My sister's friend's sister is a nurse at a hospital clinic and swears (so my sister says) that this is a true story: a guy and his wife, college-age and recently married, come in because she's having persistent nausea and bloating. The nurse takes a urine sample, the doctor checks her over, and when the results come back, the doctor says, "Just what I thought. You're pregnant."
"Oh, no, I can't be," she answers. "We're using the pill."
"Hmm," says the doctor. "How long have you been on it?"
She glances at her husband. "Well, I first started taking it six months ago, but it made me sick, so he's been taking it since then."
Among other things, one moral of this story is that no matter how much guys and their partners have been attempting or evading conception, the exact moment they find out they're pregnant is always a surprise. Besides this common element, however, no two stories are the same. To infinitely varying degrees, guys want the baby, love their partners, understand the biochemistry of oral contraception, and feel ready for fatherhood.
This all sounds obvious, yet the common assumption seems to be that future dads have neat, simplistic feelings about fatherhood. A couple months into my wife Leah's pregnancy, on one of our first visits to the maternity clinic, the consulting nurse asked Leah how she felt about having a baby. The nurse listened attentively for a few minutes, then turned to me.
"And how is Dad feeling? Excited?" Her eyebrows lifted and mouth opened, poised for my agreement. I'd heard that same question too many times already that week, and my face must have shown it. But before I could reply, she added, "Nervous?"
The truth, which I didn't try to explain right then, is that I needed more than two choices. I think most guys who take inventory of their responses to their partners' pregnancies might realize that their feelings are actually complex, perhaps even a bit conflicting. That's what I found as I wrote down my own story...
It starts in August, when, after three years of marriage, Leah and I fulfilled her unwritten pre-nuptial to move to her hometown of Perth, Australia. It's a great city, and Leah's family is wonderful, but after four months I found myself doing odd jobs while looking for steady work editing, writing, or teaching—any of the things I'd done back in my home state of Utah. Obviously, this wasn't the kind of income we wanted to start a family on, but we'd already been trying before we moved and decided that perhaps reverse psychology would work: start the family and the job will come.