Paternal Bond Could Come Slowly for Some Dads

Dads who lack an instant bond with their kids need not panic, psych experts say.

ByABC News
June 9, 2009, 7:17 PM

June 10, 2009— -- When Henry, who preferred that his real name not be used, became a father two years ago, he was confronted with a feeling in the hospital for which he was completely unprepared -- indifference.

"In the hospital, I just wasn't connecting," he said. "I could have taken it or left it... It wasn't for eight or nine months before I connected."

It was a feeling that Henry, who lives in Boston, would experience again with the birth of his second child.

"[My wife's] family, from the first day, was lavishing hugs and kisses on the new baby," he recalled. "I just wasn't feeling it.

"After I had my first child and didn't have these feelings, I was like, 'What's going on? Am I a sociopath?'"

For Henry, as with many new fathers, the feeling of indifference eventually passed. By the time his second child was born, he said, he "was head over heels with the first kid" and "almost felt disloyal to baby number one for connecting with baby number two."

Today, he said, he loves his children deeply and has developed a strong emotional attachment to both.

While few fathers may be willing to admit to having an initial emotional disconnect with regard to their newborn children, psychological experts say such feelings are far from uncommon.

Indeed, in a new book titled "Home Game, An Accidental Guide to Fatherhood," author Michael Lewis explored the same spectrum of feelings when it came to the birth of his first daughter, Quinn.

"A month after Quinn was born, I would have felt only an obligatory sadness if she had been run over by a truck," Lewis wrote. "Six months or so later, I'd have thrown myself in front of the truck to save her from harm.

"What happened? What transformed me from a monster into a father? I do not know."