck with me. Which is saying a lot because, frankly, I don’t remember any pieces of advice from those pregnancy books.
Even though I can’t recite it verbatim and I have no clue which book it came from, it hit close to home just a few short hours after my kid was born.
I wasn’t immediately in love with her.
It pains me to say that and write that, but it’s true. It’s like that almost cute girl who you find out has a crush on you in high school and you try to will yourself into liking her just so you can make out with someone and brag to your buddies. Well, her hair looks combed.
Truly, in the delivery room, I was freaked the fuck out. We had been in there for 30-something hours before my wife’s body decided it was time to spit this kid out and – of course – it happened to be in the middle of the night when four other mothers were also delivering. So we got one nurse.
And you know who was right in the mix, holding one leg? Yeah, the guy who wanted an over-the-shoulder view.
So, maybe I had a lot of other things on my mind than the instant falling in love with this human that I helped to create. It was more like trying to return my eyes from the size of DVDs back to a more-respectable ping-pong ball size.
Meanwhile in the ensuing days, I kept wondering when I was going to have that voila! moment of falling in love with my kid. Instead, it was more like dating someone where you just gradually start to feel your heart swell.
And, according to that one part of that one book I read that one time, that was perfectly normal.
Fast forward almost 11 months to last night. We were having dinner at my in-law’s house and our daughter was sleeping in the other room. I casually mentioned that Grandma should get a day with her – and how about tomorrow? All of a sudden, we’re checking the cupboards to see if there was enough food and making sure the diaper stock was fine and there were extra onesies and so on.
On the drive home, I began to feel sad. Even though my little munchkin would have been asleep – and had been screaming for the 30 minutes we were in the car before arriving to Grandma’s house – I didn’t like the idea of getting home and not putting her in the crib. Or waking up and not playing with her before we left for our respective days at the office.
I missed her.
My heart, once hard and black and not immediately in love with my daughter, had an empty feeling inside of it.
As I rushed home today, knowing I had to hit the grocery store between work and home, I began wondering if I would catch her before she went to bed. I pulled up to the house and got out of the car, not even taking time to carry in our groceries or my computer bag. I walked inside and I didn’t hear anything.
Dammit, I thought. I missed her. She’s asleep.
Then I turned the corner into the living room and was met by this huge, toothless smile. As I squeezed out the most of the last 20 minutes of her night, I got more smiles. I got laughs and giggles. And my heart was filled back up. With love.