The Reluctant Father &
His Wife

When photographer Phillip Toledano’s daughter Loulou was born, he expected to feel a tsunami of love for her. Instead, he saw her as an alien whose cries could not be appeased.


Phillip thought his wife would join him in the this-baby-is-ruining-my-life camp. But she had landed firmly in the this-baby-is-the-best-thing-that’s-ever-happened-to-me camp.


Phillip tried to get Carla to complain along with him. When she refused, he did what any self-respecting photographer would do: he started taking ugly pictures of his baby.


When the pictures didn’t convince Carla that babies were bad news, Phillip printed one of his photos on a tote bag, a cushion, and a dinner plate.


If friends asked how new fatherhood was going, he’d pull out the plate as evidence of how miserable his life had become. Which made Carla mad—and even more adamant that new motherhood was nothing but bliss.

For awhile there, it seemed like Carla and Phillip might be stuck in opposing camps for the rest of Loulou’s life. And just like any drawn-out marital fight, they were both being too extreme to be right.

In this episode, find out how, through a combination of the picture below and one memorably messy night, they both managed to come to the center and see both the good and the bad in parenthood.


Phillip might’ve actually gone a little too far in the positive direction. His pictures of his Loulou eventually all looked a little Hallmarky—and make him cringe so much that he barely photographs her anymore.


See more of Phillip’s work
Phillip documented his story of transforming from “photographer to father” in his book The Reluctant Father; Carla wrote the afterword. You can also find an online version of the book in full at Phillip’s website, which houses lots of other visually thrilling projects.

Member of the opposing camp sleeping in YOUR bed?
Are you in a relationship where one partner was more reluctant than the other post-baby? What broke the frost? Tell us in the comments!

Photos: Phillip Toledano

11 thoughts on “EPISODE #32: The Reluctant Father & His Wife

  1. I can relate to Phillip’s point of view… During the first year of my daughter’s life, I felt invaded by this little cute and cuddly being! Being constantly with someone 24/7 was really a struggle for me (even if it was my daughter!). I felt like there was absolutely no place for “me” during the first six months (and also felt tremendous guilt just for thinking that). I had to learn to 1- Take care of myself instead of trying to repress my negative emotions and 2- Be completely present when I was with my daughter (instead of doing everything else except giving her attention), so that I would stop the cycle of guilt in my head (I feel guilty because I’m not giving my daughter enough attention, then I feel guilty because I’m not with her, so I don’t enjoy it at all, then I feel guilty because I’m not giving her enough attention, then I feel guilty because I’m not with her… and so on and so on). By being present for her when I actually WAS with her, and enjoying the moments I was spending without her, I really feel a lot better (but it’s still a struggle to actually apply that principle!).

    During the first year, I was really jealous of my boyfriend’s bliss… He was sooo happy about being a father, almost no negative things to say about it, everything seemed natural to him… I wish I could’ve lived my initiation to maternity as easily as he lived his initiation to paternity! But hey, through my struggles, I really learned a lot about myself… (Not saying that my boyfriend didn’t learn about himself! Not at all! I’m just talking about MY experience… Yeah, I’m still a little bit egocentric! I’m slowly learning that lesson…)

  2. At first I was gritting my teeth through this podcast… why was he so intent on making his blissful wife feel the ire he was feeling? Why is he making it all about him and his loneliness when it isn’t about him anymore? Then I remembered something. I was a resentful pregnant woman. I remember finding out I was pregnant and immediately panicking that I had made the wrong choice and what if I wasn’t happy being a mother? Would I get to do anything for myself again? Would my husband and I see eye to eye in our parenting decisions? I started to think I was making a huge mistake. Turned out, that with the exception of the scary first few days when he was born, and a couple of other rough times, every day I have had with my son has been the best day of my life and I cannot imagine being without him. Everyone has to get there in their own way, I guess. By the end of the story, I was smiling. Congrats on a great season two!

    1. Oops, I meant that I was a RELUCTANT pregnant woman, not resentful… although there may have been a little of that too.

  3. My husband and I were both somewhat reluctant parents which made it all the more befuddling when we talked to other new parents who didn’t seem to be struggling the way we were. Didn’t everyone bring their baby home and between all the feeding and changing and bouncing and crying wonder, “what the he** have I just done?”? We had wanted a baby very badly but had no idea at all what having a baby was really like.

    While we immediately loved our daughter in a primal way, it took us both a while to really be “in love” with her. I remember thinking that all those people who claimed to have this immediate, overwhelming adoration for their babies, were just telling themselves that to make sense of it all or to delude themselves into believing that this new terrifying life they were experiencing was actually rosy and lovely.

    We of course came around, and now I feel like the love we have for our kids and each other was really strengthened by having to fight so hard to get to the all consuming love stuff and by experiencing that journey together.

    The totally honest story is that at times we’re still reluctant. Our first kid has a very challenging personality to grapple with, and in our darker moments we still fantasize a bit about what our life would be like without children or what it will be like when they’re grown and moved out.

    It’s a strange set of feelings that is always evolving. We feel a love for our children that is truly profound and we would never wish to actually change the past or give up any of the experiences we’ve had. On the other hand, parenthood has been a bigger challenge than either of us ever expected, and it still depletes us on a regular basis.

  4. I really enjoyed this podcast! I do feel bad because while Phillip didn’t love the baby stage, Carla really into their daughter as a newborn. Neither my husband OR I loved that time. The first year was really hard on both of us individually and our marriage. We fought about who was having a harder time! I was miserable but at the same time I felt really defensive and didn’t want my husband to express his own unhappiness because I felt responsible (because I was the fulltime caregiver? Because the baby still felt like a part of me? I don’t know!). His frustration with new parenthood – the same frustration I was experiencing – felt like frustration with me, even though it wasn’t.

    I don’t remember where I heard this expressed before, but I wish that I’d heard it when we were going through it rather than after – a couple was experiencing the stress and anxiety of a difficult infancy, and rather than turning on each other and letting the baby come between them, they reframed it as “us against the baby”. As in, “this baby is trying to break us up. We can’t let him!” It’s kind of hilarious in a black humor way, but I can see how that could have really helped us back when.

  5. I was an extremely reluctant pregnant woman and a somewhat reluctant mother in the first year or so. My husband was on-board from the minute I found out I was pregnant and his enthusiasm was annoying and grated on nerves, even though I knew I should appreciate it. We are now very happy parents to a 5 year old and our marriage is stronger than eve,r but it was some serious rough going for awhile there! I blogged about our experience here, if you’re interested! http://thelifeafterbirth.com/2014/01/03/brooks-story/

  6. Wow. My husband is sooo supportive and fell in love with the baby immediately. He completely adores her since the newborn stage. If I had a reluctant husband like this I would have gone into postpartum depression.

    1. Please don’t minimize post-partum depression in this way (you’re imagining it as a mere reaction to how your partner happens to be processing major life events, which in the case of Mr. Toledano included not just becoming a parent but mourning the death of his own parents). I was lucky not to experience PPD but I know it’s not just something that a partner expressing and processing their feelings can trigger.

      Thank you for sharing this family’s story! In a larger sense, there are enormous costs to imagining childbearing as all teddy bears and rainbows, and minimizing PPD is just one of them.

  7. I only recently discovered this podcast, so I know I’m late here.

    But wow. THIS: “Phillip thought his wife would join him in the this-baby-is-ruining-my-life camp. But she had landed firmly in the this-baby-is-the-best-thing-that’s-ever-happened-to-me camp.” I honestly thought I was the only one. I still have some issues to work through about this before I venture into another pregnancy, but it helps me to see that my husband isn’t some horrible anomaly.

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