Unhappy Dad To Be Still Unhappy.
May 16, 2011 7:27 PM   Subscribe

I was the anonymous asker of this question. Things have moved on a little bit since then. Looking for a way forward.

Since that question was asked, I am still an unhappy dad to be. The initial AskMe question helped in some respects; I worry less about money and about sex following the birth, for instance.

But in other respects I am perhaps a little bit unhappier. Yesterday we had the NT scan which showed the baby is developing fine and there is very little chance there'd be something wrong with it. I had read a bit about and spoken to a few other once-unhappy dads who said that their opinion changed when they saw the ultra-sound and heard the heartbeat. That didn't happen for me. All I saw was my wife, deliriously happy that she had a healthy baby inside her. That made me happy for her, but it sunk in that this was pretty much destined to happen now. No way out.

No way out. That's the thing. I've done some more thinking since I asked that initial question and I realise I feel trapped. My wife is having a kid that I don't want and I'm afraid I may never love... that I may even grow to resent. I feel like my opinion and my feeling don't matter and that I have no real say in what happens from here on in. The only way out would be for us to seperate, which I don't want to have happen, since I love her more than anything in the world. I take my wedding vows seriously. I just have to suck it up, I know, but that makes me feel, well, trapped.

And I can't really talk to anyone about this. I can't talk to my wife, since every time we've tried talking about this she starts to cry and I don't like her being upset; it breaks my heart. I tried calling a Men's Phone Counselling Service; it wasn't much help. The result of that call was 45 minutes of me saying why I think I'll be an awful dad and them just saying that I can call back if I need to talk again. The one way it did help was that we worked out I was in mourning for the life I had and the childless life I wanted to lead. Nice to know, but not really a way forward.

Since the NT scan, my wife "announced" on Facebook. I started getting texts from friends who have kids giddily congratulating me on becoming a dad. I hated that. I understood that this was the expected thing to do in such circumstances, so I don't hold it against them, but when all I could muster was a half hearted thanks in response I started getting the kind of judgement calls I feared in my initial question. "Why arent you excited, this is great!" was the theme. I still don't see why it is or ever will be. And it reinforces the fact that I can't talk to most of my friends about this. They all belong to the Cult of Baby and I don't want in.

So basically, I've realised that in the short term, there's no being happy about this for me. I've tried everything I can think of and nothing has worked. What's the way forward from here?

As with the previous question, I DO NOT WANT ANY "GET A DIVORCE" answers. You should consider that response well and truly off the table. Similarly with counselling, for the reasons stated previously and the fact that I have, to some extent, tried it since then. Any other constructive ways forward, please share.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (90 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
Dealing with feeling trapped is something I know about, and I can imagine how trapped I would feel if I was going to have a child.

What might help is to come up with a list of ways in which you can continue things that are important to you from your childfree life. E.g. do you like to travel? Do you need daily time alone to recharge? Is time with your friends at the pub important to you? People with kids do manage to fit these sorts of things in: they just have to schedule them more aggressively. Figure out what you need from life, and come up (jointly with your wife) with plans for making that happen.

Maybe it means that every year no matter what you commit to dumping the baby on its grandparents for three weeks and travelling overseas.

Maybe it means you get a day a week "off" where you can go out and do whatever you like and don't have to be responsible.

Most importantly: your wife will have things like this too that she needs to do, no matter how happy she is about the baby. Maybe she too will want a day off per week to go out with friends and/or be alone. You need to approach this as a conversation about how the two of you will continue with the things that are important to you after the baby is born.
posted by lollusc at 7:32 PM on May 16, 2011 [4 favorites]

So you did phone counseling and they didn't really give you anything. The next logical step would be to find an in-person counselor for *yourself*... not couples counseling. You need someone to talk to, and the Cult of Baby leaves your friends and your wife out. So. It's really just that. Find someone to talk to who will listen and help you parse out and find your way.
posted by RedEmma at 7:33 PM on May 16, 2011 [37 favorites]

Maybe focus on the idea that this is your baby to raise the way you (and your wife) want. You don't have to dress it all in pastels if that makes you gag. You can teach it every swear word you know. You're committed to the baby but not to a prescribed lifestyle once it arrives, subject only to basic safety rules.
posted by lakeroon at 7:34 PM on May 16, 2011 [16 favorites]

I still think there is a chance that when you meet this child you will feel all the things that your wife is currently feeling. The NT scan is still really early in the pregnancy to "feel" anything as the dad. The kicking was what really got my husband excited - he could feel what I was feeling and begin to realize that there was a real live human being in there.

Having said that, I absolutely think that this is something that you need to speak with your wife about. Yes, it will upset her, but the alternative is you stewing in silence and being more and more resentful. Of course, I wouldn't start by saying that you don't want this child. Start with the easier "softball" of, "I'm having a really hard time getting as excited as you are because..."

My heart goes out to you in this hard time. I know what it's like to feel like you are alone in your thinking and how isolating it feels. It felt so wonderful to finally confide in my husband about what I was feeling and to have him understand.

I think your wife will too.
posted by Leezie at 7:34 PM on May 16, 2011 [3 favorites]

You've ruled everything out so realistically, you just have to accept that you are not happy with this, and try to accept your own unhappiness. That probably means ongoing therapy.

For what it's worth, I'm pregnant and I pretty much hate being pregnant. I get crap for not being excited enough about being pregnant from some people, but there are definitely people who don't insist on me hewing to the cultural script of super happy pregnant woman.

Try to find those people amongst your friends and talk about how you feel. Non-mutual friends will probably be best.

If people insist on chiding you, don't talk to them about it. You really don't need anyone's judgment right now.

(The earlier ultrasounds did nothing for me, emotionally--it really isn't baby-like and not everyone gets attached to embryos/fetuses.)
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:36 PM on May 16, 2011 [8 favorites]

Hey, stop stressing so much about not feeling the right things. Feelings are never, ever wrong. Actions are what you can control.
posted by coffeepot at 7:36 PM on May 16, 2011 [58 favorites]

I don't have kids, so I can't offer that kind of perspective. But I very much agree with red Emma that your next step should be to find someone to talk to. Being unhappy is all the reason you need. Good luck.
posted by Forktine at 7:38 PM on May 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

In your previous question you said you didn't want to hear that you should go to counseling, because you believe it's paying for something you can get for free.

In this question, you state that you called a men's counseling hotline (free, presumably, but staffed by people at least semi-trained in how to talk to people in crisis. right?). You seem very disdainful of the help you got there, but you do acknowledge that you did actually get something of value out of that phone conversation with a counselor-type person: you learned that you're in mourning for the life you're not going to have.

It kind of sounds like even a weak, watered-down form of counseling was more helpful than trying to talk to your friends about this. You've said that you can't talk to anyone in your life about this -- not your wife, not your friends, not your family. But you claim that you don't need to see a counselor because it's just talking and you can get that for free. There's a really big hole in your reasoning there. Can you see it?

I'm really sorry that you're going through this. If you were my friend in real life I would gladly talk to you about this as much as you wanted... but I would also strongly advise you to see a professional, because they're trained in how to help you find the answers you're seeking, and all I am is someone who can listen and go, "Dude, that blows." Wouldn't you want the trained pro over the well-meaning yet bumbling and totally inept pal? I know I do, and that's why I see a mental health professional when I'm in a crisis like you are now.
posted by palomar at 7:40 PM on May 16, 2011 [87 favorites]

I don't get what you are asking for since I doubt we can change your mind and bring you into "the baby cult." I'd love to help you since I suspect my own dad was ambivalent about his children, and that (predictably) ended badly as my brother and I got older. You're in a tough spot.

I nth that you NEED a neutral third party to talk to about this, someone who will keep things private and be on your side providing you with the support you need right now.

Find the right therapist and GO.
posted by jbenben at 7:42 PM on May 16, 2011 [2 favorites]

I think it's gutsy of you, and quite insightful to put all of these feelings into words. You sound really scared, anxious about how this baby is going to change your life, and your relationship with your wife. I think these are all normal feelings, but that probably doesn't help you to know that. I think it would be a good idea to hash this out with a therapist. But also, I think it's important that you talk to your wife about it, even if it upsets her. You can't walk on eggshells because something might get her upset.
posted by Sal and Richard at 7:42 PM on May 16, 2011

In your last question you said that you had ruled counseling out because you equate it to "just talking". It's one thing to talk with your wife in a situation where it's just the two of you, but couple's counseling (and by-yourself-counseling) is different: it's an opportunity to use a professional third party as an objective conduit through which to channel your frustrations and worries and lay them all out to pick them apart and find solutions. The best thing about a counselor is that they know what initial questions to ask to help you push yourself towards cathartic moments that can help you overcome even the most profound of worries.

Based on both this question and your original post, you have not yet found a way to find solace in a situation you are clearly unhappy with. That leads me to believe that you have not given counseling the good college try, and regardless of your prejudices against counseling, I really think you should reconsider finding someone to act as a counselor so you can have a sounding board who can help you determine ways to cope and work through this very stressful time in your life. You deserve that.
posted by patronuscharms at 7:42 PM on May 16, 2011 [2 favorites]

You are not alone.
I was *you* maybe 7 or 8 years ago.

In my most inner and private thoughts, I felt trapped, and I felt like I would not be able
to handle all the responsibilities, and was also afraid that I would not love the baby.

Let me tell you something. Even though its probably not the norm, you are still going thrua phase that many men go thru with their first boy (or girl).

I know that you dont seem to talk to a counsellor, but its probably a good option. Otherwise, why not read some good self-help books?

I can tell you that 7 years later, I grew out of that phase, and now love my kids with all my heart. Life has a way to give you what you need to grow. In this case, your kid will show you or teach you a lot of things that you need to deal with internally. Dont be afraid, see it as an opportunity to mature, to grow. You cant make the fear go away today, but I can assure you it will go away. The more you reject it, the more it will stay. Learn to accept it, dont judge yourself too much with "I *should* be this, or I *should* feel this way.
You are different from your wife and friends, but that does not mean they are better than you, or you better than them. Just different. Each person lives or feels a whole different set of emotions when dealing with a bady, so just accept yours.
And dont worry about money....it will come.... trust me.

Remember, this will fade away in a few years, you'll be a great Dad, you'll love your kid with all your heart!
posted by theKik at 7:44 PM on May 16, 2011 [5 favorites]

Hey, stop stressing so much about not feeling the right things. Feelings are never, ever wrong. Actions are what you can control.

Exactly. You're not happy your wife is pregnant. Okay. That's fine. It's okay to not feel happy and to have fears. What's not okay is ruminating on it and thinking about it constantly and making others miserable. You're a grown man, married, and about to become a father. You don't want out so accept that you unsure, unhappy, have a trapped feeling, whatever, and see how you feel when the baby comes.

You may feel trapped but you are not trapped. If you want to go, you can go. The baby is not causing you to feel trapped -- you are. I would advise you to start focusing on the positive -- your lovely, healthy, loving wife, your health, your job, your family, the weather, your limbs, whatever that is positive. You're focusing on what sucks instead of noticing the wonderful things. Instead of feeling sorry for yourself, try to envision the life that you would have without your wife. You want to stay so do try to make the best of it. This must be incredibly stressful for your wife. It's okay to feel how you're feeling but do try to understand that all of her hopes and dreams for her future family are in question now.
posted by Fairchild at 7:46 PM on May 16, 2011 [13 favorites]

Do you have any close male friends who you can really confide in? Or female friends, for that matter. I don't have kids, but I've had a lot of intense conversations with close friends along the lines of "I know I'm supposed to be excited about X but I'm not." A friend who really understands you will be supportive, even if it's not a PC thing to talk about.
posted by Sara C. at 7:47 PM on May 16, 2011

Here's a thought: why don't you make a deal with yourself that first you'll take care of your wife in the coming year. You love her and she needs extra help. And second I'd suggest that you make a deal with yourself to do right by the little person that will be in your life soon. Be kind.
After that year you can reevaluate: you'll know more about what you really feel about all of this. Because for a lot of men the whole thing is still rather academical until they hold a little person in their arms. Some only really start to enjoy it once the child gets a bit active at six months.
And if you can make that deal with yourself (and why wouldn't you; you're on the train anyway) just try not to stress about it so much. Try to create some space with your wife and with good friends that you don't have to act what you don't feel (yet).
In one year you may view all this very differently.
posted by joost de vries at 7:57 PM on May 16, 2011 [13 favorites]

Perhaps it would help to focus more on the things you are happy about. Your wife, your friends, your work, your hobbies, your garden, I don't know what gives you happiness. Engage in whatever brings you happiness. Fix up your home, read good books, listen to music, cook lovely meals. And do whatever you can to make your wife as comfortable as possible. Do you have any friends with young children? Try to spend a bit of time with them.
posted by mareli at 7:58 PM on May 16, 2011

From your previous question:

Please, no "get counselling" answers. My wife and I discussed this and I don't believe in therapy or counselling since in the end it's just paying for something you can do for free - talking. Also, in the end I know it's just going to be advice like "accept responsibility for what you've done" so I don't see what value there would be in paying to be told something I already know.

...part of the "I don't believe in therapy" corner that you've painted yourself into is that, to frankly, you have a pretty bad idea of what therapy actually is. Yes, it's "talking," but the talking is only a means to an end of doing more than that -- when it's done in good faith with a talented third-party professional, therapy is actually difficult but productive mental, intellectual, and emotional LABOR that can result in enormous leaps forward in understanding yourself and others as well as a clearer sense of you own needs, feelings, and options.

Dismissing it as "just talking" is a little like saying "I'd like to build something, but please, no suggestions of buying any tools, as in the end that just involves something you can do for free -- flexing your muscles and moving your arms around."

In other words, you insist on crossing out what has the possibility of being one of your best options to get to the heart of what you're feeling, why you're feeling it, and -- most importantly -- how you (as an individual, as a husband, and as a father-to-be) can productively move forward from here.

So my advice to you is really to take it a step back and ask you to consider a question: is there something you are afraid of in terms of what you might say or find out if you actually engage in "just talking" -- something beyond your stated fear of the possibility of not loving your child? Or, to put it more provocatively: what is it you're trying so hard not to find out?

You don't have to go through a mod to answer that here; in fact, I would encourage you NOT to answer it here.
posted by scody at 8:00 PM on May 16, 2011 [72 favorites]

That you've heavily emphasized in both threads that you don't want a divorce tells me how very off your perspective is right now. Because I truly think most folks would think that a divorce isn't an obvious or even reasonable reaction to this situation.

My wife is having a kid that I don't want...

No. Your wife is having YOUR kid. Because the other thing you seem to be missing is that this is your baby too. This is not your wife being pregnant and you going along for the ride. You seem to forget you had agency in this. And you seem to think that not being married to your wife would somehow preclude you from being the father of this kid.

Here's the deal: the relationship with your wife is a legal one that can be dissolved. Your relationship with your kid is *permanent.* That's the life long relationship here. If you left your wife, you would still be obligated to help care for your kid.

The other thing I think you're missing, and this is really important because it also explains why people aren't recommending divorce, is that there's a very good chance that all this shit is gonna change, and likely sooner rather than later. You are not only not the first man to have a kid he wasn't excited about, but you are probably not the first in one million guys not to be excited about the coming kid.

One mark of depression is that you think that how the situation is now is how it's always going to be. But that's not necessarily the obvious outcome here.

You are right not to keep talking to your wife about this. The mistake is not talking to a professional person who can really help you work through this.
posted by bluedaisy at 8:01 PM on May 16, 2011 [22 favorites]

Dude.. you are trapped. But, guess what? You never where totally free. "Divorce is off the table" is being trapped. Having friends is trapped having a job is trapped.

Being "trapped" is not necessarily a bad thing.

In my opinion, and this is just internet stranger 3rd party opinion, you have over thought it and have managed to talk yourself into dreading the situation more and more and now are locked into a vicious cycle that if you don't feel the "appropriate" emotion at the right time it reinforces your dread and certainty you will hate your life going forth.

I really don't see what you are looking for here because you have ruled out all the answers that people can realistically give. Indeed it seems you are trying to use Metafilter as the stand-in for the counseling you are so dismissive of.

Here is the deal.


Not some cheap-ass father's line with borderline trained but well intentioned folks on the other end. They are not trained to deal with the level of panic and perserveration you seem to be exhibiting.

Here is another tidbit. You can try out different therapists until you find one that works well for you.

You don't want to hear it, but it is the only answer because otherwise you run the risk of not only alienating your kid but pulling your marriage apart as you come to resent all the time your wife is now spending with the child.

posted by edgeways at 8:03 PM on May 16, 2011 [27 favorites]

You are going to hate being a father and hate your child, and your child will hate you and grow up with weird daddy issues, and your wife will hate you, and your whole life is going to suck forever, and you're stuck with it, and there's nothing you can do to fix it, and it's awful.

That's pretty much what's going through your head right now, isn't it? That's what you believe? And what you really want is for that not to be true, but you haven't yet heard anything from anyone that leads you to believe that it isn't true. Plus, every time you try to tell someone about this horrible, maddening thing you believe, they add a bunch more crap to it by making you feel bad about believing it or telling you that you're hurting them by articulating what you believe. You're in a pretty crappy situation.

I know you don't want to go to therapy, but here's what therapy can do: a therapist can be the one person you can tell this stuff to whose own feelings won't get hurt from hearing it. That means that the conversations you have about it can just be about your feelings, not about how your feelings make your wife feel, or how your feelings make your friends feel, or what society thinks about your feelings. That means that you can drill down into the real issue, which is whether or not your beliefs about how the rest of your life will go are accurate. You don't pay a therapist so that you have someone to talk to. You pay a therapist so that you have someone to talk to who doesn't have their own agenda and can focus just on what you think and feel and want and need.

I don't think your beliefs are accurate. I think you're going to love your kid when it's here. I don't think there's much correlation between a person's degree of excitement during pregnancy and their ability to be a good parent, or between the love a person feels for a hypothetical child and the love that person later feels for a real, actual child with thoughts and feelings and ideas of its own. But I'm not going to try to convince you of that. What I am going to try to convince you is that by not finding a place where you can articulate your beliefs and talk frankly about whether or not they're accurate, you're making things worse for yourself. You're caught up in a vicious cycle inside your own head, and you need to let this stuff out. Please get some help with that so that you don't spend the next many months of your life ruminating and blaming yourself.
posted by decathecting at 8:04 PM on May 16, 2011 [16 favorites]

Also, in the end I know it's just going to be advice like "accept responsibility for what you've done" so I don't see what value there would be in paying to be told something I already know.

Please know, too, that this is not how therapy works. I've been in therapy for most of the past year. Never once has my therapist told me that I needed to "accept responsibility" or any other school principal authoritarian sort of thing along those lines. That's pretty counterproductive to what therapy is about, as scody says. A therapist isn't someone who tells you the "Correct" course of action in any given situation.

I've said a lot of selfish/messed-up/antisocial things in therapy, and honestly sometimes I get disgusted at how fracking supportive my therapist is about it all.
posted by Sara C. at 8:06 PM on May 16, 2011 [7 favorites]

If you want to travel, find a way to make it possible. Your happiness is worth it, to yourself and to your familly.
posted by amtho at 8:06 PM on May 16, 2011

Ok, here's the thing. You feel trapped, you ARE trapped, this is happening and there is no way to back it up. For some of us folks even a wanted event that is inevitable is scary and makes us feel trapped.

Now let me remind you of something you already know but aren't realizing: This baby will stay a baby only a short time. Then, only a toddler a short time. By the time this kid is four or so it will be a hilarious little person who will more than likely have wormed his or her way into your heart totally. BUT:

Even if that didn't happen (highly, HIGHLY unlikely) in 18 or so years that kid will be out of your house.

This is temporary.

Now, my opinion is this: you claim to love your wife unconditionally and I believe you. But love for her means wanting her to have what she wants and this baby is someone she wants. Part two of this is I bet you are worried-and you have a right to be-that when the baby comes she will pay attention to it and you will be total second fiddle. Well, yes, that will happen because if she doesn't the baby will not be properly cared for. But again, this is temporary.

If you can concentrate on caring for you wife, whom you love, thru this process, and then thru the childbirth, I have a suspicion that somewhere during all this you will have a turnaround in your own opinion of this process.

BUT (and this is a very very BIG but, big enough for Sir Mix-a-Lot to appreciate:)

I feel that you need to suck it up and get some quality counselling. I suspect there is something in your past or your psyche or whatever that is causing you to totally freak out during this time, and I would hate for you to have to suffer thru what really should be an exciting time in your life and in your marriage because of something you may not even be aware of consciously. Why not at least examine this option? You have nothing to lose, and you DO need to talk this out with someone who will not judge and whom you will not hurt by what you say.

Think about it.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 8:09 PM on May 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

You realise that with these questions, you are specifically seeking counselling, right? Just from an anonymous horde, rather than a professional? But that what you're asking for is the exact same thing, just from people aren't well equiped to give it to you? Why are you so eager to get counselling from metafilter, and not from an actual counsellor?

You are looking for help with your feelings. Counsellors are experts in feelings. Your phone line experience is not representative of an actual therapist experience. By specifically resisting visiting the one professional who can help you, you do nothing but engage in self defeating behaviour.

Are you sure you aren't resisting real help so that your feelings become so destructive to your marriage that it gives you an easy way out of this problem? Fighting is easier than problem solving, after all.

Stop fighting the clearest path to getting happy.
posted by Kololo at 8:17 PM on May 16, 2011 [39 favorites]

Have you considered, maybe, that there's more to life than your happiness? You seem so obsessed with monitoring your happiness, and your posts are full of highly emotive language about how you "hate" this, you "don't want" that, how this other thing is making you unhappy ... Why is it that your unhappiness is SUCH a problem? Lots of people just sort of stoically persevere through things that are important but not "fun." It just seems like you need a radical reorientation so you can appreciate that there are bigger, nobler ways of approaching life than closely monitoring your happiness levels in the face of momentous life events.
posted by jayder at 8:19 PM on May 16, 2011 [9 favorites]

I have nothing to say aside from what people have already said, go get therapy.

That being said, my email is brian@brianpuccio.net and would appreciate being able to talk to you if you're willing about this entire thing outside of MeFi. I understand that this is a lot to deal with now and the last thing you might want to do is talk to someone else about it, but if next week or next year you wouldn't mind, I would appreciate it.

Thanks and hang in there.
posted by Brian Puccio at 8:19 PM on May 16, 2011

Okay, you already know what you don't want to do. You're not leaving your wife, and you're not trying to convince her to get an abortion. With that in mind, what jumps out at me here is how much you are comparing your feelings to what you think you should feel and how everyone around you seems to feel. That sort of thing has always spelled DOOM for me, no matter what the context.

Emotionally, the first step towards progress will be accepting the way you feel, as opposed to trying to force yourself to feel differently. We can control our actions, but we can't control our emotions. You know, some people get really sad when a person dies. Other people feel numb to the whole thing. Some people love the idea of a big wedding with hundreds of guests, and others are repulsed by it. We all respond differently, and that's not necessarily something that needs to be altered.

The more you focus on how you feel, and how excited you are not, the worse you're going to feel. I've never had much success trying to make myself get excited about something I just wasn't excited about, and with something as major as a baby, you shouldn't expect it to come easily if it just isn't. If you start to get excited about it, great! If not, try to figure out ways that you work with this and adapt. Eventually, you may come to the conclusion that life isn't all that bad with this kid around. Sure, it's different, but your life is by no means over.

Also, people say all sorts of weird, rude shit to expecting parents when things don't seem to be going exactly as they should be. Take it as that, not as a sign that you need to be more obsessed with your emotions.
posted by wondermouse at 8:20 PM on May 16, 2011 [2 favorites]

Firstly, I think your fears and concerns are pretty normal. With that said, none of the non-therapy suggestions worked. So...

I hate to jump on the therapy train, but when I was a high school teacher, I could tell with 99% accuracy which kids' parents or guardians weren't emotionally present in their lives. That'll hurt a kid's social, intellectual spiritual, and emotional growth more than anything. Kids can deal with being hungry. They shouldn't have to, but they can, provided it's not at malnutrition levels. Ditto with not having nice clothes, toys, etc. The ONE thing children need are present, loving parents. Even just one distant parent can seriously hurt them.

A lot of parenthood is doing whatever it takes to be able to take the best care of your child possible. Isn't it worth the piece of mind knowing that you did everything you could to prepare for fatherhood? You *want* to love your kid. That's great! Actions speak louder than words: take that first step and try to start caring about this kid by finding a good counselor. And if you can't do it for yourself, or your kid-to-be, do it for your wife, whom it's obvious that you love very, very much.
posted by smirkette at 8:26 PM on May 16, 2011 [2 favorites]

Just want to point this out:

I don't believe in therapy or counselling since in the end it's just paying for something you can do for free - talking.
And I can't really talk to anyone about this.

If your reason for not wanting therapy is that you can talk for free -- what happens when you CAN'T talk for free?

I really don't think quality therapy from a trained professional will be the judgmental and/or pointless horror that you see it as. It's so obvious that you need a consistent outlet for this.

Why exactly do you think you're going to be a horrible dad and mess up the child? You mentioned in your previous post that some of the reasons were: "I have an unconventional world view and for example, I'm already planning to make sure the kid knows Santa and the Easter Bunny arent real. I want to tell the kid when its young that swearing is OK in moderation, just don't do it at school." If you think this will mess up a child, you don't HAVE to expound upon your unconventional worldview to them. You don't HAVE to tell them Santa and the Easter Bunny aren't real, etc. I mean, those are all things entirely within your control. If you're worried about dropping the child, you can hold the child while you're sitting in a chair or in bed, or push the child in a stroller. Are these things really all there are, or is there something else??

You mentioned mourning for the childless life you wanted to lead. What exactly did you want to do that you think you won't be able to now? You might need to spend some more time around other kinds of parents, parents who travel around the world with all their kids, etc., to see that living an ordinary parental life in the suburbs is a complete choice, not something anyone is trapped/forced into.
posted by Ashley801 at 8:27 PM on May 16, 2011 [2 favorites]

The way you're feeling is exactly the way I felt right after I gave birth to my daughter. OH MY GOD my life is over! OVER! The rest of my life will consist of nothing but changing diapers, cleaning house, spooning food into her mouth so she can spit it back out, etc. I will have no friends, no time to do anything for me, I will never go anywhere or do anything fun again.

Turns out, that's not true. The first 3 months kinda feel like that, because you don't sleep. At all. But then it loosens up and gets better, and then you get to a point where you actually don't want to do anything except be around your kid because they're so amazing, and then they get a little older and they get a little independence, and they go play at a friends house for a few hours. And then at the age of 5, you catch them gallivanting towards the front door with your bucket of pennies and you ask them where the heck they're going with $27 in pennies and they tell you in all seriousness that they're going to play penny poker with the neighbors, and you say "very well, then, as you were", and then you smile at how cute it is that a 5 year old thinks they're playing poker, and then 3 hours later they come home, only now they have $32 in pennies, because they beat all the friggin' adults at poker! And you wonder what the hell you did for entertainment before you had a kid? And then they're about 8 or 10 years old, and you can't believe how smart they are, and you realize that your child is a much better companion to hang out with than all the adults you know. But since they're 8 or 10 now, they have their own friends, and you have time to do all kinds of things that you thought you'd never be able to do again.

But I wouldn't have believed any of this when she was 2 weeks old. I just cried a lot, because even though she was wonderful, my life was still OVER.

Also, babysitters.
posted by MexicanYenta at 8:41 PM on May 16, 2011 [44 favorites]

Please know, too, that this is not how therapy works. I've been in therapy for most of the past year. Never once has my therapist told me that I needed to "accept responsibility" or any other school principal authoritarian sort of thing along those lines. That's pretty counterproductive to what therapy is about, as scody says. A therapist isn't someone who tells you the "Correct" course of action in any given situation.

I second this sentiment, and nth all the other recommendations for therapy. Therapy can be (almost) anything you want it to be. Personally, I talked to a bunch of therapists before settling on one who was a good fit for me, but there are so many different modalities and styles - some don't talk much at all, some ask a lot of direct questions to get to the heart of what you're telling them, some mix it up from week to week and person to person. I know other people who see my therapist and when we've briefly discussed it in the past, they get a VERY different experience from him than I do. I think TV and sometimes even other people's anecdotes give people a certain picture of therapy that can be true; but it's not true for ALL therapists and ALL therapy. I told my friends who'd had experience with therapy that I'd like a therapist who talked a lot and asked pointed questions -- they told me I'd never find that. Well I did, and I'm so glad. But you can definitely find someone who does whatever it is that you might think might be a good fit. I would also bring up your apprehensions about therapy in your first sessions.

Because you have to go to therapy, and I think you know it. You've asked us TWO anonymous questions on a very sensitive, HIGHLY personal topic that we've given you careful, passionate answers to because that's what we do, and I see so much concern for you, your wife, and your future child in this thread. But we can't keep up with you and keep playing therapist in this thread. Yes, we're free, but it's not just the cost, we're not set up to handle serial questions and guide people in this way. That's what therapists are for. I worked on a hotline, not a men's hotline but a crisis hotline, and it's not that we had some sort of half ass training, even though we were volunteers. We had highly specialized training to do one thing and one thing only, talk people through a moment of crisis, focusing specifically on what about that moment in time made them reach out for help and support. That's it. No intake, no followup, no relationship with callers. We weren't set up for that. This was made VERY CLEAR during our training.

Therapy is set up exactly for that. We're not. Counselling hotlines are not. Your friends are not. Professional therapy IS. Go. Go Go Go. Go.
posted by sweetkid at 8:44 PM on May 16, 2011 [4 favorites]

Dude, there is always a price. Whatever you want in life, whatever you're trying to do, there's always a price and you've got to pay it.

You love you wife and you want her. The price of your wife is the baby. If you decide the baby is too high a price, you could ditch your wife and kid and live a child-free life, possibly with a new wife, definitely with some child support payments to make every month, but you would lose the love of your life.

There is no third option where you get everything you want and everybody's happy. Possibly, months ago, there might have been a third option where you got almost everything you wanted and your wife wasn't ever quite happy, but that choice is gone now.

The fact that there is no third option is what you need to accept. To my mind, that's a little bit different from accepting responsibility, because accepting responsibility implies coming around to the point of view that you have performed the correct action and that ought to make you happy. Don't work like that; paying always sucks. But ain't nothin' free. There was going to be pain either way no matter what you did --- this seems, for you, to be the lesser pain, because for how you talk about it it's clear you can't imagine not being with your wife. Well, that's all you get. The joy you bought and the lesser pain you paid for it with. You chose. Now know it.
posted by Diablevert at 8:46 PM on May 16, 2011 [9 favorites]

I could nth the "go to therapy," but let's talk about your worst case scenario: the baby comes and you NEVER EVER LOVE IT even when the kid is 18. What do you do? I know that feeling: you want to talk about the worst case and everyone else tells you, "Oh, it'll be FINE," because they can't deal with talking about the worst case. How's about you and me actually do it, then?

The answer to that is: do the best you can. Try to fake it until you make it, which may or may not work. At the bare minimum, do not beat, constantly scream at, fuck, or abuse your child. Even if you don't love the child, treat it as well as you can. At the bare minimum, your child will have one out of two parents who loves it, and that's still doing better than some people. Will it fuck up your kid if Daddy never loves it? Yes. Can't deny that, you know it and I know it. But if you absolutely can't help not loving that child and not wanting it, ever ever ever, at least treat the child well and nicely. Optimally, your kid will make it to adulthood and be able to say, "I know my dad never loved me, but you know what? He tried. He did the best he could for not wanting a kid and having one anyway." If that's the best you can do, then do it. If you end up not being able to do more, then you can't do more, but you at least tried the best you could.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:53 PM on May 16, 2011 [7 favorites]

I'm sympathetic, I really am.

I would try and give yourself an attitude adjustment. They are free, and don't involve doing anything like counseling, divorce or adoption, etc. When I need an attitude adjustment I try and reframe the situation to be more bearable. So in this case, I would start by trying not to see the baby as the full catastrophe. It may end up being that way, but it's not helpful to frame it that way right now, given your level of anxiety. You need a new way of looking at this baby situation. So next I would play some mind games with myself. For instance, ask yourself, would you divorce your wife if she became disabled or was in a coma for a while? If not, why not? Think of the baby as a friend or wife that is disabled (they pretty much are at first! haha!) Or even think of the baby as YOU in a coma (it's half you.) You would stick by your wife in a time of need, so maybe sticking by the baby in it's time of need is a noble and righteous thing as well? It may be a crappy situation, but you are just the man to take a bite out of this shit sandwich! But you don't need to enjoy it or pretend that you like it! As I tell my kids all the time when something odious needs to be done: "we don't have to like it, we just have to do it."

Basically it's fake it 'til you make it. Holding your nose and changing the proverbial diaper will make you a bigger person. I guarantee! And you will have two people in this cold, cold world that love you for the sacrifice.
posted by acheekymonkey at 8:54 PM on May 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Please, no "get counselling" answers. My wife and I discussed this and I don't believe in therapy or counselling since in the end it's just paying for something you can do for free - talking. Also, in the end I know it's just going to be advice like "accept responsibility for what you've done" so I don't see what value there would be in paying to be told something I already know.

Here's why you should get counseling:

1) You are holding on SO TIGHT to the idea that you will never love your kid. You can write paragraph after paragraph about why there is no hope in sight for your kid having a father that is excited about being a father.

2) You are CONVINCED that therapy isn't going to do anything for you.

3) By going to therapy (and I don't mean like once, I mean agreeing to go for weeks and weeks or months and months) and giving it an honest chance, you're saying to yourself "Okay, I may not be right about this one thing. Maybe therapy can be helpful in my situation."

4) If you can admit to yourself that maybe you're wrong about therapy, then that's going to open up a bigger can of worms labeled "Maybe I Am Wrong About Other Stuff, Too, Like Being Able to Be An Excited Father".
posted by 23skidoo at 9:07 PM on May 16, 2011 [5 favorites]

For what it's worth I don't recall feeling much of anything about my wife's bump. Then she was born and it was all 'ohhhhh right'.

You may not be like this. Or you may. But at least consider the possibility that everything might just sort itself out.

Weigh it in your mind. Give it equal weight to the 'DOOM! DOOM!' voice.
posted by Sebmojo at 9:13 PM on May 16, 2011

On the one hand, who am I to give you any sort of advice about this? I'm just some single guy with no kids, no girlfriend, a lease expiring at the end of the month, and very little to feel "trapped" by. But you know what, it's not so fantastic, having your life be made up of a lot of open ends.

It's natural to feel trapped and claustrophobic about major, irreversible, and maybe accidental changes in your life. I suspect a lot of the members of the "cult of baby" join it precisely to drown out doubts very similar to your own. So you know what? Kudos for being honest with your emotions. It will probably help you avoid a mid-life crisis in 20 years; you're realizing the drawbacks of embarking on this new path now, not later.

At the same time, though, your life is always the product of a lot of circumstances you can't control and a lot of decisions that precluded others. You're never (pardon me for presuming) going to make the NBA; you're probably not going to be rich and get to spend your days doing exactly what you want; maybe you couldn't get into the college you really wanted to, or maybe you did so you didn't consider one that would have been better for you. Maybe you moved to a city you really wanted to live in and you'll never know if you'd actually rather be somewhere else.

Now you've got a baby on the way, and yeah, that is going to be a big change, and it's a commitment that maybe you didn't ask for. It sounds like you're focusing on the doors that this is closing. Allow yourself to do that. That's really all you know right now, and it's a natural response. I don't think you have to love this baby that doesn't even really exist yet; it's just an idea; and the idea right now, for you, is that this is a path you're stuck with, which makes sense. It's evident that you're worried about being good enough at all this; that you won't be a sufficiently loving father, that you're being unsupportive of your wife by speaking to her about your feelings, that you aren't living up to your friends' expectations if you express reservations about this whole thing. It sounds like you're putting a lot of pressure on yourself to do this right, and overanalyzing how you might be doing it wrong. Take solace in the fact that this means you will probably be a great dad. You're taking this thing seriously; you're worried about not being good enough at it. I don't think that bad, unloving dads, generally, are the ones who spend a lot of time fretting over things like this.

I would also try to realize, at least abstractly if you can't see what specifically they are yet, that this is going to create a lot of exciting new opportunities just as it's closing off some others. Any worthwhile step in life is going to do that; otherwise you're just floundering around making inconsequential decisions.
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 9:35 PM on May 16, 2011 [6 favorites]

A couple of thoughts:

You feel trapped. This is ok; you are indeed kind of trapped, in that (if all goes well) the baby will come and you're committed to be the dad. You're not in control of the roller coaster. It's totally reasonable to find that scary and disorienting!

You say you're going through a kind of mourning for the life you could have had. That seems reasonable too.

But when you think about your "other life" -- think about that other life realistically. It's not like you otherwise would have perfect freedom to do anything you liked - you'd still have to make money, and either you or your wife could get sick, or you might have to care for an aging parent, or any number of other ways that perfect freedom could be constrained. Having a kid will definitely be a constraint. But we all have constraints of various kinds, and things happen in our lives that we're not in control of, even if we never have kids. So when you imagine the alternate no-kids life, at least remember that it would be imperfect too -- don't drive yourself crazy by imagining a perfect (impossible) other life.

(Have you ever known a guy who was freaking out after he got engaged, because he was tying himself down to one woman, but he could imagine this perfect single-guy lifestyle he could be having? If only he weren't closing off those possibilities in order to marry this one woman? It's understandable to go through this fear when you're stepping into a new life role, because it does close off other possible lives - but when we're scared we can exaggerate how great those other lives would be. "The grass is always greener" thinking, you know? These are okay feelings, but it's also good to recognize them for what they are.)

Also keep in mind a realistic sense of what's possible with kids. You want to travel? I have friends who have gone on a week long tropical vacation every year since they had kids - they leave the kids for a week with the grandparents and go off to Costa Rica or Hawaii or whatever. (Not to say kids change nothing, but just to say - you aren't signing on for "never spending alone time with my wife ever again".)

You feel like you can't talk frankly with the people in your life about this feeling. This is a terrible feeling, I'm sorry you are in this position. To me, that's the thing that recommends a therapist - or maybe a clergyman? - above all. You can't talk to anyone else about it. A good therapist will listen to you, and will hep you try to figure out a way forward. The way forward has to be, as you recognize, a mental change -- a way for you to come to terms with the change that is coming. Not that you need to be thrilled, but a way for you to feel okay and like you can keep moving, doing what needs to be done, etc, rather than feeling dread and powerlessness. Those are terrible feelings, and you deserve an outlet where you can talk honestly about them.
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:42 PM on May 16, 2011 [4 favorites]

Dude, you are obsessing about your feelings way too much. Your anxiety and doubt is not the problem here - they are perfectly normal feelings to have - but you are hung up on them to an unhealthy degree.

Nthing all the other suggestions that real interaction with a therapist may help you immensely.
posted by gnutron at 9:49 PM on May 16, 2011 [3 favorites]

I am a very happy dad of two kids, ages 4 months and 2 years. I didn't feel anything at the ultrasound (although I was generally excited about the prospect). I didn't feel that sense of joy until my boy was actually born. And then when my wife was pregnant with the second one, once again, I wasn't super excited about it until about 10 seconds after my wife gave birth.

So give it time, get counseling, and stop obsessing. You'll get there.
posted by Happydaz at 9:53 PM on May 16, 2011

I think it is really normal to feel some of the things you are feeling, in fact I think it is universal to have some fears and worries. I honestly believe we need those nine months of pregnancy to help prepare us for baby time, because, yes, it is a big deal.

Okay. So you are feeling trapped and mourning the picture of a childless life you had formed in your mind. That's perfectly understandable, because that vision you have of childless you is incredibly romanticized.

The reality of your being childless would not be this endless fun time that you think it would be. If your wife hadn't gotten pregnant when she did, do you think she would have just been fine with that and given up on trying altogether? No.

Your wife really wants children, and if she couldn't have any, she would have been very unhappy. And you love her, so you would be unhappy, too, seeing her that way. And so maybe you would adopt, to make her happy. You'd still have a child, just not one that is biologically yours.

Or maybe instead of adoption you'd go through in vitro and fertility treatments, and those are expensive and very hard on a woman, and you'd be going through all that stress with her. You might go through months of her being emotionally devastated as she realized she still wasn't pregnant, before she finally conceived.

Which would still land you here, in exactly the same place, with your wife expecting your baby. Unless of course she was pregnant with *multiple* babies, which is common with fertility treatments. So you are already better off than that scenario.

What I'm getting at here is that you need to look at this picture realistically. And you really aren't; you are looking at some imagined perfect childless scenario and comparing it to the worst possible outcome of becoming a parent. Which, to you, seems to be this life where you never sleep or never have sex, you get deeply into debt and everyone is judging you.

But you become the parent you want to be by focusing on that goal. If you and your wife talk about this, the two of you can work together to mitigate all those fears.

My husband and I, to give you a data point, didn't wait six weeks after the baby was born before we had sex--only a couple. And my husband got his sleep because when I heard our son cry I would go and feed him and change him and then come back to bed after putting him down again in the nursery (I'd sleep when the baby slept). We spent some money, but you find that babies don't really *need* very much; you can economize if you keep your head. Your friends, who have children themselves, are much likelier to be supportive and empathetic than judgmental of your parenting.

Which reminds me--when people text you, excited to hear the news of the birth, all you have to reply is, "Thank you!" If they can tell you aren't excited from texts, you are being way too specific with them, and that's where all that "judgment" you are seeing is coming from.

Also, I really think it would help you if you stopped using references like "it" or "the baby." This child is YOURS. Your joint project together! Your baby is literally you and your wife put together.

The wife you love so much? You will see her reflected in your child--it could be his eyes, or his mannerisms, or his smile that will be just like your wife's! And you fell in love with her.

Maybe remembering that will help you, too.
posted by misha at 10:30 PM on May 16, 2011 [3 favorites]

You ain't never gonna be happy because you force yourself to be happy. Don't work that way. Based on what you wrote in both q's, I do not think there is anything you can do to be happy about the baby before it is born. Maybe there is an off chance that you focus on your wife's joy and you are happy for her, but not so much junior. I do think there is a chance after baby is born you slowly come around to being happy. There is a lot of pressure on you, much of it self imposed, to be a good father and a perfect loving husband building that nuclear family.

For me, I was very apprehensive before our first was born. Really did not want a boy. Too much pressure for the little shooter to be like Pop Gunn. It was really all in my head. Wanted to make up for some of my dad's many short comings in my relationship with my future son. But, we had a girl first. I never had any sisters so I had no idea what the heck I was doing. I had had a very long relationship before I met and married my then wife. So not a lot of varied experiences with the females. With no pressure and knowing that this was the baby's first time too and that she had no idea what was right or wrong from us, I relaxed and fell into being a proud father wanting to do all the things with her. I volunteered to change diapers, I was willing to pace the halls with her when she was inconsolable.

We had another child 16 months later that was a boy. By then I was so caught up in being a dad and husband and business guy that I relaxed and decided to let my new son determine what he wanted in our relationship. It turned out he looked a LOT like me and that was more pressure. But, he is a joy. Had another 12 months after that and life became too busy with 3 in diapers and only one walking to even care about anything other than the daily things you do like feeding and going to the playground, etc.

I really thought I loved all three from an early age, and I did. But my relationship changed significantly in the last 2 or 3 years now that they are teenagers. I can relate to them more as friends than responsibilities. I let them make their own mistakes. I hang out and watch Yankee games with my daughter. I practice lacrosse face0offs with my older son which is more like papa bear and baby bear wrestling and testing each other's limits. My younger son is my music partner. I go with him to all sorts of concerts I like. Just heard a jam band last week I had nor heard before and we are going to see Tea Leaf Green in June in NYC.

My point is that your relationship with your child(ren) is not static. It will be dynamic, changing subtly but when you step back there will be big changes. As for happy, you will be as happy as you are willing to be dealing with your lot in life whether that is as a father or in a job that sucks or living the life of Reilly on a beach somewhere. It is what it is and if you don't learn to appreciate it and make the most of it, it will eventually defeat you.

Good luck.

(I can't resist, so...Don't worry, be happy.)
posted by JohnnyGunn at 10:31 PM on May 16, 2011 [3 favorites]

You need help, and you're impacting more than just yourself by your refusal to get it. I can almost guarantee that all this doom and terror and bitterness you feel is making your wife's life harder right now. And if this fear (and whatever bigger thing lies behind it, and whatever it turns into) impacts your parenting, then you'll be making the kid's life harder, too, by neglecting to address it.

I do have a lot of sympathy for you. I've seen several people go through this adjustment. But just like how most people get their wisdom teeth out but only some people's surgery ends up having complications, you're having some complications here. I think the time has come to recognize you need to get professional help to address this, and to do otherwise would be irresponsible.

It's like being sick. At a certain point, you say, "ok, I feel like shit, but this is getting worse, and I've got to drag myself to the doctor." If you don't, others end up having to take care of you. Not pursuing therapy is like being the macho dumbass who's like "nothing's wrong with my arm, and what do those doctors know anyhow?" all the while his broken arm develops gangrene, leaving him incapacitated, needing protection, and unable to help his post-apocalyptic tribe fight the zombies (or whatever).

I recommend you get help so that you feel better. But you say that doctors can't help, and that you want to gut out the pain and lie here drinking homeopathic tonics until your appendix explodes. I'd support you in that choice under some circumstances, but in these circumstances, your wife needs you healthy.

If for no other reason than your love for your wife, go get yourself help so that she doesn't feel responsibility for helping you in your unhappiness, on top of everything else she's dealing with. I think that's what the crying means, in part: "I cannot be the primary person to help you with this." You clearly need help, so go get it so that there's one less thing she needs to worry about, and so that you then have health and strength so she can lean on you.

I don't mean to be super-harsh here, and I may be overstating the case a bit. Most likely, it isn't appendicitis you're dealing with, but something that will heal on its own or come and go chronically. But it does seem clear that you're freaking out here and that it's been going on for awhile. It also seems like you lack a good understanding of what's behind all this for you, and tools for addressing it. That understanding and those tools would be very useful in future would-be freakouts. So even if what's going on now is not quite as bad as I'm portraying it, if it's less like appendicitis and more like asthma, it would still help to be checked out and get an inhaler.
posted by salvia at 11:01 PM on May 16, 2011 [6 favorites]

I can't talk to my wife, since every time we've tried talking about this she starts to cry and I don't like her being upset; it breaks my heart.

I want to second what salvia says about your wife's pain -- she's crying because she knows you're miserable, and also because she knows she can't be the one to help you or carry your pain or magically make it go away (and not just because she has Other Major Things on her mind right now*), and that on top of that you are refusing to seek help. And all of that breaks her heart.

Just because you stop talking about it and she stops crying in front of you doesn't mean she stops being in pain about this every day. If your heart really breaks for her, then do something to help her and do whatever it takes to get help for yourself. I guarantee you that next to your child being born healthy, this is the the single thing she wants most in the entire world right now.

*question: could part of what is so upsetting be not so much the fear that you won't love your child, but the fear that your wife will love your child more (or at least differently) than she loves you? In other words, is it possible that your baby represents the fact that very soon you will no longer be the exclusive center of your wife's energy and affection, and/or that you won't be the most important person in the world to her anymore?
posted by scody at 11:55 PM on May 16, 2011 [8 favorites]

Best advice I ever received when I was in your situation: "Hanging out with kids is fucking GREAT! You get to be a total kid again, and do all kinds of fun kid stuff, only nobody will judge you for being silly & goofy. In fact, they'll think what an awesome dad you are. And the sillier you are, the better it gets!"

Best advice I would give: don't care if you don't feel zings of love or excitement at any particular point (scans, birth, whenever). Your emotions don't have to run according to anybody else's schedule. They'll probably come sooner or later, either gradually or suddenly, and if not, then you can always re-evaluate your options then - meaning, let's say at least until you've given the kid time to be able to talk a bit, for example.

Best thing I did: realising that the "trapped" feeling is just a kind of mourning for an ostensibly "free" bachelor style of life. I sat down & worked out what I might be mourning, and admitted I had no real desire to build a yacht or move to Berlin or climb K2, or else I would've done those long ago. Same for any other idea of "freedom" that a guy might have held, whether that meant sleeping around or going out every night or selling everything & joining a monastery or becoming a ski instructor or whatever.

The one exception was that I still love to travel, so at 2 months we took lil ubu on a 2-week road trip, and at 4 months it was off to Indonesia for a month & a half. That quenched my fears that I wouldn't be able to travel anymore, and that was it.
posted by UbuRoivas at 12:18 AM on May 17, 2011 [3 favorites]

You feel trapped, as if you're losing your freedom?

Hey, most people I know feel that way about being married/having kids/having a career/having to actually be some place at a designated time. So, first off, you're not on your own there. People don't like feeling trapped and one way or another people are. The solution is to not have anything to do with anyone ever - and then you're trapped on your own which is even worse.

Secondly, if you are having angst about OMG Baby Stuff and how you're just not feeling it, remember, you don't actually have to buy into that OMG Baby Stuff - you can just love your baby, m'kay? There is no law that says, you shall go positively giddy over pastels and baby clothes and post it all on Facebook. Now, if that's what your SO wants to do, fine, but YOU don't have to. You don't have to belong to the Cult of Baby to be a good father. You can in fact be grumpy at the Cult of Baby - that's perfectly okay (and IMO very very acceptable)!

Thirdly, you love your wife. And this is your issue, so you need to resolve your issue independently. Don't talk to her about it. Don't take up drinking/drugs/have an affair (which is what MOST people do). Instead, go to counselling. It doesn't have to be forever, just go work through it.

Because this is the thing - if you love your wife as much as you say you do, this IS something you can work through - but only YOU can do that - and if you love your wife as much as you say you do, then you have it within you to be a great father to that child.
posted by mleigh at 1:23 AM on May 17, 2011

we worked out I was in mourning for the life I had and the childless life I wanted to lead. Nice to know, but not really a way forward.

It's not a way forward because you can't imagine Future You With Kid. It's a sealed box with a big nothing inside it, surrounded on all sides with added responsibility, the loss of freedom, your wife's now-divided attentions and plenty of the unadorned work of cleaning up poo on two hour's sleep.

Sounds like a blast.

No matter what, you can't see inside that box no matter how hard you stare at it or how hard you think about it because it's going to be opened when it gets opened and that's it.

Maybe you'll go all moony in the delivery room, and maybe you'll go all moony when the kid takes his first steps, maybe you'll never be a moony guy but ordinary child-love will eventually creep up on you, but between then and now you just need to fake it till you make it and not beat yourself up about it. I'm a *mom* and it took me a long time to truly feel attached, and let me tell you, in the grand tradition of things not to talk about, that's pretty high up there.

You don't know this kid yet, you don't know the person your wife will be, you don't know the person you're going to be (did College You you know Current You?), you don't know what you'll be like as a couple or a family. All you can think about is stuff you're losing, but you're losing stuff (and gaining stuff) all your life and it's being replaced by something new and unforeseen. It happens all the time, you're just having a hard time with this particular thing.

For a while, I think you just need to be along for the ride.

Also, keep an eye out for PPD in your wife after delivery--Google it, know the signs, make sure she gets to a doctor if she has any issues. Your ambivalence might make her reluctant to talk about her own misgivings and she may need extra support.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 2:02 AM on May 17, 2011 [4 favorites]

I think I was in your wife's position: pregnant and with a partner who wasn't so certain about having a baby. Like, really not certain.

I'd have all these exciting experiences, and he just didn't feel it. The ultrasounds, the kicks. He thought the baby clothes I was buying were cute, but that was about it.

Still, he did his duty (picking up change tables, accompanying me to doctors appointments), because we were (are) in love. But all the time I knew it was just his 'duty'. Not anything he was excited about.

Now? The looks of love on his face when he looks at our baby sometimes bring tears to my eyes, and always make me smile. Earlier today when I first read this question, I asked him when he first loved our baby - if there was a 'moment'. He couldn't find one.

I know it was after the birth, but I don't when. It just happened.

Also - our relationship is as strong, if not stronger since the birth. The love isn't divided between father and son, it's just strengthened between all of us.
posted by skauskas at 2:53 AM on May 17, 2011

(Disclaimer about emotional or physical violence in your childhood that is causing you to have this reaction.)

You know, your "feelings" could be, well, wrong. Because I'm here to say: Worrying is for shite. Did you every worry through every single detail of some event or pending something, have it happen and find that is completely not the thing you were worrying about at all? That it was basically a whole other thing you should have been worrying about or looking forward to? I'd venture to say that happens almost every damn time. Worrying is a time, energy and LOVE suck. All of these feelings you are so tuned into are telling you to close off a path to love, more love.

The you a year from now may be a very different you from today, and that's a very good thing and as it should be (and may have been the case, anyway, baby or no baby). You are not rooted to this (whirling in place) spot by your feelings, man. You just aren't. There are myriad moments, challenges, triumphs, paths, opening and closing doors that will occur for you (and your wife!) that will, one hopes, expand your world. Baby's part of it, but not the only thing driving.

Right now, you are locking yourself out of all that. Meds can help, even in the short term, to break up the "feelings" propaganda. And of course, taking a look at your own "beginnings" via your own parents; IANAT, but I bet you're probably following that blueprint pretty closely.

Oh, and remember, you were cool for a year and a half of trying -- this is cold feet. You gotta go through. And please, get your very best game face on for your wife.

There is joy in your very near future. Let it come.
posted by thinkpiece at 2:53 AM on May 17, 2011

When you are facing an unacceptable situation you have three options:
1. Change the situation.
2. Get away from it.
3. Change the way you feel about it.

People are suggesting therapy as a way to accomplish the third solution and you think you already know that it won't work. Please consider that perhaps you are wrong.

Watch Jimmy Stewart in "It's a Wonderful Life." It's a ridiculous movie from the perspective of the twenty-first century but it is all about a man feeling trapped by love and babies and money problems.

You've already decided you love your wife but you don't even know this baby yet, so how can you have any idea whether you're going to love it or not? I think it's fair to quit asking whether you're going to love the baby and start work on some of the stuff you can figure out with a little help. Such as, how do you help your wife; how do you handle the money worries; what are you so angry about and afraid of. Then get some help figuring out those things. That's what "man up" means. It doesn't mean "shut up and suffer."
posted by Anitanola at 3:34 AM on May 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Calling a hotline does bot equal seeking counseling. Please revisit my comment in the previous thread that addresses your belief about therapy being 'just talking.'

I adhere to that stance just as strongly now as I did then.

Your wife and child need you to set a good example for how to deal with emotional health. You are currently experiencing emotions that you wish to deal with in a manner that you are currently unequiped for. Real therapy with a compatible therapist (who that is will naturally vary from person to person) can allow you to practice a variety of skills.

Personally, I suggest DBT because it focuses on mindfulness of the present in addition to skill building.

This is important because the baby isn't here yet. Your childless life is not dead, so it would be good to cone back to what is here now. Because tomorrow is absolutely unknowable (sure, we guess based on past performance, but you know what they say about that in investment scheme ads) and all you really have is right now.

The sooner you get the tools to help you be here now the easier it will be for your wife to seek those skills in the event that she needs them. PPD kills people, and socially (if not physically) blocking her access to therapy by insisting that it's useless would be a cruel turnabout.
posted by bilabial at 3:45 AM on May 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

Perhaps it would help to think of it as: you're basically getting a tiny squealing roommate. Just be polite.
posted by vitabellosi at 3:46 AM on May 17, 2011

So many great comments here, I hope you are comforted and can move ahead. I wanted to amplify what skauskas said: Love doesn't divide you if you are doing it right; it expands you. Maybe your fear lies therein, maybe that had not been your experience as a child yourself. But you may be safe now -- judging by how you talk about your marriage -- and need to be released from some old churn that has come to grip you. Use whatever means you can to get help breaking that grip.
posted by thinkpiece at 4:46 AM on May 17, 2011

Have you considered having a funeral for your old life? Seriously. Get it over with, declare a rite of passage. Have a good Finnegan's Wake for it. The time for the childless is over, let's say some nice words about it. Its time to drink to the trips that will never happen, the advanced degree you wont get to have, the holidays without toys, and the nghts with a fearful twelve hours of sleep. We here shall miss your old life well. We wil miss your non-money problems, your life on the social scene, and most importantly, your self obsession. Your old life died in misery, with the impending doom it so desperately did not want, namely the responsibility, the externally approachable love, and an assortment of dirty diapers. I think we can all drink to that!

On a more positive note, the feelings of doubt, resentment, impending doom, and narcisim are potentially survived by feelings of inadequacy as a provider. In time, these problems may one day rear their head as the psychological focus, but for now, they will need to be nurtured. Like a baby. Like the baby. That you are having.

Ladies and Gentlemen, raise your glasses to the last vestiges of this man's former life.
posted by Nanukthedog at 5:07 AM on May 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

I have posted many times on the green about the difficulty I had "bonding" with the child I was carrying. I get it. But you really do have to man up here and get yourself in counseling. You love your wife and do not want to get a divorce. What makes you think that if you do not get this handled that she won't eventually divorce you?

I have friends that recently adopted a child. The husband immediately started spiraling into a depression and panic attacks (not about the kid, but about other deep issues that the new presence of the kid just happened to trigger). He went away for 3 month of therapy just 2 weeks after they got their daughter. The wife, although admittedly disappointed at this unexpected turn of events, was just happy that she was married to a man who would address his own stuff and not hobble forward unhappily. She simply didn't have the time, ability or energy to mother them both.

Don't hobble along unhappily. Get to therapy and address your feelings. Do it for your wife, your unborn child and mostly for you. Nobody will fault you for seeking help but many will fault you for avoiding it.
posted by murrey at 5:56 AM on May 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


Take a deep breath. Right now. Seriously. Inhale. Slowly. Slowly. Slowly.

Exhale. Slowly. Slowly. Slowly.

You better have done it because it sound like you are so tensed up that you're not even breathing any more, so step back, take that breath I just asked you to take and then a few more. Allow yourself a moment to engage in a really basic need for a few minutes.

All done?


Your feelings are valid, whatever they may be. It really is okay to feel the way you feel. But what struck me about your post is the complete hopelessness in it. You'll never ever love your child? Ever? In the 50+ years (knock on wood) you'll have this child in your life? Dude.

Remember when you were 14, 15, 16, 17, and you never ever ever ever ever ever thought anyone would ever love you and you'd never have a date and that girl you were crushing on would never know you're alive or couldn't care any less if you were dead and IT'S THE END OF THE WORLD BECAUSE I'M NEVER GOING TO BE HAPPY EVER?

You sound kinda like that right now. I don't mean that you sound like a teenager. I mean that you sound like how many felt for a lot of their teen years. You sound hopeless about love.

But this particular love isn't romantic. It's love for your child that you feel hopeless about feeling.

And you haven't even given the kid a chance yet. Being afraid, being scared, worried about loving your kid --- these are all normal feelings for all parents of all sorts. But for you, it really sounds like your world is going to crash down the instant the baby is born because you can't imagine it could be any other way.

But 10 or 15 years ago before you met, dated, or married your wife, did you imagine her? Did you ever think you would ever love someone so much as you love her? So much so that you want her even though you don't want this baby right now? You love her so much that you're having this baby with her despite your uncertainties and your fears. I really don't think that, well before you met your wife, you even knew yourself that you had this much capacity for love.

So, give yourself a break. And the benefit of the doubt for a little while. Feel your feelings. Worry your worries. But then let yourself breathe and realize that you haven't given the kid a chance yet. Meet the kid before you make any decisions about loving him or her. Let the kid at least get out of the newborn phase before you give up on the possibility of loving the child. And allow for the possibility that that immense love that you have for your wife can grow and encompass your child --- imagine that maybe, just maybe after watching your wife labor, after seeing your child born, maybe you'll have an even greater love for your wife that there's no way that love for her can't spill over into the child.

I don't know if this is what will happen for you. But I know you have got to let yourself give yourself a chance at this. You are so convinced that you're going to fail, but you haven't even started yet. Take the risk. Take the risk you took when you proposed to your wife. Take the risk you took when you told her you loved her. Take the risk. Take the risk that maybe, just maybe, you'll kinda like this child someday. Take the risk and give all of you the chance at that possibility.

You love your wife so much that I can only imagine you'll be amazed at how amazing your life as a small family will be.
posted by zizzle at 6:08 AM on May 17, 2011 [7 favorites]

Hey, anonymous. memail/email me, just to let me know where I can send you my thoughts on being the cynical, reluctant parent. I read through both posts, I understand you perfectly and I especially understand he shame you're feeling. I understand it so well that I can't even read the thread to form an opinion about the advice that's been given and I'm not comfortable making public my thoughts and recollections about it. But I have insight that I think you can use.

I could tell you that despite empathizing with how you're feeling at the point that you're at, I now can't believe that I ever felt the way that I did. But I don't think that I was open to believing that (or even wanted to hear it) at the time. And if your experience mirrors mine, you've got a ways to go. Anyway, please contact me.
posted by Mayor Curley at 6:14 AM on May 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Just wanted to add that you don't even know this kid yet. For many of us, as I think (hope) you're seeing, the abstraction of "baby" isn't really as compelling as the person who will be 'Lil Anonymous.

You'll have shared jokes with the kid, secrets, they'll have a personality, stuff they're good at, stuff they suck at. It's an actual person out there. Right now, it's an abstraction, but someday it'll be a creature you can talk to and who'll have preferences and who'll be an entity you can reckon with, outside of your own internal questioning of yourself, with a name and a favorite hat and a particular laugh and everything.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 6:21 AM on May 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best thing I did: realising that the "trapped" feeling is just a kind of mourning for an ostensibly "free" bachelor style of life. I sat down & worked out what I might be mourning, and admitted I had no real desire to build a yacht or move to Berlin or climb K2, or else I would've done those long ago. Same for any other idea of "freedom" that a guy might have held, whether that meant sleeping around or going out every night or selling everything & joining a monastery or becoming a ski instructor or whatever.

I think this is very sage advice. Try to separate your feelings about being trapped away from your feelings about the kid. Two different things, really. The kid is just a milestone that is reminding you of the things you haven't done, and probably never were going to do anyway.

Yes, it will be a couple of years of hard, emotionally draining work. You are having anxiety about this, and that's natural. But like any tough job, you just have to power through it. Arrange with your wife to give each other breaks, on whatever scale seems necessary. The "kid as permanent accessory" idea is only a lifestyle choice.

My favorite times as a youth were just tagging along with my dad (and grandparents) while they did their adult things.
posted by gjc at 6:36 AM on May 17, 2011

Assuming your wife is allowed unsupervised access to telephones, transportation, and the outside world, you can't be so sure divorce is not a possible outcome. Surely by now she's already stopping once or twice a week, maybe once or twice a day, and wondering if today's the day you empty the bank accounts and your side of the bathroom counter.

People here aren't recommending therapy over and over again because they're hoping to get a referral bonus. Maybe you won't go for the same reason a lot of people are afraid of the dentist, you're afraid you'll be shamed when you already feel so bad. Ignoring that that's not how it works, it would be a terrible business practice, but also that's not how it works. And in case you're like my mother who believes that going to therapy somehow is put on your "permanent record" and marks you forever as a weak person: it doesn't. You can pay cash if it makes you feel better. It just seems like *somebody* is going to end up in the therapist's office eventually, either you, your wife, and/or your child, and it seems like the right thing to do here would be for you to take the hit. A good therapist will give you tools for handling these feelings, things you can use ongoing as a husband and father and person who has a right to be happy and also an obligation to make other people happy.

Maybe start by talking to Mayor Curley, though? That seems like an opportunity you shouldn't pass up.
posted by Lyn Never at 6:45 AM on May 17, 2011

You're trapped because you think your'e trapped.

Ever see that scene in Moonstruck? You know SNAP OUT OF IT!

I wanted a baby very badly then the fears kicked in, similar to yours.

1. I was going to mess it up since I came from a very dysfunctional family.
2. I didn't know how to take care of a baby. Only child syndrome/never been around kids/babies.
3. There goes money. We are living check to check now and I'm Miss Stable Income/Benefit Provider.

So here is what happened.

1. I KNOW I am the best damned mother I can be and love my son beyond words. Why? Because I know what it feels on the other side. I know what dysfunction can do. So I don't do it.

2. Taking care of a baby. You'll get it and no, you won't drop it.

3. Money. Honestly? The only drawback is the childcare. Special formula at $100 every two weeks (he was sick)---meh. Temporary. Clothes--2nd hand, donations, thrift, hell even new at Kohls is like $3-4 a pop. Kids don't need fancy Macy's clothes. We had money problems before the baby, we have money issues now. It's not the baby's fault and in reality, he didn't add a huge ding to us anyway. Our stupidity/bad money management kills us.


I would seriously seek therapy either alone or together. Your feelings going unresolved will affect your marriage because you two are on the opposite plane of existance with this kid.

I wouldn't overly worry about your unconventional way of thinking. Plus you could scale back on it once you see how it affects others. You may be fine with the kid swearing but parents aren't going to want your kid hanging with them if he's saying 'fuck' around them. And this will reflect YOU, not your kid--which I think is part of the issue.

My husband still has the touch of the selfishness when it comes to our kid. I know he loves him. I just see him struggle with sacrificing for the kid. And you know, that's him. So I take over. It's just the way it is. Your wife may do the same. But I think relying on that is a shame and a burden to her. Discuss your feelings with someone. Bottling it up will only make resentment. And resentment will kill ANY relationship you will have.

BUT I will say this. I've seen people not be into their kid (and their marriage--separate issue). And to me, I think they should polietely, respectfully admit it and bail. If you cannot get over being a parent, role model, and something positive to this child, bail. Staying will only make this kid overcompensate for your (unwanted) love and you know, that's just shitty on your end. A friend of our's husband is all into coke, cars, boobs, babes, boats, money, partying. He looks uncomfortable holding that kid. He never takes the kid out. He works 24/7 to avoid the kid (and her). And you know, he had some nerve to fight tooth and nail for the kid when she was going to leave him. WHY? He would be more of a man if he said "you know, I care about our son as a person and not to hurt him, I'll pay the child support and be there on birthdays." And then just sign the paperwork.

She's an excellent mom. So to me, she should raise a kid in a home of love and help him through this "my dad bailed because of me" feeling when in reality the guy bailed becasue of himself.
posted by stormpooper at 6:52 AM on May 17, 2011 [4 favorites]

The thing that strikes me is that all your hand-wringing and panicking and hating is about something that has yet to happen, and about which you have no idea how you will truly feel. Why don't you give yourself permission to see how it goes when it's real, and then decide whether there's a problem? Because the fact is, buddy, it's happening, and no amount of naval-gazing or teeth-gnashing is going to stop it. Enjoy the last few months of pre-baby life, then decide how you feel about post-baby life when it actually comes. But remember that we're not guaranteed any particular kind of life -- each person's life is what it is at all moments, no more and no less. Instead of pining for a fictitious life that doesn't exist, you have to find a way to deal with what does.
posted by pardonyou? at 7:04 AM on May 17, 2011

I'm confused about what you are after here.

Why don't you want a kid? Previously you mentioned because you might screw them up and you won't have sex with your wife for a few months.

The sex thing - well, it could be a week to a few months. But, even if you don't have a kid, after years of marriage, that tends to stretch out itself, anyway. Having a kid has nothing to do with your sex life.

Is it because you think you'll screw up your kid? We all screw up our kids. We say we won't, we'll know better than our parents, etc.. but we all are screwed up in one way or another.

Money? Kids with no money grow up just fine - and many times have a better appreciation for life than those that get everything. A child just needs a family that supports, feeds and clothes them. Being there when it's needed is more important than having money, or evn a home if it came to that.

You're beating around the bush about what is the real issue.

As for the feeling of not being excited.. I don't know you, or your personality. Maybe you're one of those people that don't get excited over certain things. Some evnts are just events that happen. I was never all cigars and parties when I found out about my wife's pregancies. But I didn't attach a sense of doom like you are.

I don't like other people's babies. Don't hand them to me. And I tend to lapse into periods of emotional detachment. But my 3 boys and my wife I would do anything for. I get angry with them and yell at them. I've probably screwed them up by becoming frustrated and demeaning them for some reason or another at points and times. I find the first 18 months frustrating because they don't respond rationally - just cry, crap and eat.

But then there were moments of awe. They surprise me day to day more often than they are frustrating. I went into having kids somewhat detached and 'eh', but I wouldn't give them up now for anything, and I'll go to the ends of the world for them and my wife.

And what about your wife? this must be stressing her out - whatever face you're putting on definitely doesn't hide the fact that she's in this alone, and I'm sure she feels that way.

Again - you're beating around the bush about something. You're forcing yourself to be depressed and holding onto this cloud of doom, and I can't see how any of the answers here are ever going to get you to lift and change that.

I'm a self-involved, detached, selfish asshat. And dude, I still can't figure out where you're coming from. You need to dig deeper. Is it your own childhood? Your relationship with your parents? The state of the world today? I don't care *how* you feel.. I'm wondering *why* you feel that way.
posted by rich at 7:06 AM on May 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Having the baby out there in the world and not just dealing with it as an abstraction makes an enormous difference to one's state of mind. And they're not babies for very long at all. Also, distinct personalities are evident from a surprisingly early age. This will be a person that you'll be able to forge a path with.

I agree with all the advice above about the importance of your actions as opposed to your feelings when it comes to how you actually deal with the fact that there is another person about to be introduced to your household. The likelihood is that having been there from the very beginning you'll find many reasons to really enjoy the company of this person.

This may come across as patronising (I certainly thought it was when I was having an interesting time and someone said it to me and yet here I am all these years later about to say it myself because it's true) but you have to allow yourself the possibility that the scenario you have built up in your head has been blown out of all proportion because it is just a fantasy. It is not reality. It hasn't happened yet. It may seem completely logical to believe that how you feel now is how you're always going to feel but that's rarely true.

It would be useless to try and fake some kind of excitement when you're actually full of doubt. That makes things difficult at the moment, I'm sure. I'd just ask that you open up the possibility that you could be wrong about how you might feel in the future, and don't be worried about being some kind of secret hypocrite if your feelings do change.

If your feelings don't change then you're just going to have to do your best and remember that the kid had no say in their existence and that they shouldn't be made to pay for it.
posted by h00py at 7:32 AM on May 17, 2011

I can totally understand your frustration, and I think a lot of people are missing the fact that you don't want to be a parent. A lot of people don't, and that might not change, even after the baby is born.

I do think you should definitely reconsider getting some professional help. You and your wife could have the best relationship in the world, but if you can't talk to her about not wanting to be a father, life is not going to get any easier for you.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:47 AM on May 17, 2011

"No way out. That's the thing. I've done some more thinking since I asked that initial question and I realise I feel trapped. My wife is having a kid that I don't want and I'm afraid I may never love... that I may even grow to resent. I feel like my opinion and my feeling don't matter and that I have no real say in what happens from here on in. The only way out would be for us to seperate, which I don't want to have happen, since I love her more than anything in the world. I take my wedding vows seriously. I just have to suck it up, I know, but that makes me feel, well, trapped."

Look, you need to take some responsibility. You aren't trapped - you AGREED to start trying for a baby, which usually results in having a baby. Have some agency in your situation. This is something you worked for.

Now you have to keep working for it. If you don't you will alienate and lose your wife. Go to therapy.

Not every guy has a dadgasm the second they find out their having a kid or even the second the kid's born. That's really fine. Once teh kid is born, the sun still rises, you'll probably have the same job, and your life will carry on as usual. Now you will just need to work towards providing a loving and nurturing home for your baby. That doesn't mean you need to spend every saturday at Wiggles concerts or never use the f word at the dinner table ever again, or whatever wonderful aspects of your life you think are going to disappear. If you can't roll with the punches and accept the fact that you're having a baby that you will love and provide for with your wife that you love after INTENTIONALLY TRYING TO HAVE A BABY, then I don't care what you say, you should split up with her and let her find a more mature guy that can make up his mind and cope with his own decisions. Sorry to be so harsh.
posted by WeekendJen at 9:58 AM on May 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

I feel like my opinion and my feeling don't matter and that I have no real say in what happens from here on in.

You are exactly right. You most certainly have zero say in where it goes from here. Life deals us these things.

However, I suggest one thing. Wait until the birth. Find out what will happen before being certain it will be terrible. Because my life experience is that things I think will be great are part great and part crappy and the things I think will be crappy are part crappy and part great. Our emotions before an event are not a predictor of what will happen.

Tough it out. Sex can mean babies at any time. This is how things are.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:21 AM on May 17, 2011

For what it's worth, I think a lot of guys don't really enjoy the pregnancy / first sixth months of parenting. It can be really unsettling to have that meh / trapped feeling, but I think a lot of guys experience it. It wasn't until my kids started to sit up and 'do stuff' that I really started to connect with them. And once that happened, it just started to become awesome. But before that.....meh. Give it time.
posted by jasondigitized at 10:25 AM on May 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

A lot, a whole lot of guys I know were just not "feeling it" when the baby was yet to be born. For many, the only feeling was "shit I'm trapped". And for nearly all of them, a paternal instinct kicked in when they met the baby and it was OK - they changed, and for the better. And wouldn't want to go back.
posted by krilli at 10:51 AM on May 17, 2011

In other words, you can essentially rely on and count on an instinct of paternal love kicking in when you meet the little one, and that this will take care of part of your problem. You will be lifted over the hurdle by some of the most beautiful design nature has put in us.

Then also keep talking about things, and putting good advice into practice the best you can, and you should be fine.
posted by krilli at 10:53 AM on May 17, 2011

I'm pretty sure that seeing a counselor (by yourself) is the closest thing to a magic bullet you're going to find for this problem. Feeling trapped, resentment, fears about the future -- these are things that you can work through with a counselor and they can help you feel better. Way better. Seriously.

You seem to be very resistant to this idea, so I suggest you take a break from stressing about your impending child to think about why you're so resistant to seeing a counselor and how you can overcome that resistance.

This is an obvious (THE obvious) solution to your problem that you are dismissing out of hand.
posted by callmejay at 10:59 AM on May 17, 2011

1. If you are worried about not being able to love your child, remember what M. Scott Peck writes in The Road Less Travelled (an awesome book about love): Love is not a feeling. Love is effort. Love is action. It's not about having mushy warm feelings for a child.

Here's what love looks like:

- giving them what they need (not necessarily what they *want*); as a baby, that means clean diapers, a bath, walking the floor with them when they're crying, food
- being considerate of their feelings
- looking under the bed or in the closet to see if there are ghosts or monsters there when they're scared (and not ridiculing them for wanting you to do that)
- reading to them
- singing to them
- teaching them how to do things so they can be self-reliant
- teaching them manners
- teaching them ethics
- loving their mother and showing them how much you love their mother
- laughing and letting them laugh
- just spending time with them, sometimes taking them with you when you need to do something, sometimes asking them what they'd like to do, and sometimes just hanging out at home
- treat them with the same courtesy you would like to be treated with

Those are some of the basics. You'll think of others.

2. How do you move forward?

- tell yourself that you will take everyone else's advice here and give therapy a 3 month try. That's it, you're not trapped in therapy forever. But give it 3 months. Find a therapist who is a pleasant person who you feel you can trust and work with, and then be honest with him/her about all your feelings, including your reluctance to be there. Then re-evaluate after 3 months.
- give yourself some credit for caring about your child enough to think about all this
- understand that you are not the only one with these feelings
- do you have a spiritual tradition that you could turn to?
- exercise for at least 1/2 hour every day--you can think about this during that time or not, as you like, but exercise
- hug your wife and tell her you love her and you will do whatever it takes to create a happy home for her and your baby
- accept that the baby will be born. You don't have to be all happy about it, but accept it and don't fight it. You're entitled to not be happy. Never, ever fake emotions to yourself--but don't tell the world, either. You don't need the grief from others criticising you for not being excited, because you're right, some won't like it that you're not the stereotypical proud papa. That's *their* problem. When they congratulate you, say simply, "Thank you." Then tell your therapist how you really feel.
- maybe write out your feelings every day in a journal, or, if you hate writing, draw them out. Just get them out of your head/heart/body and on to the page. You might be surprised at how much better you can feel. Also, doing this can help give you guidance as well--you sometimes write your way to an answer for where to go next

Well, that's quite long enough. Good luck--you're strong and caring. You'll do fine.
posted by Amy NM at 12:25 PM on May 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

blah, blah, blah, professional therapy, blah, blah, blah.

Right, with that out of the way....

I've noticed two styles of parenting among my friends.

In the first they are in Babyland: everything is planned around kids, adults lose most of their lives to them and claim to be blissfully happy doing so. And a lot of them are, but among that crowd are spouses who are quietly suffocating and have by necessity stopped all sorts of personal growth.

In the second, kids are along for the ride in an adult adventure. Adult plans come first, and kids are fit into them. I used to have some contempt for this approach, but as I've watched the kids grow up for the last fourteen years I've realized that having functional and happy parents is far more important than what sort of over-involved doting you get.

Now I haven't had kids, but faced with the prospect I can tell you exactly what would happen: I would want take approach number one but in order to preserve my sanity it would be necessary to take approach number two. And that would be it no matter what my baby mama thought of it, because I would rather be a sane parent than a resentful one.

If you want any control in this situation you are going to have to take a similar role. I know you love your wife and would not leave her raising a child alone, but that does *not* mean giving up who you are and what you want in life.

It's a tough situation. Your wife will be disappointed at how "selfish" you are, but you've got to keep the stress at levels that you can reasonably handle.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 12:30 PM on May 17, 2011 [5 favorites]

As many others have said, your fears are normal, probably even standard. But you do seem dead set on holding onto the negative perspective here. Try embracing the fear, and seeing the humor inherent in the situation. Everybody is a shitty parent, kids are natural assholes, life gets ruined all around. But it's also great, and most of the time everyone turns out ok.

Watch some Louie C.K.:

It sounds glib, but you'll probably be a fine dad, and love life as a parent, if you just let yourself.
posted by Zippity Goombah at 12:34 PM on May 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Your wife will be disappointed at how "selfish" you are, but you've got to keep the stress at levels that you can reasonably handle.

This isn't a given; I know several moms who are also taking the second approach (kids are along for the ride, rather than the world revolves around the kids), too.
posted by scody at 1:03 PM on May 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

(that is, they take that approach after the kids are out of infancy/babyhood and don't need to be fed every few hours, etc.)
posted by scody at 1:04 PM on May 17, 2011

I am/was a reluctant parent. Feel free to memail me if you feel like it.
posted by lekvar at 2:01 PM on May 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Well, here are the facts on the ground:

1. You chose to try for a baby.
2. Having achieved one, you have chosen to remain married and committed to your wife.
3. You have chosen to commit to bringing the pregnancy to term.

So, as a result of your decisions and your actions, you have intentionally committed to becoming a parent. I don't say this as a judgment call, I say this to point out that you're not trapped; you are choosing to be this child's father. You could leave! You have that option; you could pick up and move across the country and mail your child support on time. You're not doing that not because you can't, but because you don't want to.

I asked my husband, too. He didn't have the same level of unhappiness as you describe by a long shot, but it did take us a long time to get pregnant, and when I finally did, he did have a certain degree of uncertainty about it. First of all, he suggests a father-oriented parenting class; given that you are going to be this person's father, more information and training never hurts. But after that, he says:

"He should figure out what he can DO in terms of actions rather than feelings. He can support his wife. He can prepare the nursery. He can make sure there are clothes and supplies and things they'll need. He can kid-proof the house. Make himself busy with being part of the experience in the way he can. That gives him control over the things he can control, and it signals to his wife that he's committed to the process. And in doing all the that it might make the reality of the child-to-be more tangible.

He can also, along with all this, plan some alone time and find a way to schedule it into his life-with-baby when it's appropriate. Or some couple time. Make plans for baby-free date night, whatever he needs, whatever his wife needs. That also provides a way to talk to her about this. Pointing out that he wants to make sure that they both have their own personal and couple time separate from baby time, and enlisting her to help build their new lives together. The baby is going to be part of his new life, and he can't control that, but he can take charge of what the rest of his life becomes.

1. Start with figuring out what he needs to do to ensure a place for himself in his new life, whether it's a poker night with the guys or a week a year to do a solo walkabout, or a special hobby room in the house.
2. Then plan for what he and his wife are going to do to remain a couple, talking with her about it.
3. Figure out how to prepare his home for the baby.
4. Figure out what stuff is needed to prepare for the baby>
5. Figure out what tasks have to happen to prepare for the baby. Do those tasks.
6. Support his wife and her material, physical, and emotional needs, with her find a way to take advantage of your childless time now and note the transition to a new life.
7. Realize that the way he feels is OK no matter what, and that no two people have the same reaction.
8. Realize that every parent makes mistakes and that making mistakes is OK. And once you let go of the perfect ideal that you will fall short of, it's easier to accept credit for the things you actually do get right. And without that big burden of binary SUCCESS/FAIL there will be a lot fewer barriers to eventual emotional acceptance."

That's one dad's experience.

What I would add to it is that if you read that list and find yourself resentful and sullen and not wanting to do those things. . . that's something that you need to fix. If you can't fix it by talking to your family or your friends or your pastor, you need to fix it by talking to a therapist. And if you would rather leave it unfixed than talk to a therapist, then you're being selfishly unfair to both your wife and your future child as well as yourself, and you need to have a long sit with yourself and figure out why.
posted by KathrynT at 2:07 PM on May 17, 2011

anon took me up on my offer to write and also wrote me:
Also, if you feel so inclined, you could update the latest thread to let people know that I've scheduled a meeting with a professional counselor. That meeting will happen in a couple of weeks. You can tell them that I did this because while reading the thread and all the answers saying "seek counseling", I realized that one thing I often say to my wife is that I'd do anything for her because I love her, and that by not at least trying counseling I'm technically in violation of that statement. So I'm going, I'm going in with an open mind, and I'm hoping it helps.
posted by Mayor Curley at 4:55 PM on May 17, 2011 [15 favorites]

That is a really wonderful update.
posted by Lyn Never at 5:12 PM on May 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

Anon, good for you! A preparatory word of advice: don't be discouraged if meeting with a counselor doesn't seem like a perfect fit or a magic solution with your first meeting. It can take a while to get into the flow of it, and/or to find the right person you click with. My fingers are crossed for you.
posted by scody at 5:39 PM on May 17, 2011 [5 favorites]

Anon, I am very proud of you. It takes a strong person and a good person to say "hey, this thing that I am holding onto is hurting someone, I had best let go of it." Your family is fortunate to have you.
posted by KathrynT at 6:30 PM on May 17, 2011 [3 favorites]

Great! And not to be picky, but I actually think if you want to do it right, you should schedule with three therapists, though you can stop once you like one of them. It's like speed dating. Research shows that the relationship between the client and therapist plays a big part in determining the outcome, so you want to find someone you like and respect. Maybe you'll get lucky first off, but that hasn't been my experience.

Last time I found a new therapist, I called and briefly chatted with six people, and did met with three, maybe even four. The woman I found this way is excellent. Working with her changed my life. Whereas working with those first couple perfectly nice people would've probably just led to tinkering around the edges of my issues. Putting a little extra time into the research phase will ensure you get the best return possible from your money and time.
posted by salvia at 7:58 PM on May 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

Just want to offer encouragement. From having been in almost your exact position (except I was the one having the baby), I can assure you that it is not only possible but common for you to love your baby but sincerely and with an all-consuming passion HATE being a parent. Parenting sucks. Losing sleep, missing out on friends and events, having to solicit permission from the tag-team parent to take a shower alone, then teething and potty training and discipline - it took until my kid was almost two before I could even imagine why anyone would want to reproduce the first time, much less have multiple children. Your feelings on that subject are completely valid.

But as pointed out, you're a parent whether you want to be or not. If you're anything like me, your desire not to screw up someone who didn't ask to come into this world will override a lot of your ambivalence once the baby's born. And as cliche as it is, as long as you stick around and engage even a little bit, you will eventually look up and realize you're choosing to spend time with the little booger even when you don't have to. And it doesn't mean you have to join The Cult. I will never be one of those women whose identity becomes Mommy-with-a-capital-M. You'll stay you, just you-with-a-baby.

To steal a tagline, It Gets Better.
posted by TallulahBankhead at 9:00 PM on May 17, 2011 [3 favorites]

I was an accident that derailed both my parents' lives. Appalling timing - Dad had just been laid off, Mum only had a part time job. And I was the wrong blood type or something, and it was a really really bad pregnancy, and worse birth.

My existence thoroughly screwed up the Grand Plan.

My brother managed to screw it up even more thoroughly.

I go through photographs of when I was a baby. It's pretty damn obvious that both Mum and Dad were going through the motions for the first little while. Then there is this dawning expression of love and joy in their faces. I'd say it took quite a while - years. But eventually it happened.

You know what? My parents are two of my best friends. I am one of my parent's best friends. They had a hard row to hoe, they set to it, and did a good job with what they had. My family is very close, and there is no doubt that we love each other dearly.

Take heart; it can take time, but it will happen.
posted by ysabet at 1:02 AM on May 18, 2011 [3 favorites]

Anonymous, I have a lot of hope for you. You're showing great courage.

One of the great things about having kids that no one tells you is you can tell them lies, and they'll think you're the smartest person in the world.

One of the other great things about having kids, in my experience, is that no one is as happy to see me or my husband as our son. The way his face lights up when we walk in the door and the way he pounces on us with huge hugs......there is truly nothing like it in the world. The ego boost from that is better than anything else I could imagine.

It may take some time for you to get there, but I have no doubts that you will love your child, in your own way.
posted by zizzle at 6:11 AM on May 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

Anon, I am so glad that you're going to go see someone. I third the advice to make appointments with three or four someones, so that you have a better chance of finding a good fit sooner. (First appointments are often weeks out, so having to wait three weeks between each first appointment is a bummer. If you schedule them all in the same week, you can also remember more of the relationship with the therapist)

You're aware that the changes you want to make will take work, but I think you'll be pleasantly surprised at the return on your investment. Yes, you'll probably have some other things come up, but you'll deal with them. And things will get better.

Good for you. And thanks for updating us through Mayor Curley.
posted by bilabial at 6:27 AM on May 18, 2011

I just wrote to anon, and the bulk of what I wrote I'm not interested in sharing publicly. However, I had some thoughts on the eventual outcome that might be useful perspective if anyone else in a situation like the OP finds themselves wondering about the choice that they made and happens upon this thread. It's diminished by my not sharing the full context, but this is the best that I feel comfortable doing. My apologies if it's flowery or too Hallmark, it's earnest:
No epiphanies. No conscious decisions or meditation or bolts of clarity. She just slowly became a human being, and I could slowly relate to her. She's like me in a lot of ways, and also demonstrates so many of the beautiful traits that I love so much about her mother. I could (still do) re-experience the world through her eyes and without the filter of cynicism that I spread over everything more complex than making a sandwich. My daughter experiences real, earnest joy that I stopped feeling for myself years ago when I learned about society's cruelty, selfishness and false promises. I can look at a flower or a butterfly or a pretty scene and I can enjoy it through her eyes as something simply to be appreciated because it's beautiful, interesting and in the moment instead of a distraction from the thousand things that I'm neglecting. I get a firm hug and an "I love you" and I know that it's a completely earnest expression from someone who reciprocates the love and appreciation that I feel for her. I watch my daughter struggling to puzzle out how the world works by listening to her questions and eavesdropping on her dramatic play with her toys and I'm reminded that life, at its core, is simple and all of this complexity that we as adults struggle with is a construct that we elected to live under; If your basic needs are met then sharing, being kind to each other and having empathy are the base of it and if people love you then you're always safe. My daughter has eventually brought greater joy into my life, both from my appreciation of her and the lost things she brought back to my attention, than I had known since my own childhood.
posted by Mayor Curley at 7:01 AM on May 18, 2011 [10 favorites]

Mayor Curley: thank you so much for sharing that. It's a beautiful example of real, true love, of the reason why we were put on this earth... to know, share, and care for each other. Unfortunately as adults, we forget this, we become betrayed, disappointed, traumatized... How do we heal from this? The answers are different for everyone, but for me it was journalling, therapy, reading self-help books.

OP: It sounds like you were able to connect with some really supportive people here. Yay! I wish you all the best in your journey.
posted by foxjacket at 4:22 PM on May 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

Hey Anon,

Don't know if you are still reading this thread, but if you are, I went through exactly the same thing, a little less intense, and with twins. I'm currently 11 weeks into fatherhood so it's pretty fresh.

I described it to my friends as being a combination of The Matrix and The Cube. The Matrix for the babies, and The Cube for me.

At 11 weeks I would say the nightmare is over, but there are occasional flashbacks.

If you want more details, including how low maintenance babies can be, or just a chat, feel free to memail me.
posted by hifimofo at 1:05 AM on May 20, 2011

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