Father's Day: The Real Gift
All babies are miracles. I truly believe that. Having three of these miracles myself, I know how fortunate I am. Having travelled an arduous journey to arrive at this point, I have some empathy with others who haven’t had the same joy. In particular, where the delight of pregnancy sometimes provides a seeming promise which isn’t always kept. There are probably lots of blogs and articles that detail what women go through emotionally and physically in suffering miscarriages, but there are probably less examples of what men go through.
With all things, everyone experiences things differently and some are affected more than others. Personally, I can whole heartedly say that having experienced miscarriages on several occasions – it is a brutal experience that can leave deep scars. Not only can it affect us as individuals but it can also impact the relationship we have with our partners. It can permeate into your lives ultimately for good or bad, strengthen or weaken, in both cases it changes your life.
I can clearly remember my wife becoming pregnant for the first time. We had been trying to conceive for some time and when she had missed a period we went through the tense process of a pregnancy test. As we sat waiting for the test to show us one stripe (not pregnant) or two stripes (pregnant), the potential future implications of raising a family were bubbling through our minds. So, when the test showed us two stripes, we were overjoyed.
In that moment, the thought of raising a family of our own, the thought of cradling our own flesh and blood, caring for and teaching a tiny vulnerable bundle of joy was overwhelming. It was transformational, thinking of how the dynamics of life might change with the addition of a child. I must admit I have experienced few situations in life that evoke this kind of genuine and spontaneous emotion. So, when those two red stripes were revealed on the little plastic test, we never imagined that anything bad would happen to the baby. Of course, we knew it could, we just didn’t entertain that thought in detail.
The man doesn’t go through the physical experience of bearing a child and so I can understand the opinion that men cannot feel as emotionally linked to the birth. I cannot argue with this. I believe that the bond that the mother has with her child in pregnancy is uniquely profound and beautiful. This is in no way to take away from those who have had children via adoption or otherwise, which is a different bond equally magnificent but in a very different way. The connection that is naturally created between a baby and its mother is irreplaceable. But, the man is not just a bystander to the pregnancy. If it means anything to him, he emotionally invests. And, that investment can be great.
Sitting on the edge of the hospital bed, we knew something was wrong, but I remained optimistic. I wasn’t sure if this was just a defence mechanism out of fear of the alternative or if it was genuine optimism, but it served its purpose. There had been bleeding over the past couple of days and our increasing concerns had resulted in a night time trip to A&E and then a hospital bed.
But, as time passed, things got worse and it became clear something was deeply wrong. The loss was a sledgehammer. It was a night of new experiences (not good ones), sharp emotions, graphic memories and dark thoughts. Nothing prepares you for it. We returned home feeling empty and disoriented, not quite able to make sense of the tragedy that had broken our dreams so abruptly. My wife was inconsolable and she had lost a part of her that she would never regain and it wasn't just physically. I was also broken. Holding each other tight, we cried whilst attempting to process our confused thoughts and feelings, but no clarity ever came of course.
I was devastated by the experience. It seemed surreal, like most experiences of loss. I also felt like I had to support my wife more than I needed to focus on my own grief. I don't mean this in any sacrificial way, I was no martyr, she just simply needed more consoling than I did. But, that meant that I became, or appeared to be, cold to the facts. Flippant to the deep pain that had been inflicted. Whereas, in reality, it felt like life had paused and hadn't really started again. It felt like the hand that was dealt was unjust and a mistake. It was neither of those things, it was just a sad part of our journey. A stumble in the path that we would experience and try and dust ourselves off from. Sadly, there were more stumbles on that path that we would encounter, each one no less significant than the last.
This took a toll on us. As a couple we had to reassess what it meant to potentially never have our own children. We grew more pessimistic as time went by, yet when hope emerged now and again it was usually dashed in the same unfortunate way. I recall seeing our friends have beautiful children and I felt deeply happy for them but failed to show that at times due to my own disappointments. It sometimes felt like I was emotionally half the person I was meant to be, not fully able to express the joy I had for others (when in reality I was over the moon), not fully able to express the sorrow to my partner (when in reality I was walking in the dark) and not fully able to share the hope I had (when I had that faith in a bright future, yet past evidence showed otherwise). I was in limbo. Thankfully, that limbo would be lifted.
As the journey continued through the years, those miracles did happen eventually. Three incredible miracles, three very special children. These three children are special like all children, they are unique like all children and they drive their parents insane at times like all children. But, I wouldn’t want it any other way.
Father’s Day should be a celebration of all the good fathers out there, which is no bad thing. But, the fact that we are fathers in the first place is worth celebrating in itself. Let’s not forget how blessed we are.
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