When my friend Cassy first told me about her husband’s struggle to bond with their infant, I thanked my lucky stars we didn’t have the same problem. Sure, my daughter always preferred me when she was inconsolable, but it wasn’t any kind of toddler behavior like what my friend was going through.
Cassy experienced four months of solid hell, in which her baby wouldn’t be held, played with or even looked at by her husband without it resulting in a screaming fest. Her child wasn’t experiencing colic. Her pediatrician didn’t have a suggestion for her that they hadn’t tried. And Cassy’s husband shares 50/50 in childcare — he actually works away from the home less frequently than she does. Although it let up for a month or so, it picked right back up again.
Then, out of the blue, my daughter started doing the exact same thing.
It hit the breaking point one night when Shaun came home from work. Though he was all smiles from the moment he walked in the door, she wouldn’t look at him. She played and giggled with me, but when Shaun joined us on the floor, she started crying. Later, when she fell and hurt herself, Shaun went to pick her up. Normally, any form of comfort after a fall will at least slow her crying to a sob. Instead, she broke into an all-out wail. Poor Shaun did his best to remain calm, speaking to her in his low, musical voice. She screamed harder and pushed with all her might against his chest to get away.
It wasn’t long before Shaun plopped her down, looked at me stone-faced, and said, “I’m done with her for the night.”
In retrospect, I can’t blame him. But my only thought at the moment was, how dare you? So even though I’ve been caring for her nonstop from seven until five, suddenly it’s all on me for the rest of the night?
If you don’t have a child, this is the best I can explain what it feels like to care for a baby like mine: it’s like being hooked up to an electroshock machine, and every shrill cry is a zap that puts your body into total arrest. You carry the machine around all day, tense and bracing yourself, knowing you’re okay now but at any second you might be zapped again. It has a way of keeping you from ever fully relaxing. And as a SAHM who gets a mere two hours of physical separation from my daughter a week, you may see how this can be quite taxing.