Thursday, December 06, 2007

Prescription for feelings

I'm alarmed by how often people tell us how we're supposed to feel as new parents. Friends, family, and books have told us that when their child was born, they felt:
  • instant love, 
  • spontaneous attachment, 
  • a greater sense of meaning in life, 
  • close attachment,
  • the happiest day of our life when each child is born,
  • the greatest love I've ever felt.

And we should expect to feel the same things too. 

But there's a lot more to the feelings than that. I know a lot of those feelings are in there, but I'm not consciously aware of them -- I just see signs of them in H and me. So what's wrong with me? Why don't I feel the way I'm supposed to feel?

I've become skeptical of all these prescriptions for how we're to feel. I think I'm whelmed by lots of feelings, including a lot of responsibility. O came early by seven weeks, and maybe I wasn't emotionally prepared yet. In the days before he came, we were at a hospital trying to keep him from coming; every new contraction brought a new pang of stress. After he was born and while he was in the Special Care Nursery (NICU) we've interacted with the hospital and doctors, and stressed out over every gram he lost and how much time he should spend outside his incubator. In the whole three weeks, I've felt very busy trying to get the house ready, make final furniture purchase decisions. And it's felt strange to be away from work for so long. Plus, we're adapting to feeding and otherwise caring for a new little guy. And maybe it's because both H and I try to be responsible people who don't act and respond primarily to feelings.

We're probably having lots of warm fuzzy feelings, just like anybody else. It's not like H and I have hearts of stone, and O is definitely as cute as a dog in a sweater. The feelings are just all mixed in with lots of other feelings and thoughts.

I'll bet that everybody feels overwhelmed and busy and stressed, but they forget these feelings in the years of a child's growth. Then, when they see new parents like us, it evokes memories of the warm fuzzy feelings, and they tell us how they felt, leaving us to infer how we ought to feel.

1 comment:

grump said...

I think overwhelmed is a perfectly valid way to feel.

I also think time has a way of giving perspective to momentous occasions. It's the whole forest/trees thing.

I also have no children.