The Chair: How I Learned to Love My Second Child


Enough time has passed that I can share something about which I felt a metric ton of shame — I struggled to bond with Sam after he was born.

And nothing epitomized my struggle more than that goddamned chair.

Like Sam, the chair arrived in our lives last summer after a ton of turmoil. But unlike our little bundle of joy, bringing the chair into our home was not a mutual decision. You see, MJ wanted a comfortable rocking chair to go in the nursery. Nothing crazy, just a rocker made of soft yet durable material next to the crib for those late and sleepless nights. I, on the other hand, thought the room was too small, a chair unnecessary, and spending extra money we didn’t have on a chair we didn’t need was a bad idea.

So naturally we bought the chair.

Then Sam was born. Don’t get me wrong, I loved him. Of course I loved him. It’s just that, well — I loved the idea of him a little more than the 9 pounds of screaming flesh that actually appeared in my arms and my life. After all, Sam came after years of failed pregnancies, heartbreak, an inability to conceive, and finally IVF. We went through hell and back to get him, and in that time I think the mission of getting pregnant, staying pregnant, and completing our family blinded me to the actual realities of living with a newborn.

In short, I freaked out when presented with the day-to-day responsibility of dealing with a baby. The result was feeling resentment toward my child combined with a shame spiral for being so ungrateful.

I could hide it on social media with bright, shiny, happy pictures of a new baby, but when the selfies subsided I was left facing the harsh reality that I was harboring feelings of resentment, apprehension, and confusion regarding Sam. I felt so, SO guilty for it. After all, I bonded with Will instantly. The second I saw him I was entranced in the way that only a first-time parent can be. Everything was new and a novelty, so even when he cried it was somehow cute and endearing.

But when Sam cried it drove me mad. When he had colic, I didn’t know how to deal. When he robbed me of sleep and forced me to get up in the middle of the night, I seethed. And when I had to grudgingly take care of him in the wee hours, it was always while sitting in the friggin chair.

As soon as I sat down to rock him, my internal timer would start. It was like I was sitting on thumbtacks, I couldn’t wait to get out of there. Rocking back and forth and back and forth and back and forth — over and over for what seemed like hours but was only minutes — as Sam wailed away. Why was he so upset? Why was I so upset? Why was I so bad at dealing with him? Why didn’t I feel the same instantaneous and overpowering bond with Sam that I did with Will?

One night I got so frustrated I yelled at him to shut his mouth, and MJ had to come in and take him from me while I was sitting there. Every time I looked at that godforsaken chair I saw my biggest failure.

Usually when I need to work something out I come here and vomit my feelings on the page until either I feel better or you guys have given me the advice I need to improve. But that wasn’t an option for me at the time, because I didn’t have it in me to admit what was wrong. I was ashamed and disappointed in myself. And I knew there was only one way to fix it.

The chair.

One night, when Sam woke up crying, I just resigned myself to the fact that he was going to be up and I was not going to sleep. And that that was OK, because that’s what babies do. So instead of seeing how quickly I could get in and out of there, I did the opposite — I viewed the chair in a different light.

Four miscarriages. That’s what it took to complete our family. Four positive pregnancy tests, four times we told elated family members and friends only to issue a retraction, capped off by a round of soul-sucking IVF. All of that emotional anguish and battling dwindling odds pays off, and suddenly I’m upset?? Hell no.

I’m not sure how I failed to realize it, but that chair isn’t a punishment or a penalty box. After all the shit we endured to have Sam, that chair is the prize. The reward. It is a privilege to sit in that chair because it means we are one of the lucky ones.

So I started holding Sam just to hold him. I held him without regard to how long I’d be there — in fact, time really ceased to exist. I sat in that chair, in the darkness, and held my youngest son to my chest while I sang to him. I relaxed with him, and in turn he responded favorably to me.

I reclined in the chair and put my feet up. Sam turned his head and nuzzled his face into my chest, while his tiny fingers found my thumb and gripped it tight. His little body rising and falling with my breathing helped put everything into focus. And the two of us drifted off to sleep.

Now MJ is jealous that only Dad can get Sam back to bed without giving him a bottle at night. And each time that happens, it’s in the chair. The chair I never wanted, where I learned how to be thankful for what I have and to love my second child.

The only downside is having to admit to my wife I was wrong about the damn chair.

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12 thoughts on “The Chair: How I Learned to Love My Second Child

  1. I have only had one baby who is now 14 years old and while I’m young enough that I still could, I don’t think there are more babies in my future. Sam is such a cutie and I’m so glad you were able to work through your feelings quickly. And from what I can tell, it looks like a nice chair, lol. 🙂
    Angie Bailey recently posted..Be a Crave BloggerMy Profile

  2. A brave admission, but something I think is more common than we talk about. Sometimes we get lost in the sea of anticipation and preparation, and forget what the reality is going to mean. I’m glad you were able to connect and find that bond with your second child. During my pregnancy with my second child, I remember fearing that she would feel like an intruder on our established family. I felt so much guilt over those fears, that I had to snap myself out of it and decide to just let everything fall into whatever place seemed right. 🙂

  3. Reading this brought a tear to my eye, man. Probably because I’ve had the same issue with my second baby. She’s 7-month now and it took me a long time to bond and have the same feelings I did with my first. I’m finally in that great place now, though. I’ve never said it to anyone before, much like you held it in until now. You don’t want to admit it. It hurts. It sucks. And it makes you feel like something is wrong with you. Knowing you aren’t the only one can help a ton. Thanks for sharing, dude.
    Nick recently posted..The Incredible Costs of DaycareMy Profile

  4. You didn’t hide it THAT well. 😉

    Your frustration with him has been obvious to me since Day 1. I would be willing to bet that this frustration is more common than we would believe with parents who struggled to conceive.

    I am lucky that I didn’t struggle with fertility, but I have plenty of friends who did, and there’s always been something that has been in the back of my mind when they finally get their baby. I want to celebrate with them, of course, but I always want to say “OK, he/she is here now, but be prepared for the suckage!” but you aren’t supposed to say that.

    I’m willing to bet that your excitement over a successful pregnancy made the disappointment of the always shitty newborn phase extra EXTRA lame. And I bet that is so common. You’ve fought so hard to get there, and when you get there, it’s awful. Because it ALWAYS is awful!!

    But it doesn’t matter! Sam is here and you love him and you have years ahead that will involve sleep and no screaming and Red Sox and Patriots and all that other Boston crap you talk about. 😉

  5. Nick: Your comment means the world to me because it’s why I ultimately decided to FINALLY hit publish on this (I spent months working up the guts). You’re definitely not alone and judging from the feedback I’m getting from guys today, it’s pretty common. So hang in there and I’m glad you’re in a better place. It’s easy to say “no shame” when you and I know there is A LOT of shame.

    Christi: Yeah, looking back it wasn’t hidden at all. But in my head it was. And I think you’re absolutely right about couples who have trouble conceiving — it makes perfect sense. I just never really put two and two together.
    Daddy Files recently posted..The Chair: How I Learned to Love My Second ChildMy Profile

  6. Great story. Very honest and I think a lot of dads go through this. It’s tough especially when they are crying. I couldn’t imagine what it’s like to have a baby with colic. Like you said, the crying can be maddening. I’m glad you found patience and perspective and embraced the little guy. Seems like you both have bonded now and are probably tighter than ever. Fun times ahead my friend.
    Jeff Stephens recently posted..CDL 007 – Approach Your Tools With Priority and PurposeMy Profile

  7. Well said, Aaron, and you’re right: it’s a lot more common than you’d think.

    My wife and I were very lucky in that we didn’t have much trouble conceiving or bringing either of our boys to term–and we’re very thankful for that. However, neither of them were good sleepers for the first year+ (the second is just over a year now, and still up 2-3 times a night). What I took in stride with our first made me unreasonably angry with our second.

    This, I think, is in part because it’s not our first rodeo, and I’m sick of dealing with a grumpy, crappy sleeper and never getting enough sleep myself. More than that, though, is the fact that once you have two kids, there seems to be no downtime; with the first, I could always catch a nap when it was my wife’s turn to look after him. With the second, “time off” just meant time looking after our older boy–which is anything but restful.

    A year and a bit in, I’m still a bit resentful that I don’t get more sleep, and I have to consciously work to keep my emotions in line and not be angry at a baby for being a baby. Like you, though, I’ve also learned that there are wonderful moments to be found. Sure, he still needs to be held for his big nap of the day, which is a pain; the flipside is that it happens at the same time as our older boy’s nap, so, on the days that I’m home, I can put a show on the iPad and sit in a nice dark room holding my beautiful baby boy. That’s pretty damned special.
    Sean recently posted..On Admitting I’m WrongMy Profile

  8. Thanks for sharing this Aaron. And for admitting that there are some things you have trouble sharing at first. Sometimes I’m jealous of your candor, something I aspire to more of. Give Sam a big slobbery kiss for me. 🙂
    Brent recently posted..The Redemptive Power of Story TimeMy Profile

  9. Beautiful 🙂 You touch on a topic that no parent wants to admit to – that there are times that we resent these little bundles we wanted so much. I didn’t have the IVF struggles you and your wife had, but we had two years of struggles regardless. It’s easy to forget about that desperate wanting when you’re exhausted and just want to relax. Sometimes we just need to find our “chair” and remember what’s really important. Thank you for posting!!

  10. I don’t have words to explain how incredibly and badly I NEEDED to see this article. I’m having the same problem with my own son JJ. I had no problem bonding with my first child – a girl – but this time for some reason I am having a REALLY hard time with JJ. And it’s the same thing – I love him of course but I’m not bonding at all. More often than not I feel myself getting so angry and frustrated and feeling so guilty that I don’t want to be around him, because I HATE that feeling. Every time I get up I’m watching the clock and waiting for my hour to be over (we have a rule that if you go up to an hour with feeding and trying to get him back down it’s the other person’s turn). It makes me so miserable and I hate that I feel that way. I just want to bond with him like I did with my daughter. I’m so glad this article is here because now I don’t feel so alone.

    Sidebar: I often write about my parental experiences too. I’d love to add some of your blogs to my frequent tweets and facebook posts.

    Thank you for this. Would love to talk more about your experience.
    Ender Bowen recently posted..On The Burner Vol. 1 No. 12 – Baby BreakMy Profile

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