The first couple of weeks after my son was born was nothing like what baby product ads showed on television. The visualization of a cute, soft baby smiling at my face in serenity and me feeling at the top of the world with joyful emotions didn’t manifest in reality. Well, it did but not in the first two weeks. I did go down a little emotionally before I could get into the motherhood flow.
Sometimes, I imagine how it is for the fathers in the initial days. In Indian families, we have the support of the grandparents to look after the baby and new mother, which means relatively lesser burden on the father. However, I do not want to belittle the emotions of fathers who stay away from the family during the first days of the baby. There might not be parental stress but the feeling of being left alone while his much-awaited bundle is being celebrated without his presence and involvement can be frustrating. They might fall into an anxiety of whether their little one would bond with them or not when the family is back. Though their anxiety might sound like a thing of triviality, it is a honest concern of a new father being away and need to be acknowledged.
Coming to dynamic dads who have faced their roles from day one, things could be intense. If it is a sleepless night for a mother, it is the same for a father. Even in homes where fathers are not the ones who pick the crying baby at night, the very cry of the baby in the sleeping vicinity cannot yield a well-slept night. Disturbed sleep patterns can make them physically tiring, mentally exhaustive and psychologically overwhelming. Especially, after a few days of paternity leave when the father resumes work, the effect of sleep deprivation might come inbetween his official matters.
Strangely, I’ve also read and heard that new fathers begin to feel secondary to the baby. That is, having been the centre of the relationship with his wife all along, with the coming of the baby, they feel that her focus has shifted completely onto the baby. The first time I heard it from a friend, it felt silly. However, after reading a book on child abuse of a daughter by her dad because he couldn’t take the feeling of being secondary, I realized the height of this emotion even while it is rare.
As it’s the mother who is always given attention soon after the baby, the silent struggles that a dad undergoes often go unnoticed. And the fact that fathers either do not know to express their emotional struggles or perhaps do not want to, can leave them irritable or in an emotional confinement. Yes, not known to many, Paternal PostPartum Depression (PPPD) does exist! Though it feels that such terms like PPD perhaps exaggerate the new parental emotions, I think it can be helpful for parents who are looking on the web to find some solace to the emotional struggles they go through. The very understanding that it is an experience that several other parents face and is acknowledged can be relieving. Fathers who can relate to this feeling in the early days of your baby, know that it is an admissible emotion and that you are strong to have handled it by yourself, without having been acknowledged and infact, even without having expressed it out.
This is the third post of the series, The Secret Emotions of Fatherhood. The series shall continue to explore the emotions of dads until the end of June. Stay tuned! As a father, if there’s something you want to tell me, please comment below.