I had very high expectations of my husband when we brought our first baby home from the hospital. He had been such a fantastic husband to me and I knew he would be the perfect daddy.
I pictured him changing all the diapers, waking up and rocking him back to sleep at 3am, preparing bottles, burping, feeding, all of it.
But when we got home, I found myself being disappointed.
Yes, he was loving our sweet boy like I pictured he would, but he was much more hands off of the daily baby duties than I was. I was changing 95% of the diapers and doing all of the crying baby soothing.
In my new mom fog of exhaustion and euphoria, I didn’t recognize what was really going on.
This man was terrified.
My big, burly husband looked at this 6 pound preemie baby with sheer fear. How fragile he was! What if I drop him? Or hurt him? He loved that little boy but was petrified of doing the wrong thing.
He had never consoled a crying baby before. He had certainly never changed a diaper or warmed a bottle, or used a nasal syringe or cared for a healing umbilical cord.
And no, I hadn’t done all of those things either, but I had absolutely held a wailing infant and shushed and rocked until it calmed down. I had made bottles and wiped a butt.
I had been practicing all of these skills since I was a little girl. I had baby food and plastic dolls that could poop since I was six years old. My dear husband did not.
As a female, I’ve played pretend, babysat, cared for a sibling, watched my friends children, and flat out had been preparing for motherhood for twenty years.
The most my husband had ever done was hold my newborn nephew for about 15 minutes.
I was way more prepared than him.
But beyond that, there was something else he was afraid of also.
He was afraid of me.
Like most brand new mamas, my mothering instincts came roaring out.
Please wash your hands before you hold the baby.
Oh no, don’t touch his face, please.
Sit down. Support his head. Use two hands.
He saw me continually manage everyone that came in contact with my baby (and maybe rightly so) and was convinced whatever he did would no way be done correctly.
Would I scold him if he didn’t put the onesie on the way I did it? Would I be furious with him if he overheated the bottle? Or if it was too cold?
All of that was enough to keep him loving our new baby from a safe distance, helping when I needed him to but not overly excited to get in and get his hands dirty. And now that my children are four and six I can see it clearly. He is the most hands-on dad I know.
I encourage you to be patient with your husband and give him the opportunity to explain how he feels instead of being upset and angry with him. Help him alleviate his fears and let him start slow.
Hang tight, I’m sure the dad you want him to be is in there.
Liz is a just a mom trying to keep it real about how little she sleeps, how often she gets puked on and how much she loves them. You can find her here every day writing about real-mom moments.