By: Natasha Archary
“Baby, I’m pregnant!”
The expected reaction to learning your partner or spouse is carrying your baby is that of panic, fear, denial and anxiety. This may have been the case back in the “Mad Men” era, where men were workaholics and only saw the kids on the weekend. What is a dad’s perspective on pregnancy in the modern day era?
There may still be panic, fear, denial and anxiety initially but modern day men are actually not terrified to be fathers, many wait in eager anticipation to share this journey. Previously we touched on why being an active father in your child’s life is important, and in this article we found that men are fighting to have more of a role as a father.
With that in mind, what must pregnancy be like for a new dad? What are some of the things they worry about? How do dads experience pregnancy and their role throughout the process?
Before we share one Afropolitan dad’s reactions and how fatherhood changed him, let’s consider that for decades scientists studying children’s development, looked exclusively at mothers.
The bond between mother and child, has for years been crucial to a child’s critical first years of life. According to Michael Lamb, who became a forerunner of fatherhood research in the ‘70s, this went along with the assumption that this was the only primary relationship children could form.
Lamb and his group of researchers at the University of Cambridge in the UK, all came to the same conclusion: babies can form as strong an attachment to their dads as they can to their moms.
In short, by keeping the focus on mothers we have for years been keeping fathers-to-be from building a bond with their unborn child from pregnancy to perhaps early teen years or adulthood.
This could explain why, when we see a dad with a stroller, infant in tow we wonder where the child’s mother is. Because gosh, how dare a man be a loving and dedicated father?
A dad’s perspective
Pregnancy is a terrifying but magical experience and from the minute a man sees that positive test, he realises neither life nor he will ever be the same again. He thinks about what he can do to make his partner feel comfortable, she is, after all, doing all the work. So he researches: watching birthing videos on Youtube (yes they’re out there), reading pregnancy manuals, speaking to other dads at the office or in his social circle.
First time dad Thapelo, 35, shared a his perspective on his wife’s pregnancy as the most emotional period of his life.
“My wife and I tried to conceive for two years. We had been through every test and were considering IVF or adoption. We both wanted a family, children together, it didn’t matter how they came into our lives, we both couldn’t wait to be parents.
After two unsuccessful years, we decided to put our baby dreams on hold and travel. We started saving for our first international holiday. She wanted to go to Singapore. We were planning our trip for December 2013. My wife took a pregnancy test during her birthday weekend, in November 2013. It was positive.
She was nauseas during her surprise weekend getaway to the Drakensberg and did not tell me anything until she took the test. She didn’t want me to get my hopes up.
I was so happy when she showed me the test that I picked her up and held her in the air for a good five minutes. We were finally going to be parents, have a family. Pregnancy wasn’t easy on her, the morning sickness during the first trimester defeated her. She could barely keep water down.
I was so scared, watching her with her head down the toilet bowl morning, noon and night. Unable to do anything to make her feel better. Apart from getting her a glass of ginger ale when she was done hurling, it tore me apart to see the woman I love, the mother of my child being so violently ill.
She never complained once. This baby was our miracle. We had two miscarriages in the two years we tried. Her resilience throughout was my strength during our darkest hours.
I can’t explain what I felt at our first ultrasound appointment. Despite the morning sickness, my wife and baby were both healthy and doing fine. Miracle. I cried when I saw our little nugget bouncing around in my wife’s womb. Don’t get me started on how emotional I was when we heard his heartbeat for the first time at 22 weeks.
I spoke to my wife’s growing belly every night. Reading to my unborn child, touching my wife’s swelling tummy and feeling my son squirm about. It was weird but beautiful seeing his limbs protruding against her soft skin.
And then finally the big day arrived. Our son was due in the first week of August, we elected to have a C-section, not willing to take any risks or put her through anymore we knew this would be the best decision. I was at her side throughout, she was terrified, I was in awe of her. And then I heard my son cry for the first time. It was the best sound in the world.”
“Dad, you can cut the cord,” said the Doctor.
“Probably the first time during the entire 40 weeks that I felt I had an important role in the pregnancy. He was perfect. Covered in slimy fluid but perfect. I left my wife to follow nurses and doctors to the nursery. The protective dad instinct was natural. I saw him and knew it was my job to protect him.
I watched as the Dr took his blood to test for any complications. Waited by his side as they regulated his temperature. It didn’t take long and he was in my arms for the first time.
We have feelings too. I know there are men who don’t step up to the plate, who are absent fathers and who walk away, abandoning their children. But that’s changing. Men are more involved now, we change nappies, are eager to spend time with our children, we are fathers who love our children.”