In a tiny hotel room in Toowoomba I found myself lying on sickly scented starchy sheets listening to the drum of a hailstorm, one hand on my third trimester belly, the other holding my hair off my face. My phone lay close to my head and I waited for it to ring, signalling a brief moment of closeness with my husband on the other end of the line. I missed him.
We both travelled regularly for work, it was nothing new, but at thirty two weeks pregnant, twelve kilos heavier, two hours from home, I was becoming painfully aware of just how far away he was.
Every now and then I would wonder what he was thinking. Did he really love my mashed potatoes that much? Did he really not mind my complete hopelessness in all feats laundry related?
Was he really excited about this baby?
We all know the saying about a father becoming a Dad when he holds his child, and I was well aware of the fact that I should be giving my (amazing) husband far more credit than I was. For this exact reason, I didn’t feel like I could tell anyone how incredibly frightened I was.
Pregnancy, like most good fairy tales, is riddled with clichés. “You’ll know what to do”, “As soon as you see your baby, you’ll get it”, “It’s the most wonderful time of your life, don’t wish it away!”. These catchy little mantras flow through support groups, baby books, and from the mouths of well-meaning relatives from plus sign to push, reassuring, reaffirming, and creating a level of expectation which is not always reasonable.
My husband is the best kind of cliché. The perfect knight in shining armour kind of guy who gets my heart racing and makes my knees weak. I knew, from the minute we said we were ready, that he would be everything I could ever hope for in a father for my children.
We would paint the nursery and build baby furniture and hold hands in scans and eat pickles and peanut butter together while crying over chick flicks through forty weeks of loved up bliss.
In week seven, I picked a room to be the nursery.
“No”, he contested, “I need that room for storage”.
In week thirteen, I emptied the spare room and built the cot listening to a Dr Karl podcast, because my husband was away for work.
In week seventeen, I was reminded that you can’t paint a rental property – It looks fine as is.
In week twenty three, I fell ill while interstate for work. It made no sense to worry him by calling – I waited until I knew everything was ok, then let him know I was fine.
I wanted to pore over ultrasound images and constantly talk baby names. I could (and did), but he would normally smile happily while going about his day.
My excitement was making me feel lonely, and that loneliness, just like fourteen hour work days and twice a week plane trips, was not supposed to be a part of my perfect pregnancy.
That awful afternoon, in that smelly hotel, my phone rang.
He had just arrived home and had walked the dogs and he asked how I was feeling.
He had done the washing I had left on the bed, and he asked, how was work?
He wondered where the hospital bag had gone, and I realised he’d noticed it was missing.
He said he’d driven home via the hospital and it had taken seventeen minutes.
He had spoken to Shaun, and he said we might need a second packet of newborn nappies.
In that phone call, full of logic and reason and timings and reconnaissance, I was speaking to my daughters Dad.
He was measured and rational, calm and reassuring, and he would be an amazing father.
Pregnancy is hard and long and stressful and scary. The pressures we face to be absolutely perfect are very real, but they often come from a place within ourselves. Clichés survive for a reason; often they are true, but their colourful word plays veil concepts that are often black or white.
A father doesn’t become a Dad when he holds his baby. He goes on a journey, just like we do, in his own head or with friends or rationally or emotionally, with support from family, journal articles, baby books or sporadic midnight google searches.
When my daughter arrived three weeks early, tiny and blonde, my husband knew exactly what to do. Then, after he cut the cord and sat with her in his arms, kissing her cheeks, holding my hand… he was the first person in the world to tell her that she was loved.
Beth is a passionate Early Learning professional committed to frontline advocacy for children’s rights. After joining an online mothers group in early pregnancy, Beth became disenchanted by the disconnect between what is considered best practice by professionals, and what is promoted as “right” by popular social media. She empathised with how overwhelming the pressure is on new families to just know what to do. Realising that most families were eager to understand contemporary knowledge about Early Childhood, but didn’t share her love for reading journal articles in their spare time, Beth started Bayberry Blue. This new and developing parenting resource provides practical advice for families as they navigate the early years with their child. The site features recommendations for Early Learning Services,a gorgeous boutique for expectant mums and bubs and in 2016, they’re launching a networking service for mums to meet with maternity and child health, education, community service professionals and other mums for a coffee and a chat!
Featured image by Queen Bee