First Impressions

G’day Everyone. Before I start I’d like to thank the mums from Fusion Parenting for honouring me with the invitation to join them on the soapbox.

I thought for my first post, I’d start at the beginning and talk about an impression that I got when I became a dad. It was over nine years ago now, so I have to cast my mind back a bit, but it’s the kind of thing that leaves a lasting impression. It’s not about fathers though, it’s about mothers.

In our mid 20’s my wife and I decided to have a baby. It was a mutual decision that we came to from different directions. I was thinking and reading and came to the conclusion that it would be better to have kids first, then go do stuff when the kids grew up and left home. Meanwhile, my wife’s biological clock was apparently an alarm clock and it was going off. Not having ovaries, I’m not sure what it feels like to have them ‘twanging’, but it doesn’t sound comfortable. Heading through a local market one day, we heard a newborn baby cry and my wife says her uterus twitched.

It was Time To Have a Baby. We were pretty lucky, in that we could have a baby when the time was right for us. I can only imagine how hard it must be want to have a baby, but be unable to have one. For us though, it was a great time, we were young, financial, and fertile (like the Nile valley is fertile). Hello Baby!

It was challenging looking after my wife through the appalling morning, noon and night sickness. It was fascinating watching her belly grow and really cool feeling the baby kick. I did the supportive partner thing because, well, I’m a supportive partner. I even attended a Breastfeeding Education Class run by the local Australian Breastfeeding Association group.

It was a long, hard labour. I supported my wife through it, physically, emotionally and sometimes literally. I can understand now why sometimes the midwives don’t want the fathers around – it’s a terribly hard thing to watch the woman you love going through labour. A man who wasn’t paying attention at the birth class might try to be helpful in unhelpful ways. After 36 hours the most amazing thing happened. I saw the bulge of a head, and then a tiny patch of dark hair through an impossibly small hole.

Sometimes there’s a difference between knowing something and really getting it. As my wife’s belly grew through the pregnancy, I knew that we were having a baby, but only when I saw my not-yet-born son with my own eyes did I get it. It hit me like a bolt of lightning (that and the thought that there was no way that baby was going to fit through. I was wrong about that). My wife had had 40 weeks feeling our baby grow, getting to know him. It seems I needed to see him myself to understand that we had made a baby. I was a father.

I was proud of my wife, proud of my son and happy that we got the birth experience we wanted. I was profoundly in awe of what my wife had done. I had never seen anything like it. The phrase “the weaker sex” could only have been used by men who had never seen what I saw. There is a terrible, primal beauty in a birthing woman. The task itself it torturous and nearly impossible, and yet she does it.

Having seen my wife give birth ‘naturally’ four times, I can see why some women want to birth that way. It must surely be one of the most powerfully feminine things a woman can do. However, I can also see why birth classes spend a lot of time telling you about the painkilling options, and I can see the potential it has for going wrong.

Not long after we got home, still birth-shocked like first-time parents are, I had to leave the house and do some shopping. I still remember going into the local shopping mall, tired and dazed, and everywhere I looked were mothers with their children. Mothers … everyone one of whom, I could probably assume, had done that amazing thing I just saw, or something like it. Every one of those mothers had birthed a baby, more than one in many cases. My mother had done that thing. I’m sorry I took you for granted all those years Mum, I had no idea.

So that’s what I learnt when I became a father – fatherhood is awesome, and motherhood is awe-inspiring … and that was just the start.

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5 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by plahski on June 19, 2009 at 2:54 pm

    What a fantastic ‘other side’ representation! We used to have a housemate who didn’t understand why my husband always did everything I asked after the baby was born. Our housemate (a single bloke) would roll his eyes and and ask why my darling husband was boiling the kettle for yet another cup of tea while I sat on the couch with a baby attached to my breast… He’ll know one day hopefully…

    I don’t remember much about the birth (I remember remembering it and deciding to block it out) but I do remember my Husband crying.

    Reply

  2. Welcome, Coran!

    I agree with Pip. It’s subtle, but there’s a difference in perspective. And women being the chattier sex, we rarely seem to hear it. I was asking my husband yesterday about some friends who tragically lost a baby at 36 weeks, and how they were coping. They’d just been talking about it, and the father had said “I really want to be a father.” That’s something you often hear from women, but not men, but they must feel it too. I’m looking forward to hearing it more.

    Reply

  3. I often wonder how my husband felt when he watched me deliver our daughter at home. Like you, he found it hard to see me in pain and was tremendously relieved when the midwife arrived so he could be released to go and fill up the birthing pool! I think for him also it only became real once he was holding our daughter in his hands…this tiny little creature that made my belly look so enormous for 9 months. He is proud that he saw her make her entrance into the world and that he was able to spend so much time with her in her first few sleepy weeks of life.

    Reply

  4. Posted by MummyTiff on June 21, 2009 at 2:26 am

    Thank you for your perspective Coran. My partner talks of the amazement of seeing our children’s heads crown for the first time and the anticipation and fear at waiting for them to take their first breaths – something I don’t recall as I was just cuddling them and not paying attention to whether they were breathing or not as I rubbed their backs. He makes me laugh when he tells people that I could have walked out of the birth centre 10 minutes after having the baby and for him there was no difficulty in seeing his partner in pain because I guess I don’t look like I’m in pain in labour. I go quiet and go into myself – only times in our life together that I haven’t been talkign is apparently when I’m in labour! – but I know that was a DEEP fear of his before our first birth experience and a reason why he actually momentarily spoke about not attending Isabelle’s birth.

    Interesting too that when your son was born you understood that you had made a baby. For us I think it was the reverse, bizarre as it might seem! I obviously knew we had made a baby, I was feeling her and chatting to her but I was shocked when I held her and looked at her for the first time. It was a sense of “I knew we were going to have a baby but I didn’t know it would be YOU’. Does that make any sense? It was like I couldn’t reconcile the experience of being pregnant for 38 weeks (with Isabelle) with the baby that I was now holding – surely they were 2 different people! Odd but true for me!

    Reply

    • Posted by plahski on June 21, 2009 at 10:40 am

      Tiff – I know exactly what you mean!!
      We called Charlotte ‘squiddles’ when she was in and when she came out we just couldn’t call her that any more!!

      we do sometimes call her ‘squidlington’ but not often.. it was her womb name.

      Reply

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