Friday, February 3, 2006

When Susan was pregnant, I imagined that writing and taking care of the baby would fit together well.

I figured that as long as I was home taking care of the baby I would do some writing as well. It seems incredible now that I could have so completely misunderstood what it would be like to have a baby.

I have resisted the shift from living on my schedule to living on Dylan's. I've tried to hold on to my old patterns, failed, and built up a lot of resentment in the process. After six months I think I'm finally letting go of my old life. The task is to build a new life that I like as well or better. One day, at the ocean, I cried while trying to say goodbye to a life that I loved and had worked hard to create.

Having a baby has brought an astounding amount of day-to-day work. A lot gets lost in the shuffle, like having time to sit and relax, time to talk about things that are hard to say, time to sort out feelings and become whole again. There are no more Sunday morning breakfasts in bed.

I wish now that I had prepared myself better for having a baby. I let myself get caught by surprise, and then felt resentful, as if I had been cheated out of something I couldn't quite define.

I'm not willing to be the second, somewhat foreign, parent. I tried that for a couple of days in a pique of frustration with Dylan. I felt distant and alienated from him almost immediately. It was horrible. Better to share responsibility for him, whatever the frustration.

Susan and I agree that we'll both work part-time and share taking care of Dylan. That way we'll both have outside lives and both be involved parents.

I still get an empty feeling when people ask me what I'm doing. Most of my energy in the last six months has focused on Dylan - on taking care of him and getting used to his being here. I carry enough man-work expectations in me that I feel uncomfortable using that to identify myself to people.

Having Dylan has made me feel confused, overwhelmed, uncertain - then bitter and resentful. The feeling of being up against something I can't handle, that is too much for me. So many things need to be done, so many emotional places need to be put together, and my energy outside of Dylan is so very, very low. Life has become complicated. I feel the jaws of middle-aged American mediocrity open wide.

Often my anger and frustration come out at Susan. It seems ridiculous to rage at Dylan, and I'm too defensive to blame myself.

I'm an only child, and I never babysat as a teenager. I knew nothing about babies when Dylan was born. My confidence in myself as a father was very shaky. I could hold myself together as long as everything went smoothly, but when something unusual happened I panicked. I got very depressed at my lack of intuitive baby sense.

Once I admitted all that to myself, and to Susan, I could face my weaknesses and work on them. I began to see that there were times when I was really good with Dylan, when I really did have good intuitive sense about relating to a baby.

excerpted without permission (so far) from Fatherjournal by David Steinberg, who went on to become a very interesting man, it seems. I will e-mail him tomorrow and ask him if it's okay if I put this on my site, but it's goin' up regardless.

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