My husbands first reaction to the news that he was going to be a father was a smile. We had a lot of guests at home,waiting for the morning coffee,and I had called him to the kitchen to show him the pregnancy test strip. After giving me a relieved smile,he went back to the drawing room to join the guests as I went about doing the chores.
Later,when I asked him how he felt about it,his one-line answer was: I always wanted a kid,am getting one I am happy. To put it honestly,I did not bother much about how he felt,for I was thinking more about myself at that time. Knowing that he is not too forthcoming when it comes to displaying his emotions — I get a better idea of whats going on in his mind by reading his tweets and Facebook status updates — I did not,of course,expect him to behave like the heroes do in Indian films. But I did find his happiness,or enthusiasm,quite measured,compared to mine.
My opinion changed after the first ultrasound test that he attended along with me. I saw a twinkle in his eyes and his face lit up when the doctor showed us a beating heart on the computer screen. While he did not speak about it during the drive home,by evening I had a flood of messages enquiring about my new status or congratulating me,thanks to his Facebook status update. I hadnt completed my first trimester yet and our families were against letting the word out so early,and hence my husband had tried to keep the message vague,according to him. But if you talk about seeing a beating heart,there is little left for imagination. So,he was excited too. And I was happy.
Becoming a parent may not be the same for the man as it is for the woman,but the fathers-to-be too undergo a lot of emotional,physical and psychological changes. They do not throw up,or their bellies dont grow like ours,but studies suggest they too go through certain hormonal swings due to their changed state of mind.
Gone are the days when becoming a father meant taking care of the financial aspect alone. With the present-day woman sharing his financial burdens,the new-age father has a lot more responsibilities. If living in a nuclear family,taking care of the pregnant wife is his foremost duty. From buying vegetables to laying the table for lunch,my husband does it all. He ensures the refrigerator is stocked with fresh fruits before the last lot finishes,and doesnt mind taking me out if I fancy a midnight dose of ice-cream. And I am sure he wont shy away from changing nappies in the middle of the night once the baby is born. As my maternity leave has started and with my parents yet to reach,he was worried about leaving me alone at home and was planning to take leave for a few days. I advised against it,saying he might need the leaves later,after the delivery.
According to studies,children benefit a lot from the relationships forged with fathers early on. They emerge smarter and apparently grow up as emotionally stronger individuals.
My husband asked me the other day if I wanted him to be in the labour room with me. While I was surprised,he said his friend was there when his wife delivered a baby a couple of months ago. Now I know discussing motherhood is not a woman thing. Men,too,feel the need to talk out these issues. Putting up with the pregnant spouses sudden mood swings,growing physical discomforts and changed behavioural patterns would be difficult otherwise.
With clumsiness becoming synonymous to me,I am perpetually dropping things and need my husband around all the time to help pick them up. My fingers would bleed often as I cut fruits and he has to come running for the dressing. A hardcore non-vegetarian from Kerala,he has to smilingly savour a Gujarati or Rajasthani thali when we are eating out,all thanks to my sudden love for vegetarian food.
A piece of advice for the dad-to-be is to not tease your partner on her round-the-clock morning sickness,frequent trips to the washroom or the growing girth — for your own sake. The process of producing a new life,it is medically proven,is more tiring than working out at the gym. If you make fun of her all the time,chances are you end up at the receiving end of her foul mood.
Its important for the dad-to-be to be regular at pre-natal appointments to remain aware of the step-by-step developments in the pregnancy,and also to eliminate your own fathering fears. A few men I know went to these classes where they teach how to take care of a newborn — from changing diapers to cleaning potty or throw-ups. But if you ask me,I would say just like motherhood is an in-built trait of every woman,an observant and caring father wont take long to walk the ropes if he really wants to.
And just like we expect the husband to be super supportive and caring towards his expecting wife,the latter should also try and understand her man,who is also undergoing a lot of emotional upheavals. Weighed under the responsibility of arranging the hospital bills,ensuring your well-being during the entire pregnancy,taking you to your workplace or hospital and bringing you back safe,he is under a lot of pressure to do the things right. And it will not be fair to play down the role of this partner-in-reproduction who remains neglected just because he is not the one who is carrying.