I Have A Confession To Make
There’s a part of this past summer that I haven’t been completely open about and people around me have been saying that I should address it, as it’s as much a part of parenthood as anything else. As a parent, or any person for that matter, we shape peoples perception of us by choosing what to share and what not to, based on our own preferences, fears and isms. In todays social media society we can do it more than ever before by telling the stories and narratives that are appealing to us. Some things are more difficult because we’re afraid of judgement, looking weak or vulnerable.
When Ean was born, as soon as I laid eyes on him I could “read” him. Maybe because he looked just like me in my baby photos, maybe because his character is very similar to mine, maybe because he was a boy; I don’t know with complete certainty why but I “got him”. Even though he always gravitated towards his mother, even though to this day he still chooses her over me in all instances, there’s just a connection there that’s been there since birth.
When Ana got pregnant again and when we found out it was a girl, I immediately was hit with doubts, fears and insecurities. When around friends, I always used to make the same joke about gender of kids; that with boys you have to worry about one penis but with a girl you have to worry about everyone else’s! I acknowledge that this fear was a part of it but it wasn’t all. I tried to face my issues well before she was born and I did the classical “as long as the baby is healthy” mantra that didn’t seem to make any difference. Bringing a girl into this world felt like a punishment to her, until I started focusing on all the amazing women who are kicking ass around the world today and those who came before them. Okay, that helped, I was going to raise my little genius gentle warrior and teach her all she would need to get ahead in this crazy world.
Then, she was born. Okay, it’s a girl, she’s perfect and she’s going to be amazing. Wait, are those blue eyes? In intimate quiet moments I found myself staring at her. She didn’t look like me, I mean she looked nothing like me and as I looked into those big blue eyes I couldn’t find myself in her anywhere as I did with Ean and it scared the shit out of me. It got worse.
As the days and weeks went by she wasn’t connecting with me at all, in fact whenever I’d hold her, she would cry. Everything that Ean had been as a baby, she was the opposite. From the blue eyes, to her character… completely the opposite of Ean, meaning the complete opposite of me. Ean used to love to hear me sing lullabies, Allegra literally started crying as soon as I struck a tone. Not once or twice. Every. Single. Time.
I tried to give it time, I tried to stay close to her so she would get used to my smell, my voice and my face and as her eyesight got better, things got worse. If she heard or saw me, she’d cry. If I tried to hold her, she would cry. I mean crying until she’s out of breath, her body in convulsions as if my touch made her skin burn. She was okay with Ana’s parents and even with strangers, but for some reason my presence made her freak out.
I finally told Ana, I can’t deal with this, it’s a nightmare. What do I do? I can’t hold her against her will, I can’t be with her and give Ana a rest because she went straight into panic mode. So I stopped trying. From morning until night I was at the renovation site, only came home to eat and shower. I barely saw Allegra at all, to the point that Ana took the kids to Granada for 5 days and I was fine with that. I don’t think I spent more than a few hours away from Ean until he was 2 years old or something like that, and even then it was hard.
The guilt was eating me. She had been gone for almost a week and I didn’t even miss her, I felt horrible. I had been at the renovation every single day and this went on for about 2 months. Every day I would try to hold her. I would try to connect with her and for about 30 seconds up to 2 minutes she would be okay and then she’d start to cry and scream, clawing to get out of my arms.
Then suddenly one day, about 3 months in, she started to change. 2 minutes turned into 5 minutes, the panic cries were reduced to complaining until one day when she started smiling at me and actually spent a few hours hanging out and just playing. I was so relieved at this change and I finally felt like the father of a baby again. Now, blue or brown eyes, pale white and blond or not… I “get her”. I can see and hear the difference in her voice depending on what she wants, she trusts me and lets me lift and play around with her just like I used to with Ean. You could say that Ana had her baby in June, I didn’t get mine until October.
I summarised this to a great extent because the repetitiveness of gnawing feelings are usually not well transcribed into an informational post about parenthood but I really went to hell and back with this situation. Even today I struggle talking about it but I can see the importance of it because I know I’m not the only one who’s had this experience and I guess there’s a bit of comfort in knowing you’re not alone. Despite all my studying and analyzing to become the perfect father, nothing could have prepared me for this and the fact that it happened with my second child, where I’m supposed to be the pro, made it that much worse. It genuinely felt like a failure on all levels but being on the other side of that dark tunnel now makes me hopeful for the future because I am still holding myself to it, to keep raising children who are the absolute best versions of themselves that they can ever be, and you’re welcome along for that ride.