Special Guest Blog: A Dad’s View of Pregnancy
As two moderately young parents of 3 male children under 5 years-old, in one of the highest cost of living cities in America, the trials and tribulations Matthew and Stacy face as a bread-winning mother and stay-at-home-dad (SAHD) can be both entertaining and bewildering. They both offer their varying perspective on their family at http://juxtaposturing.tumblr.com.
In this particular instance Stacy says to Matt, “Hey, we should offer new moms, first time moms, the opportunity to know that the Baby Daddy is going to pull through. Remember how freaked out you were? And now look, you take care of the boys better than me! I bet moms would love the assurance we give to friends; eventually those almost-dads will bond with their babies and the magic of family love will arrive. You should write a blog for New Mommy Oasis.” And so he did…
To a certain degree, I think all fathers go through significant emotional turmoil while their partner is pregnant. Having a child marks the end of their own childhood and the final ascent (or perhaps descent) into adulthood. Even worse, while a woman has constant reminders about what is happening and cannot avoid it, a man is detached and must make significant effort to connect to his child. In my own case, and likely in most, I came to enjoy and love being a father so much, I quit working to focus on my fathering career full time. In honor of my second anniversary as an at-home dad, I present to you my eight stages of impending fatherhood.
I was 23 and quite tipsy when I found out my partner was pregnant. She had been hinting that she might be for a couple of weeks, but, like most fathers of unplanned embryos, I was in denial. We were hosting a party when she finally confirmed it. I told her that was silly and to do another test. I told her the line was too faint. Then I went into a sort of daze and pretended I didn’t know for the rest of the night and tried to enjoy my time.
It was easy to pretend it wasn’t happening; after all, it wasn’t my body that was changing. She kept asking me, those first few weeks, what I felt about it. Frankly, I was numb. With no experience to draw from, no foreknowledge of what I was getting into, I had no idea how I felt.
But I’m the supportive type, and quickly came to try my best to support her in her new challenges. I hadn’t yet gotten in touch with my own feelings, but I knew I loved her and needed to help. I was conflicted. I went to all the OB appointments, laughed with her, tried to share her joy, but never knew if I had any of my own yet.
By about the third month, I was openly scared out of my mind. Already she was going to bed in the single digits, not able to be as active as before, and starting to plan for our child. In my case, that meant epic spreadsheets on every expenditure, a new post-baby budget, and starting to set up the house for a new life I hadn’t yet met. I tried to talk to her about being freaked out about what was happening, but that’s hard with a pregnant woman. My doubts could cause her to panic. I didn’t know much about being a father, but I felt the need to be strong, even if that meant pretending for a little while.
Four months in was the dangerous phase: I tried to flee. That fear and panic overwhelmed me. What was I going to do? How am I going to be responsible for another life? I withdrew into my own world completely. A good portion of my interactions with my partner were angry fights. I think this is the point where men leave, if they’re going to. In my case, my love for my partner was too strong.
Fifth month was the turning point for me as I started to find her incredibly sexy. The idea of the woman that I love actually making a human being really appealed to me. This whole pregnancy thing may have its benefits after all. The baby was still a thought I was not ready for, though. She kept saying she thought she felt him. She’d even make me feel her belly, but I could not yet find him.
When she was six or seven months along the baby and I made contact. You cannot know until you are in this position how profound this will be. He is actually there! I can play with him and he will know there is something out there! That was the moment it changed for me. Now I had something tangible to connect to. Now I felt involved and invested more than ever. I even began to grow fond of the little guy I had yet to meet. I would ask my partner at the end of each day how the baby was doing, which I hadn’t before.
Finally, in the last couple of months, I had come to accept what was happening to our lives and began to prepare myself for a new life change. Here is where I would read the books she was pushing on me. I came to realize my new life wouldn’t be so bad; here was another adventure to take on, one that would be more fulfilling than the previous. I couldn’t wait to meet the new life I had helped start.
When my first son Cole was born, I felt absolute instant love for him and an instant need to take care of him in his every need. He was born that day, but I felt reborn as a father, a man, a provider. As those weeks turned into months, I began to feel confident in my ability to take care of a child. I took on more responsibilities. I remember how thrilled I was when his mom pumped a bottle of milk for me to feed him. I became the one that retrieved him when he awoke each night. I started doing most of the household chores. I loved being a father so much I wanted a second weeks after the first was born. I eventually came to love my children, love my wife, and love taking care of all of them so much that working started seeming like a waste of my time and passion when I had little guys who wanted and needed me. Eventually, I retired from working a “real” job and became a stay-at-home dad.
I look back at those times of doubt and fear as silly now, but at the time it was deadly serious. I honestly thought the good times were ending. What I didn’t know was that they had not yet begun.