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Dad confesses: I'm scared I won't love my baby

“I just don’t think I could love him as much,” I told my wife. That was my biggest fear when we were discussing whether or not we should try to have a second child. Not the money stuff; not whether I’d continue staying at home; not whether I’d be able to handle twice as many kids, if I did. Those things would fall into place. We’d figure that stuff out. No biggie. But how could a second child hope to live up to my first? My Penny was special. We had an instant connection, a rare bond from Day One. She was the daddy’s girl I always wanted. How could I love anyone as much as I loved her?

Lots of parents share this concern. I Googled it for this article. (Bam! Researched.) The first thing that popped up was a parent forum with the query from an expectant mother, “wondering how any parent ever loves additional children as much as their first.” This feeling may not be universal, but (based on that Google search and some anecdotal evidence) it seems pretty widespread. How could it not be? Nothing changes your life more than having a baby. That baby becomes your life. Having a second child is a big deal, but not quite as world-shattering. (Though in some ways it’s a tougher decision because you know what you’re getting into.) By definition, number two cannot get ALL of your attention. How can you possibly love him as much as you love her?

Daddy’s Girl

Penny, who is four now, has always had a big personality and a lot of energy. And for the first three years of her life, most of that energy was focused on me. “I waaant my daaaaaddy!!!” she’d cry when my wife Allie got home from a long day of work and of missing her baby girl. The number of times I had to console Allie that “this too shall pass” borders on too-many-to-count. Penny might let mommy read her bedtime stories, but it was always daddy who had to lay in her bed so she could fall asleep.

And, at times, I have to admit that I may have exacerbated the situation. We’d be out and about, all walking together as a family, when Penny would “whisper” to me (when she “whispers,” everyone on the block can hear what she says), “let’s run fast!” I like to run and I’m kind of competitive and I not-so-secretly love sharing these attributes with my daughter. So, hell yeah, I’m runnin’! But mommy’s still walking. (This is the part I’m not too proud of and I’m not sure which one of us started it. I guess probably me.) We’d get a certain distance and start chanting, “we’re too fast and mommy’s too slow!” It was all meant in fun. We’d go back and walk together again…until Penny and I gave each other a nod and the whole scene played out the same way.

Not to say that our relationship was always smooth sailing, easygoing, and “us against the world.” Oh, we fight. I think it’s because I know how smart, mature, and awesome Penny can be that it really annoys the crap out of me when she misbehaves. And, good lord, when she cops an attitude it can drive anyone nuts. (My brothers call it “Pen-itude.” If it has a name, it ain’t exactly a rare occurrence.) But our battles always ended in hugs, with our “bond” seemingly stronger than before.

We’re Having a Baby! No, We’re Not.

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I can’t remember how Allie convinced me that loving a second child as much as I loved Penny was possible, but she must have done it. We got pregnant. I got excited and told my friends. Way too early. We had a miscarriage.

We were heartbroken. But it was different for the both of us. To at least a certain degree, it’s true that women become mothers as soon as they find out they’re pregnant and men become fathers as soon as they see the baby. For me, it was still kind of theoretical at that point. Sad and painful, but in a certain amorphous way. For Allie, it was very real. I don’t think I’ll ever understand the extent of her agony at the time. It lingers to this day.

We still wanted a second child, but we were more trepidatious this time. What if it happened again? We knew couples who had two or three miscarriages before finally having a successful pregnancy, or not. It had been so easy with Penny. The miscarriage really smacked us in the face with how difficult, physically and emotionally, the process could be. If we tried again and failed…Allie didn’t know if she could handle that; I didn’t know if I could watch her struggle again. I felt so helpless after she miscarried, because there was nothing I could do or say to make it better.

After grieving and coming to terms with what happened, we did try again. I felt that the miscarriage was either going to be a major tragedy in our life story or a minor sadness that would be mostly forgotten (especially by me). It all depended on whether or not we were able to conceive again.

Spoiler Alert: Woo Hoo!!!

All of that seems like a lifetime ago. And I guess it was. Not a long lifetime, but that of my one-year-old son Simon. In that time, not only has my daughter totally turned against me (well, not totally…though there is a lot of “girls vs. boys!” now) but I could not possibly imagine our family without our beautiful, amazing, good-natured, curly-haired, absolutely amazing, hilarious little boy. I love him so much it hurts. Just like with Penny. But so different.

 And maybe that’s the key. It seems obvious, but the second child is different from the first. (I’m guessing parents of twins know this from the get-go.) If your kids were the same, of course you couldn’t love the “carbon copy” as much as the “original.” But they’ve got their own personalities, even as babies. And you’re different. So even if they’re pretty darn similar, you’ve changed. So they seem different.

If you’re about to have a second child and you’re worried that you won’t love him as much as your first, let me reassure you…you’re an idiot. But you’re in good company. You are going to love that kid so friggin’ much! And if you don’t believe me, just Google it.

This article has been reposted from The Good Men Project. Other great reads from The Good Men Project include:

Teens and Social Media: One Post Can Last a Lifetime
Why Dads Matter: A Feminist Mom's Perspective
Parenting on a Budget (or Lack Thereof)

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