What it really means to be a Father

What it really means to be a Father

superdadOver the last few weeks, I have been thinking deeply about what it means to be a father and what the main role of a father is. While I wait anxiously for the day when our baby finally arrives, a few things have shaped my feelings not only about what being a father would mean for me personally, but also how it does and will affect my wife and baby in the short as well as long-term.

The first was that, being in her eighth month now, my wife has been slowing down drastically in what she used to be able to do, from going to office to taking care of the home, cooking, etc. I found myself empathizing more with her, constantly trying to make her more at ease. I started taking us out for dinner frequently, so that she didn’t have to put effort in cooking dinner everyday. Whenever she seemed out of energy, I did everything I could to make her feel comfortable. Over time, I realized that it was making her happy and feel loved, and what else could I value more than having our baby born to a happy mother? And it wasn’t just for the baby, it owed it to my wife to do everything I could for her because she was going through so much at a personal level also.

The other thing that caused the biggest change in me was a bit more complicated. Many weeks back, my wife suddenly felt a bit scared by something and I was surprised by how her body started responding. She felt weird in her tummy and even the baby felt weird and kicked a bit more. I immediately stepped in to calm her down and insisted that she had nothing to worry about as long as I was here. She started to feel relaxed and slowly her physical discomfort drained away. This was the first time I realized how important I – the father – was to them. Even the unborn needed me to be there. They were my responsibility.

Over the next few weeks, there were some things that started to worry me deeply. I can’t share what it was, but suffice to say that it was not related to the pregnancy, but some factor outside of our control. As I thought more and more about the situation, the more worried I became. I was so stressed that I worried about it every minute for over a month. I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t enjoy time with my wife or my friends. But as much as I wanted to, I never mentioned anything to her. And the reason was that I didn’t want her to worry. I didn’t want anything to affect her. Even though it later turned out that I was imagining too much and there was no need for me to worry about those things, I realized how important a father’s role is in the family: to keep them away from worries.

Also, while I was so worried, I could not say anything to anyone. But in all that worry, I suddenly saw some light. I decided to tell my dad about it, and immediately after sharing a bit of it with him I realized that I felt so much better and safer myself because I knew he was there. I knew that in the worst of situations, he would bail me out. So, even though I am now a grown man of 33 years, there are still times when the world scares me but I have a dad who I know will always be by my side to protect me and make me feel safe. And one day, I have to be that man for my children.

So, today I think I know what being a father – a Dad – really means. It is far more than love. It means making your family feel safe and secure and protected. It means becoming a wall between the world and your family.

Fatherhood is so underrated. What do you think? Do leave your comments below.

Watching our baby in the womb

The first ultrasound doesn’t really show you much. The only thing it does is that it confirms that there is something inside and gives you something to start dreaming about. It is too small to look like a baby. Just a foetus. No arms, no legs, just something resembling a head and a small body maybe. No movement.

The second ultrasound was what really shocked us. Being our first pregnancy, we had never seen anything like this before. We could easily tell it was a small baby now and was so much different from the first scan. We could see its hands and legs, and body, and the head and a tip for the nose, the curve for the butts. It was incredible. We were now looking at a living being that we created. I got goosebumps and felt something indescribable in my heart when I saw it flapping about its arms and legs randomly, and twisted and turned its body away from us when the scanner moved over my wife’s bump. It was as if the baby was telling us it did not wish to be disturbed. It was doing something really important, in that it was slowly creating itself and growing up, getting ready for the outside world. Being created from a cell and growing into a fully formed human being is a tough job and our baby is so busy with it that it does not care for being disturbed.

Or? Or, was it calling out to its mamma and papa, trying to touch and feel us, asking us to pick it up and bring it out into the world and take care of it and decorate it with cute clothes and accessories and shower it with love? Maybe, it already knows it has first-time grand-parents, a great-grandmother, and first-time aunts & uncles all waiting for it. But wait we must and so must the baby.

And we wait. 8th January 2017.

Being there for the mother

During the first 2 months of her pregnancy, my wife didn’t even notice anything different about her. We only found out towards the end of this period that she was pregnant. But it was just as she entered the third month that her health started to decline slowly. At around 1.5 months, despite being otherwise healthy, she had lost all taste for non-veg food such as chicken and other meats. This came at a bad time for her since we were vacationing in Rome and Florence and the sole purpose of our trip was to enjoy the amazing food Italy has to offer. We have long been fans of Italian food, so it was specially disheartening to see her push away the lovely pasta carbonaras and the super delicious pizzas. Fortunately, she still had the energy in her to sightsee and shop around, so the trip was otherwise very nice.

On our journey back to Stockholm, she finally showed the first signs of nausea, though even now, it was quite in control. She only felt motion sickness, but never really threw up.

Over the next week or so she was a bit steady with her health and we took a trip to an island in the Stockholm archipelago with my sister and her husband and did a bit of barbecue. My wife was still repelled by meats and now her hightened sense of smell was at its peak, so we kept her a bit away from the cooking. But otherwise, she was fine.

Over the next 2-3 days was when the most noticeable decline in her health began. She started feeling more and more out of energy and stopped eating almost everything. She took longer naps during the day and sometimes refused to even talk about food.

There came times when her nausea made her vomit so much, she would get frightened that the spasms caused by throwing up might harm the baby. But her midwife had already told us that the baby continues to be safe in the womb, and even if the mother stops eating completely, the baby continues to suck all the nutrition it needs, be it at the cost of the mother’s health. This was soon visible as my wife started to throw up day and night. She ate nothing, but vomited a lot. The really strange thing was that, when she felt the nausea, she couldn’t even manage to rush to the washroom and threw up immediately, whether she was in the bed, on the sofa or right outside the washroom.

Some nights were so bad that she vomited every 15 minutes, and I slept with a bin next to me which I would immediately bring to her service as soon as I could tell she was feeling sick again. One specific night, I remember having such a light sleep myself because I was worried she would get sick again soon, and she did. In all, the poor soul lost around 8 kg of her weight in just about 4 weeks. Carrying a lot of plastic bags whenever we stepped out of the house became a routine.

She is now in her fifth month and all the nausea is already gone and she seems to have gained back a kilogram from the lowest point. She is also quite active now – though not the same as before getting pregnant – and her bump has become quite prominent and people at work have started noticing and congratulating her. It is such a relief to know that your partner is not suffering any more. Nice to see her up and about, going to office everyday and coming home and making dinner.

However, I also do know that this is only a brief reprieve and that the really tough times are yet to come when her bump will become large enough to restrict her movements again, when she will again have to be very slow and careful with her activities and above all, the hell she is about to go through with the delivery.

As much as I would like, I cannot take any of her discomfort onto myself so that she feels better. But what I know I can do is to be there for her all the time, understand her problems and emotions and be the nicest husband that I can be. I must shield her from stress, both physical and mental, and do things which make her happy. After all, it is in a way unfair that the mother has to undergo so much while the father can basically rest his ass on the couch and eat and drink whatever he likes. I wouldn’t mind taking up part of her burden, but knowing that it’s impossible, I can only take relief in the fact that I have the opportunity to be there and take care of things when she doesn’t have the capacity for it.

Anyway, we still have a long way to go. Lots to do. January 2017, we are waiting for you.

Love for the Unborn

It is a slightly different sort of feeling today. My wife is over 4 months pregnant now and while I have been looking at baby products like toys, gyms, neck slings, etc., I  am positively overwhelmed. There is so much I need to and want to do, whereas the baby is still over 5 months away. I want to buy the most colorful bibs and toys, and my heart is set on the most expensive baby gym and stroller I have seen yet. I have basically forgotten about everything else that, until a few months back, I wanted to buy for myself. No longer am I wishing for the MacBook, or the Hoverboards so popular these days. Neither am I thinking of a gift for myself on my 33rd birthday, which is only about a week away.

But more importantly, I felt something even more incredible. While I was looking at some baby carriers, I felt this strong urge to pick up and hug my baby. I felt as if we already have a baby and someone has taken it away from me and I just felt unable to bear the separation. I just wanted to hold it close to my chest and not let it go, and protect it from the world. Gosh! It feels like I am the mother, not the father. Never expected I would have started to feel this much love and attachment for the unborn little one this early. Do dads really feel the way I am feeling?

It’s gonna be a…. Boy? Girl?

As soon as we learnt we were going to have a baby, I was pretty sure in my mind that I would like to know the gender of the baby in advance. My wife, on the other hand, felt exactly the opposite. For her, the surprise was important. Over the countless weeks that followed, we both put our arguments forward, trying to convince the other why one of us was right.

For me, knowing was important for two reasons. First, I don’t like uncertainties and prefer knowing over not knowing. I wanted to enjoy the whole period leading up to the delivery framing my thoughts more deeply about the baby and feel more of a bond with it when it is born. Knowing would also let me prepare things accordingly, buy the right colors: blue or pink, the right bibs: sporting a lion or a kitty. I wanted to enjoy knowing. The second reason, though less important, was that, back in India, it is illegal for doctors to reveal the sex of the baby (believe me, it is very very difficult to find out there). But here in Sweden, having had the option available, I wanted to take it just for the reason that I could.

My wife’s only reason for not knowing was that the lesser you know, lesser you tell the world and therefore, lesser people talk about it. She is a bit superstitious, in that she didn’t want to celebrate something way before its time.

However, after some time, it so happened that she got completely convinced by my arguments and agreed to finding out the sex of the baby at the next ultrasound, which was also going to be her last. Now that she agreed on this, she started to see all the advantages, such as being able to prepare with the right colors and the right name, and so much more. Overall, the excitement of being able to find out in advance proved too much for her to let go.

It is strange how opinions change. Because not only did she end up changing her mind, so did I. It happened one day that I was talking to my mom and she said that someone had predicted to her the sex of my baby-to-be. Though I do not believe in such predictions, it did take a place in my mind for a while and I realized that it disturbed me deeply. Somehow, something had come and taken away from the fascinating discussions I was able to have with my wife. Always discussing what we would do if it were a boy, or if it were a girl, pondering over each scenario, all of that was great fun and kept us excited. But once we found out the gender, what then? Nothing?

So, it finally dawned on me that I would be happier not knowing. That I would appreciate both a boy and a girl equally when it comes out because, by then, I would have gone through that nervous anticipation as a father where sometimes there would be good days and sometimes bad days during and I would not want knowing in advance to influence that genuine nervous anticipation. After all, it was my secret to keep and only mine to disclose.

My wife has been quite surprised that the tables had now turned completely. She now wanted to know while I wanted it to remain a suspense. It is, in a way, a good thing that both of us came around to appreciate the other’s point of view. And once you do that, your final decision, whatever it might turn out to be, could never be wrong

In our case, we finally decided not to find out. So, at the ultrasound, when the nurse told us she would be scanning the baby’s lower body and that we could look away from the big screen if we wanted it to be a suspense, my wife closed her eyes while I looked away too. Every moment, I felt enticed to look at the screen; the truth was right there to discover. But I didn’t look.

So now, we wait for January 2017.

Baby? Foetus? Parasite? The first ultrasound experience

2nd June 2016

A few days after we discovered my wife was pregnant – and she had done a second test to be sure, and then a third test before I had to stop her madness – we asked ourselves: what next? Initially, she thought we had to meet a gynaecologist – after all, that is what you would do back in India – but I did some research of my own and the matter was finally settled and we called a midwife clinic in Södermalm called Mama Mia and they gave us an appointment for 2nd June.

In between, we had an Italian trip planned and we found out it was safe to travel. We had a good itinerary but the saddest part was that my wife just could not eat anything during the whole trip since she could not bear the smell of meat (any meat). I felt sorry for her because here I was relishing carbonara, pizza, porchetta, everything that we both loved, while she sat small faced nibbling at a plain baguette we bought at a grocery store near our hotel.

Finally, the day arrived when we met the mid-wife for the first time. We were both a bit nervous and after a bit of discussion, we had the first ultrasound. After a couple of minutes of trying to make sense of what we were seeing on the screen, we finally saw it.

I still do not know what I had expected to see, because what I saw was a very tiny oval-shaped figure – like a small toad in a bubble. To me it was not a baby yet. I preferred to call it a foetus. I later told me wife that it is like a parasite which lived and fed on the host and survived only as long as the host did and it sucked out whatever it needed from the host without giving a damn about her health. Perhaps, I did not want to rush into an attachment at such an early stage. I mean, there were still a lot of tests remaining and one could not be 100% sure until much later so I was perhaps trying to shield my emotions. But before you go judging me, I was enjoying every moment of it anyway.

It was when the mid-wife announced that it appeared to be doing okay did my wife finally breathe a sigh of relief. She was obviously quite tensed, maybe I was too.

We got a print of the ultrasound and on our way back in the metro, while me wife took out the picture and looked at it secretively, I saw a woman sitting with her own baby on the other side of the aisle turn her head slightly towards my wife and smile. It was a smile which, perhaps, I could never understand before that day – she knew exactly how we felt.

How did you feel when you first saw your baby (or foetus) on that monitor? Did you think it was just a foetus like I did, or was it something else? Let me know by leaving a comment below.

Finding out: We’re gonna have a baby

Finding out: We’re gonna have a baby

A morning in May 2016. Stockholm, Sweden.

I knew it even before my wife called out to me and said the words. It was that kind of a morning.

I was about to leave for office shortly, but there I stood, staring at the floor, waiting for the Mrs. to call out and announce that the test was positive. She was pregnant!

I was quiet for a bit, gathering my thoughts together. Not sure how to respond, not really knowing how to feel. Just because we planned it, doesn’t make it any less surprising. On second thought, I wasn’t surprised so much as I was shaken. Surprise is when something happens unexpectedly. I was shaken because I hadn’t really considered how it would feel to hear the words for real.

As she stepped out of the bathroom, I gave her a few nods of agreement, a very slight smile – we were both more nervous than excited – and said we would talk again in the evening. She agreed and I turned around and left.

A little while later, sitting in the metro, it suddenly struck me. I was going to become a father.

Me! Me? ME??

With my head down, I stared into my lap and imagined a day when it would seat a creature that would just pee, poop and burp in it.

But I don’t want to get ahead of myself just yet. Today is only day one. We need to wait. Sure there will be some tests required. Back to the present.