Fatherhood fears

by Chris Hunt


I knew I loved my son the first time he tried to kill me.

I was lying on the floor, a few inches away from his toy mat. He was just out of my line of vision, but the two-tone special effects of his toys shrieking from his general direction told me he was fine.

Next thing I know he’s hovering over me, blue eyes shining, his mouth stretching into a wide smile.He points to me and I answer his silent request by picking him up and sitting him on my chest. He laughs loudly before sliding, feet first, onto my neck.

So he’s straddling my neck and that’s when he realizes his feet can now touch the floor. This thought enters his mind at the precise moment he discovers bouncing is fun.

He bounces up and down so fervently that not only can I not breathe, but can actually taste my Adam’s apple.

Now I know I should probably take him off before I lose consciousness, but I couldn’t stop thinking to myself, but he just looks so happy. To hear that laugh, to see him smile so hard that all of his facial features scrunch together, well, he can take my breath away as he wants.

And that brings me to the subject of this column, which is shame.

I never wanted to be a father. When my girlfriend and I started dating, I was adamant I didn’t want kids. I had nothing against them, but I held the sincere belief that a child deserved a better man than me as a father. I was unambitious, lazy and completely content with a life devoid of responsibility.

When I found out I was going to be a dad, I didn’t handle it well. I often tell friends I went through something mimicking the five stages of grief.

First, I refused to believe she was pregnant. Multiple doctors had told her that because of an underlying medical issue, it would be next to impossible for her to conceive. So I thought there must have been a defect in the testing process. There was either something wrong with her pee or her pee stick.

Next came anger and blame. Moody and sullen, I snapped at those who loved me, especially my girlfriend, despite her telling me I could walk away. She would have told her family she left me so I could save face. That made me angry, too.

For months I avoided speaking about anything baby related, such as possible names or what colour the nursery should be. I didn’t even take time off work to go to her first ultrasound. I was such a jerk she still talks about it to this day.

When I got over myself and accepted I was going to be a dad, I did everything I could to atone for my bad behaviour. I went to every ultrasound, doctor’s appointment and prenatal class. And I took time off work to take care of her when she wasn’t feeling well.

I’m told it’s common for men to mourn the passing of their pre-fatherhood life, but I still regret how I treated those close to me, and each time my son does something adorable, I still feel tiny pangs of guilt for how selfish I was.

Like when he was bouncing on my neck. After a minute of bouncing he stopped, grabbed my temples with both hands and touched his forehead to mine. And then he started to purr.

Life’s like that though, isn’t it? It starts off in one direction, but with a jarring turn, it ends up taking you to a place you never expected to be.