Unlike many fathers, I couldn’t connect with the growing baby in my wife’s stomach. It was only on the day that my daughter arrived that I actually began to feel like a father. And up until that point I thought that I had experienced most of what life could throw at me. How wrong I was. It was perhaps the strength of the emotional reaction to becoming a father that shocked me the most.
Just over three years ago, I remember leaving to go on a six week, round-the-world business trip, about ten weeks before our due date.
Up until that point I had watched with fascination and joy at the changing shape of my wife, and the blooming of pregnancy as she turned from lady to woman in front of my eyes.
Unlike many fathers however I couldn’t connect with the baby growing in my wife’s womb. I didn’t sing to the bump, or read stories to it like many of my friends or peers.
However as I was leaving the house to go to the airport something compelled me to kneel down and take my wife’s stomach in my hands and say, half jokingly,
“Please don’t come out until you hear my voice again”.
I knew I was taking a risk going on a trip like this so near to the birth, but we figured the four week buffer zone was adequate.
How funny then, that the morning that I got back from the trip, totally and utterly exhausted, and was just making my way upstairs to bed, that my daughter should decide that THIS was the moment to announce her arrival on planet earth.
I remember it clearly. I was walking up the stairs. The doorbell went. It was my wife. She had come back from work. It was her last day before maternity leave. She made it as far as the office doors and her waters had broken.
And there she was, standing on the door mat looking slightly confused, a little scared, but glowing like nothing I have seen before.
The funniest thing about this moment was what she said. Here she was, standing on the cusp of the most deeply profound moment of her life, the transition from girl to woman, about to enter the exalted realm of motherhood and the first thing she said was
“My waters have broken. My boots are RUINED.”
That, right there, is why I fell in love with her all those years ago. Pragmatic, unflappable, utterly loveable, even in the face of adversity.
We made it to the hospital. It was technically a premature birth, my daughter was coming four weeks early. My wife was immediately wired up. Our birthing plan was rendered redundant.
It is hard to describe the emotion of watching child birth. It is a process like no other; nature’s nine month drum solo, reaching a glorious, crashing climax. I felt at once utterly petrified, but at the same time strangely calm and reassured, like it was the most natural thing in the world.
As the father I was out of control of the situation. My role was very much as support cast. I watched it unfold in front of me, offering reassuring words, helping ease the pain and discomfort, but ultimately folding in front of the power, grace and determination of my wife in her quest to provide life to another being.
She was amazing. Even towards the end, when the drum roll quickened to a frenzied crescendo and the room was filled with unfamiliar sounds, noises and smells. The rhythm had steadily built for nine months purely for this moment.
When she finally pushed my daughter out, she let out a scream of pain, relief and joy. My daughter slipped out, bruised purple, covered from head to toe in white vernix. For me, this was the most amazing moment in my life. A powerful cocktail of extreme jet lag, fatigue, relief and emotion rocked me like nothing before.
It was a heady blast of utter joy and relief, like the ultimate orgasm. I couldn’t stop my tears and frankly I didn’t want to, as these were the warm, tingling tears of joy. I relished every one.
The whole process had tapped into an emotional pool as old as life itself, a primal, animalistic response to the miracle of childbirth and the continued success of the species.
Being in the room for the birth was an utter privilege. I saw my wife control and master extreme pain, (without drugs). I saw my wife use every ounce of energy, strain every sinew to deliver a miracle. I saw my wife become a woman. This in itself was a beautiful thing. It created another profound connection between us, and raised the bar in our relationship.
And then there was that feeling. After the sound of the drums had faded away, and the rawness of the delivery had passed, we were on our own. Just the three of us.
We lay in a warm delivery suite, the lights faded low, the soothing sounds of the hospital faintly discernible around us and the feel-good endorphins surging around our bodies. Everything calm but heightened, like the night air after a crackling electrical storm.
And I was euphoric that my daughter had waited until I got back, before emerging into the world, because I wouldn’t have missed the birth for anything.
As I was holding my daughter close to my chest, she looked up at me, and held me with a look that only newborns can give. It was a look that went straight into my soul and took my breath away. It was a look of profound vulnerability and unconditional trust.
And it was then, right at that moment, that I felt the connection. A powerful and unconditional urge to protect, provide and nurture. An urge I had never felt before. Nature’s way of ensuring the species continues. And it was then that I knew I had taken on the most important responsibility of all.
I had become a father.
This original post appeared first on the Daddy Cool Project website (http://www.daddycoolproject.org.uk/). I am currently blogging for them. The Daddy Cool Project (DCP) is a London-based voluntary organisation that aims to highlight the importance and positive impact of fathers and male-role models living and working in today’s society. Go check them out.