She looks at me as if I am frightening her. Briefly looking into my eyes before screwing them up tight and wailing. She doesn’t want to be there it seems, in my arms, she won’t accept any comforting that I can give that has worked before. My wife returns from her shower taking her out of my arms. She settles, I leave the house. Cycling on my way to work, I try to look for an answer that rationalises it beyond the thoughts that maybe she doesn’t like me, or that my frustrations rub off on her, or that my lack of knowing what to do is apparent and unsettling to her.
I get home, take her from my wife, spend the next hour bouncing and rocking her on a knife edge. I change hands to get more comfortable and this upsets her. I change direction, and this upsets her. I look down and ask her what’s wrong, and she cries. Real tears now. Each upset takes longer than the last to resolve; to return her to the knife edge. I lay her down and will her to fall asleep so that she doesn’t have to endure me any longer. I want to be there for her, to make it better, to be the dad that she needs, but right now it seems I can’t. My wife takes over, reads the story and puts our angel to sleep. I go downstairs, my head in my hands, trying to look for that answer again.
Not every day is like this, only sometimes, and unfairly it happens to be the times I feel most tired, or stressed. But on these days, when it is like this, it hurts me. I know I shouldn’t, but sometimes I can’t help but feel that there is something that I am doing that makes her upset or grumble, and that sends things spiraling down. Sometimes it does seem like she is happier with my wife. Sometimes it does seem like she is frightened of me, or that my badly concealed mood is affecting her. And so the seeds of doubt in my own abilities begin to grow. Am I cut out to be a dad? Am I cut out to be her dad? To think that you can’t do this; to be this person’s dad, for me, that is the hardest thing about being a new dad.