Thank Heaven for Little Girls
Despite the dirty diapers and sleepless nights, two Days stars dote on their darling daughters
By Janet Di Lauro
Soap Opera Weekly Magazine
August 7, 1990
A lot of parents squabble back and forth about who their baby looks like— not Charles Shaughnessy (Shane, Days) and his wife, Susan. From the moment their daughter Jenny Johanna made her debut (March 18, 1990), the verdict on which parent she resembled was crystal clear.
“She looks just like me,” Shaughnessy announces proudly. “There’s no question. I pulled out some old baby pictures of myself, and Jenny looks exactly like I did back then. She’s me with a bow…me in pink,” he laughs.
“Susan agrees. She keeps saying, ‘I’m afraid I was just a vessel for this whole thing.’ There’s absolutely nothing of Susan in Jenny. But babies change, so we’ll see. We kind of divvy it out. We hope she has my hair and Susan’s eyes. She has my nose though,” he admits reluctantly. “The Shaughnessy nose, which is huge. I guess every baby’s nose looks huge.”
The Shaughnessys waited nearly seven years (the couple celebrated their anniversary May 21) before deciding to have a child. It was a mutual decision [to delay having kids] that the couple believes really prepared them for parenthood.
“I think it’s a great idea and I recommend it to anyone, if it’s possible,” notes Shaughnessy. “Since Susan and I were married a long time before deciding to have a baby, we’d really settled into each other and a way of life. We’d done all that going out and partying together, taking vacations…all that kind of stuff. We were very comfortable with each other. At that point, we were solid enough to bring in this other element that would divert our attention.”
“So no one feels left out now,” he says. “There’s no jealousy. I’m glad we waited. If anything, it’s simply drawn us close together. It may have just deepened our relationship.”
The special closeness began the moment Jenny Johanna was born. Shaughnessy was right by his wife’s side throughout the whole labor and delivery process.
“It was the most intense experience that I’ve ever had in my entire life…being there with Susan and going through that together,” he admits. “People were coming in and out of the room, but I was so tired and so concentrated on getting Susan through the pain and dealing with the incredible thing that was going on, that it’s all kind of a blur. I don’t really remember anything.”
Except, of course, that moment when his beautiful baby girl made her debut! “We were both so emotionally and physically drained, that by the time the baby came we had no resistance left. There was no way of filtering the enormity of what was going on,” he explains. “This extraordinary event ran over us like a steam train. I was completely flattened for days!”
So you can imagine how his wife felt! “It’s funny, because [birth] is two such separate experiences of the same thing [for a husband and a wife],” notes Shaughnessy. “I can only guess at what the woman goes through…finding these extraordinary reserves of endurance to go through the pain and actually have the baby. Fatherhood is a whole different ball game. It’s 100 percent emotional intensity. [You’re] sharing in the experience, but it’s not quite yours. It’s yours once removed.”
“Yet, it left us equally drained,” he continues. “I couldn’t talk to anyone about it for days. I had to call certain people to say we’d had the baby and all that, but that was it. Then, people started calling us. I could talk to them about the weather and how Susan was doing, but the minute I started to talk about the baby, I’d start crying! I’d have to hand the phone over to Susan. People would say, ‘Charlie, what’s going on?’ And Susan would tell them, ‘Charlie’s still a little upset. He’s still a little emotional about the whole thing. He can’t really talk about it yet.’ Meanwhile, I’d be weeping in the corner,” he laughs recalling the incident.
Fro the record, the new father has stopped crying and has adjusted perfectly to being a daddy except for maybe one thing.
“The lack of sleep,’ he jokes. “Actually, it’s really been just a delight. Sure, you sleep is broken up a lot, but by chance it’s coincided with a very lean time for me (at Days). I haven’t been working a lot, so I haven’t had to get up at five in the morning and spend all day, every day, at the studio, then go home to deal with the baby. I’ve had more time at home, which is terrific.”
“It’s funny. People say your life changes completely when you have a baby, and it does…but it doesn’t,” he philosophizes. “It’s very hard to describe. I don’t feel my life has changed. Actually, it’s kind of progressed. It’s not a 180-degree turn…it’s not a violent change of direction. It’s a movement in the same direction. Suddenly, there’s someone else to take into account and take care of. It’s like the final piece of a jigsaw has been put in. My life really does feel very complete now. Jenny’s filled up that space for love that was there.”
And with each passing day that love gets stronger. Shaughnessy looks forward to every single moment of fatherhood. “Every day there’s another little milestone,” he says. “Jenny’s already started smiling and laughing. Now, I guess, there will be the first time she rolls over by herself, the first time she talks, the first time she walks…all those things. Parents celebrate each and every one.”
“I very much look forward to the time—without wanting any of this to hurry up—when she’ll be like a little pal…when we can actually hold hands and go off to the park together. That must be a wonderful time…when [your child is] two or two-and-a-half years old and the world is opening up to them.”
“I’ll teach her things. We’ll mutually discover new things together. I look forward to learning from Jenny as much as teaching her.”
In a pre-baby interview, Shaughnessy confessed he was hoping for a daughter and, of course, he got his wish. Has the experience turned out to be everything he imagined it would be?
“Oh yes!” he responds with no uncertainty. “Little girls are such completely different creatures than little boys. Little girls make me laugh. They’re so much more mature than boys. They start forming very distinct personalities and character traits at such an early age.”
And Jenny Johanna Shaughessy certainly has two very distinct names to live up to. She was named after both the immigrant matriarchs in her parents’ families—Susan’s grandmother, Jenny, and Shaughnessy’s great-great-great grandmother Johanna, both of whom left their own country to come to America.
While parenthood is usually an invitation for most mothers and fathers to purchase everything in sight for the new addition to the family, Shaughnessy and his wife haven’t fallen into that trap—although it’s been through no fault of their own. They received practically everything a new parent needs for a baby before, during and after Jenny’s birth!
“The response from the fans alone has been unbelievable. A bunch of them held a baby shower in Pennsylvania. I didn’t know anything about this beforehand. They invited other fans to send things in for it and then parceled it all out to us. These huge UPS freights arrived (at the studio for me) with everything you could possibly imagine in them—hand-knit outfits and booties, strollers, bassinets, teddy bears…you name it! We’ve really been overwhelmed.”
“I wrote a letter and sent it to all the fans saying we really appreciated all the gifts they’d been sending, but to please save their money,” he explains. “A card would suffice. We would appreciate that. But they won’t be deterred,’ he insists. “Every day another outfit arrives. And they’re not all in baby sizes either. Some are for a lot older. We have lots of things on separate hangers in the closet that I guess Jenny will be wearing until she’s 4 or 5. I just hope we’re going to get through it all.”
The ever-gracious Shaughnessy would like to take this opportunity to sincerely thank everyone out there for their kindness.
“I’d like to thank the fans for all their concern, best wishes, cards and thoughts. I really do appreciate the care that they’ve shown me and my family. They’ve done a lot. It’s very warming. Even though they’re special people I don’t know personally, there’s that much more love coming in. It’s very nice,” he says softly.