Monday, June 17, 2013

For Dads.

Good morning.  I spend a lot of my time thinking about pregnant mommies, and the physical and emotional process of giving birth.  This one is for the Dads.

I must admit that I am in a relatively unique situation.  Teaching a class that is specific to a mother and her primary coach tends to surround me with women who have a supportive partner that has signed on to attend 9 weeks of classes.  While the class has been attended by single mothers with a friend, mother,  or sister standing in for unavailable baby-daddies for a variety of reasons, it is much more common to have the idyllic supportive boyfriend, husband or partner in attendance. A couple.

The opportunity this affords me is to watch these young men become fathers.  It is a gorgeous transformation, profound and palpable.

The idea of the baby during the pregnancy is often somewhat abstract for the Daddies.  Many are more focused on the things that they have actual control over.  Finances, preparing the home, working to reach a point of completion at a job so that whatever amount of leave can be well spent.  A pragmatic preparation for the presumed awesome, but otherwise inconceivable arrival of this little human they have helped to create.

I watch their brains turning in class, as the weeks go by and their birth becomes more imminent, there is a fundamental shift in their attention, their physical presence, their outward respect for their little mama, the reality sets in, as best it can.

Of course I don't get the opportunity to watch them all become fathers, but often enough, when hired as a Doula I get the honor of witnessing a true metamorphosis.  It doesn't matter at all when or where this takes place because when you put a newborn in the arms of a new father, the whole world slips away.  It can happen in the operating room while the surgeons are still closing, it can happen in a labor and delivery room at a hospital with machines beeping and nurses poking and prodding, it can happen in a birthing center with candle light, pretty pictures, and sculptures around, it can happen in a home with dogs yapping behind the bedroom door, it can happen in the backseat of a car alongside the freeway.

The whole world just slips away, and this little person, who was abstract still even a few minutes ago, is  in his arms.  It's as real as it gets.  Curiosity, amazement, confidence and familiarity replace all the prior unknowns and he sees some part of himself, or his family.  There is something familiar in the eyes, the expression, the ears, the toes, the fingers, the hair, the mouth or the nose.  All of these things happen every time, but for this Dad, this time, it feels like it is the first time it has ever happened in the whole of the universe.  It is a unique moment in which tenderness, looking into his child's eyes for the first time and caressing little shoulders, cradling a little head, makes him feel like a stronger man.  Holding his baby and kissing the soft cheeks and knowing that he is a father is a profound feeling of pride, contentment, masculinity, protection, love, creation, power.  It is maybe the only instance in which he can be totally narcissistic and completely selfless all at once.

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