Dad's Eye View: Finding Out You're Going to Be a Dad
One man's personal account of finding out he's going to be a father
For the first week in December I’d been painting a house with a family friend of my in-laws. As he and I packed up one afternoon, my cell phone chimed. It was Leah.
“Hi babe,” I said, and heard her draw a sniffling breath.
The day before she’d had a rough morning. It was breezeless and already hot by ten o’clock, and I could tell as she shuffled into the study that she’d woken up sweating. She stood there in pajamas, squinting with half her face, holding up both breasts with one arm and rubbing her belly with the other.
“I think I’m getting my period.”
I swiveled away from the computer to face her. “Ah, that sucks, honey. Are you sure?”
“Well, I’m not bleeding yet, but it feels exactly like the start of it.”
“That sucks. I’m sorry, honey.”
I must have sounded distracted, but what I really felt was helpless. We’d been trying to conceive for fifteen months, the last of which included several trips to the doctor, fertility clinic, and pathology lab. This time, her period was not another missed opportunity but the frustration of real effort: the sperm count, the blood hormone tests, and our hope that these would help. We looked at each other for a few seconds, then Leah turned around and trudged toward the shower. I swiveled back to the computer but just stared at the monitor for a while. I could feel her sadness, but not as my own loss. After all, I knew I couldn’t yet provide for both her and a baby anyway. We’d only been able to do the fertility treatment because it’s part of Australia’s free medical care.
But finances are a large part of the male nesting instinct, and I had to prove that I did, in fact, want a child. After Leah’s parents had gone to bed, she and I had a money talk in the kitchen. Before we moved, Leah had worked as a therapist at a college wellness center; I’d taught composition courses at a neighboring university. Leah had picked up a few private counseling clients, but neither they nor my temp work was stopping our descent into debt. As we picked the M&Ms out of a Tupperware cylinder of granola, I took my frustration out on Leah by complaining about her lack of marketing efforts. Or maybe it was for getting behind in her session notes. For the life of me I can’t remember, probably because of what happened next.
“I’ve got my period and you don’t even care!” she yelled, instantly crying and halfway to our room. The indictment hung in her wake. It was true—at that moment, I’d completely forgotten the whole point of our little meeting: how we would provide for a baby. Did I care that we still weren’t sure if we could even have kids? Mostly, I felt bad for not feeling worse.
In other words, I was afraid. Not just because of our current economic crisis—my fear was much bigger than that; it went back to the fear and sadness and anger I grew up with, the knowledge that if had children, I’d be capable of causing the same feelings in them. Would I be a good dad? There’s only one way to find out, and that’s mostly why I was scared…
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