I’m about to become a father. Up until recently this seemed a distant and hypothetical change. If I step back and think about why such a life altering on rushing freight train seemed until recently distant and unreal I come to some realizations about the difference between men and women in the pregnancy.
For a woman (from a man’s perspective) there is immediate bonding with the baby. It is inside of her. It kicks her. It shows her personality. It moves when she talks. She lives with it night and day for months. She frets about it’s health and viability. She worries when the baby is less active. She has the highs and lows of maternity. Her life changes, instantly and over a few months drastically. There is a physical manifestation of the baby that she must deal with all the time. The woman in effect becomes a Mom, nurturing her baby from Day 1 of her pregnancy.
Not so with the man. The man motors happily along with his current life. Oh sure, sure, changes DO happen. For one, his wife appears to have gone crazy (actually the result of hormones surging through his wife’s body…but hey, he doesn’t experience the same thing so it is completely a foreign concept to him) emotionally. He learns to tread lightly. But still he lives his merry little life. She gets bigger as the baby grows…and thus slower, with less balance. To the man, he adjusts how fast he walks, how he gets around with his wife. But in general, as soon as he is at work, his life is as it always was. I can go on, but you get the point I hope.
I don’t mean to say that the man is oblivious to the woman’s changes…or that the man doesn’t CARE about the baby, the mom, the process. In fact, in my case, I have worked extremely hard to feel and care and experience. I’ve gone to the classes. Helped with the Nursery, the clothes, shored up the various rooms in the house so they are ready for our new addition. I’ve learned for the first time in my life to put a diaper on a baby. How to clean a baby. How to hold a baby. And all the day to day skills necessary to help that baby thrive and survive. But let me tell you…it is STILL a distant event, almost like it is happening to someone else. He just isn’t a father yet. He hasn’t achieved Dad-ness
…and then one day….
BAM (just like Emeril)
BAM — It hits you like a freight train. You are having a baby, your life is changing…in fact it is already changed. Your replacement is here. Your mortality is right in front of you. This is what you were made to do. You have a clean slate that you can teach everything you’ve ever learned and have a chance and responsibility to set on a wonderful path a being who until you came along had ZERO chance of existence.
BAM — Emotion. Tears (almost). Fears. Thrills. Like the end of the best movie you ever saw that left you gasping!
For me…the thing that triggered this was a song. A sentimental song that I remember from childhood. One that always made me a bit sad because of it’s deep deep message to fathers, but because I wasn’t a father (and the last time I heard this song…wasn’t anywhere CLOSE to being a father) didn’t affect me like it did the other day.
BAM, BAM BAM BAM BAM! *whoa*
It was the Harry Chapin song, “Cat’s in the Cradle”.
If you’ve ever listened to the lyrics of this song, I can’t believe you haven’t been moved. It’s about a Dad and a newborn son. Over the years the Dad keeps putting off time with his son because of all the responsibilities life drops on him to make money to keep his family housed and clothed, work obligations, etc. And all the time, the son looks at his father as a role model, the one he wants to grow up to be. And finally, the Dad realizes his son is grown up…and doesn’t have time for his Dad because he has his own son now. He’s just like his Dad.
These lyrics hit home. I have a chance to be present. I have a chance to be active. I have a chance to have a once in a lifetime relationship with my son. A relationship that no one else in the world can have with him. And I don’t want to screw that up.
All this washed over me the other day when I heard that song. It was at that moment that the oncoming freight train of “baby” hit me and became real. It was at that moment that I caught up emotionally to my wife (as much as possible anyway!). And at that moment I think, I became a Dad.