By Troy Flint
“A woman becomes a mother when she’s pregnant, a man becomes a father when the baby is born.” At least, that’s what a friend told us when my wife and I were expecting our first child. I smiled politely in response, but inwardly blanched at the statement. The implication that a father’s connection with baby-to-be is less substantial seemed a bit retrograde and perhaps a bit distasteful as it provided a potential excuse for disengagement from what should be the ultimate partnership. And to be fair, it probably hit a little too close to the bone at the time. Yet, as with many things, experience has depersonalized my response and altered my perspective.
My friend’s observation returned to me last month when I became a father for the second time. In contrast to my wife’s unbridled enthusiasm during the pregnancy, my anticipation was mixed with anxiety about the changes that a new addition would bring to our family. How might a sibling change the dynamic with our eldest? Will they get along? Will we be able to provide for them both emotionally and financially? We can barely devote the time we want to one – how will we manage two? Reasonable questions for someone who tends to lead with the head over the heart, but not exactly the sentiments on which Hallmark cards are made.
All those prenatal concerns disappeared at the first sight of our newborn child, replaced by a wave of warm emotions that erased any doubt or reservation and left no room for competing thoughts. Just one second into our son’s existence and it was impossible to imagine life without him. It’s humbling to think I needed to witness the most sacred and miraculous act a human being can perform, the act of giving birth, to achieve the certainty and faith my wife had from day one. It’s also a reminder to embrace the joy, the wonder, the beauty, the hope, and the possibility of life, instead of simply trying to project-manage it all the time.
Make no mistake, incorporating a new (and helpless) member into the family requires a lot of management, but right now I’m trying to revel in it and appreciate every moment, every nuance, every characteristic for the marvel it is. Two weeks in, I’m struck by the contrast between the two children – the fierce energy that defined our daughter from day one and the cool energy that is our son’s trademark to date. Hopefully they complement each other, but the early results are inconclusive. Moments of irresistible cuteness, sweetness and love are countered by potentially near-death experiences (is she comforting him or suffocating him with that that pillow)? And we’re too busy with the minute-to-minute and day-to-day execution of household responsibilities to ponder the more esoteric questions of family life. Maybe that’s a blessing in disguise, a way of keeping us in the moment and making us present for this beautiful baby boy. If so, it’s one we gladly accept.
Photo by Christian Bowen