This comment was from Marcus Williams on the post “We Are Pregnant.”
Short versions aren’t my strength, but I’ll try to give one about how I came to be a father to almost 3-yr. old twins.
Conception did not occur easily, or by accident. It took years of emotional, physical, and financial investment by both my wife and me to achieve pregnancy and parenthood. My wife had to endure more physical discomforts than I did, which I never denied or tried to pretend otherwise, but if you’re picturing some ejaculate-and-wait kind of dad, you’re not picturing me. I literally had a piece of a testicle removed to become a father, so that sperm could be found, extracted, and injected to create embryos, because the usual way was not an option. I did that with only a 25% chance of finding any, and while we got very lucky and found some, we were prepared on that day to use donor sperm if that’s what it took to become parents. Pregnancy was not just a physical state that happened to my wife as I spectated – it was a goal we worked toward together, enduring good news and bad news together, over the course of years together, until we finally got pregnant together.
It was a twin pregnancy, so like most twin pregnancies, it was even more complicated and uncomfortable than usual. I did not share in the uterine or direct hormonal aspects of my wife’s pregnancy, but there was no part of her pregnancy in which I wasn’t involved, or that didn’t affect me. I took care of her willingly and gladly, because I loved her and she was growing our babies. I was at every doctor’s appointment and ultrasound (we had several with twins). I worked the doppler ultrasound we rented so we could listen to our babies’ heartbeats. I abstained from sex when the doctor ordered it, which was all but about 2 months of the pregnancy, during which she wasn’t very interested anyway. I took her to the ER at month 6 when she was hospitalized for serious gallstones. I took care of her when she was discharged and ordered on strict bedrest for the rest of her pregnancy. A month later, we were back at the hospital together when our babies were born a little more than 8 weeks premature.
While my wife was recovering from an emergency c-section, I was the first one (not counting medical staff) to touch or hold our babies in the NICU. While she recovered from that surgery and then another surgery a few weeks later to finally have her gall bladder out, I was attentive as both a husband and father, helping my wife with things she needed help with, and being at the NICU twice a day for over 5 weeks to hold our babies for an hour at a time, glad to be able to change diapers or give baths when we were finally allowed. If you pay attention to the math involved, my daughters spent the last two months of what is normally part of gestation, when according to you, “Baby has been with mommy … and all he knows is her sound, her movement, her voice, her smell,” knowing my sound, movement, voice, and smell. I wore the same soft shirt every time I held them in the NICU, and left it in their isolettes when we left so my smell would stay with them. Before birth, I was a frequent tummy toucher and talker, which I know is not the same as being the body they’re in, but your picture of total daddy sensory deprivation during a 9-month gestation again failed to capture the variety of pregnancy experience that is possible.
My wife breastfed as much as she could, but between milk supply and what our babies were capable of, most feeding happened first by a tube through the nose, and later by bottles, which I always shared in giving. I’ve never shirked diaper duties, including the poopie ones. Whether it’s been feeding, bathing, cuddling, changing, holding, comforting, or otherwise physically caring for and bonding with our girls, I’ve done it all, and continue to do so. You know that moment of gut wrenching heartbreak you described most dads having when darling baby wakes up and sees it’s not Mommy holding them? Never happened to me.
Given our experience and my level of involvement and enthusiasm at every step of the parenting, from pre-conception to our present state as parents of healthy toddlers, I would be not only insulted, but deeply hurt if my wife had the attitude of minimizing my role or ability to understand pregnancy and parenting because I don’t have a uterus or breasts like she does. If she claimed the babies as more hers than mine, saying it was my role to be fulfilled as a man by tending to her and her babies, that I should never expect to bond with as much as her, or if she had argued that pregnancy only affected her and not me, I would have been…I don’t even know. Furious is the word that comes to mind, but it would have been so incompatible with my view of being a father and husband that I would have hoped to find that out before it ever happened, and break it off before ever making the mistake of having kids with her. Luckily, that didn’t happen.
photo: jm_studios / flickr