In the darkened room I was just staring at an empty black pyramidal shape on the screen. I’m lead to believe that whilst I was doing this my wife was being positioned next me, exposing her lower abdomen. Suddenly, and it really was without warning, the profile of a tiny human figure appeared horizontally in a kidney bean shaped space on the screen. Before I had felt nervous, but after I had felt many things, including an overwhelming feeling of amazement. In just 12 weeks the baby was such a perfectly formed miniature person. You could see the nose on her face and count the toes on her feet. “What a beautiful baby”, the sonographer exclaimed as we watched her stretch and frolic inside the kidney bean. “I bet you say that to all the parents.” I replied.
Not only was it amazing to see, but it was an amazing feeling that this was something we had created. And seeing it really does hit home with how real it all is. Before the 12 week scan you’re keeping the pregnancy under wraps, there’s no “bump”, no movements to feel, and you don’t have much more than that initial positive test result to prove that there is in fact a baby in there.
A genuine piece of advice for expectant fathers I have read suggested that, as well as offering to cook more and carry heavy shopping bags, that the father should consider attending any scans his partner has. I would not have missed the experience of seeing my child, and finding out she was developing well, for anything in the world, and that’s why I feel that a lot of the tips and advice out there for dads misses the mark.
In the “dads section” of pregnancy books and websites, a lot of what you read seems to assume that the father needs a little help to reach an acceptable level of involvement. It is genuinely difficult to know what the father’s role is during the pregnancy, and there’s no wonder the advice is sparse if you look at the recent history. It is only really since the latter part of the 20th century that it was more common for us dads to actually get more involved with the pregnancy and birth of our offspring.
If you look to nature, there’s a handful of animals that take an active paternal role in the gestational period and early infancy. I can’t do any of the incubating like seahorses and penguin dads do, but marmosets sound like they are most like a 21st Century dad. They groom and give piggy backs to their young in the same way I expect that I will be doing the changing of nappies and carrying our child around the park on my shoulders, but what do marmoset dads do whilst the marmoset mother is pregnant with their marmoset children?
Maybe I’m wrong and selfish to be hung up on what a dad should be doing during the pregnancy, it is our partners who are doing all the important work as it were. Of course, as dads, we can offer the support that our partners need when they are pregnant, and most are things that come naturally. But there is something missing. We don’t have the physical investment that the mother does (unless of course you are count the carrying of heavy shopping), so we feel as though we are a bit of a passenger, bumbling along for the ride, and it it’s a helpless feeling in what is such a great impact on our partners. I’m sure that my wife will say I’ve been doing a great job in my supporting role, but if you compare things side by side, the flat pack cot I put together won’t come close to doing anywhere near as good a job of nourishing and growing a human from nothing.