Monday, May 25, 2009

Pregnancy-The Father's Perspective

As some of you have already read, pregnancy for Jaynee has been a mix of ups and downs, excitement and frustration, glow and nausea. But all things considered I think she is handling pregnancy wonderfully and seems to be enjoying it. Aside from an occasional bout of nausea, Jaynee has a certain "glow"that I can't describe. One that can only come from being an expectant mother.

Jaynee has written all about her experience as a mother-to-be. But I thought I'd share my perspective of the pregnancy, including my emotions as an expectant father and the role that I've played in our pregnancy.

I first learned that we were pregnant on Valentines Day. The news of our pregnancy was the best gift I could ever receive. I was so excited that I cried while we embraced in the excitement of our future family. It was obvious from the start that Jaynee and I were ready for the challenge of parenthood. Well, as ready as we can be anyway. Neither of us feel we can ever be fully prepared for what lies ahead, but we knew the time was right to start a family. We were set to be parents. But first, we needed to wait the requisite period before we could start telling our friends and family.

The secretive period of our pregnancy was unbelievably exciting. In some ways it was my favorite part of the pregnancy. Jaynee and I grew quite close during that period. There is something indescribable about sharing "our little secret." We were giddy every night in anticipation, and it was fun to give each other secret looks in public when people mentioned kids, or asked about our future plans, etc. We read books together in bed each night that described pregnancy, what to expect, how to prepare, social norms, etc. But as our secret continued and the idea of Tweet grew in our minds, and in Jaynee's belly, we started to get anxious to tell our friends and family. Not to mention that people were starting to suspect something was up!

The day that we told our parents was unforgettable. Jaynee's mom's reaction was priceless, touching and hilarious all at once.

It was a wonderful feeling to share our secret. My mom and Pops were obviously excited too, and I think it caught everyone off guard. Our little secret was no longer a secret, so from that point forward the experience of being a father-to-be changed completely.

When I read books about being a father-to-be, all of them mentioned the feelings of alienation that fathers often experience during pregnancy. But as I read about these issues I never thought it would be a problem for us. Since Tweet was our little secret for so long it was hard to imagine that I would feel left out. But as time went on and more and more people learned about our pregnacny, I felt myself being alienated from the experience. It was a terrible feeling at first, one that I initially chose to ignore in hopes that it would go away.

In my mind, this would be the first test of our relationship during pregnancy. While you're probably thinking, "oh, you haven't seen anything yet," you're probably right. But I can tell you that as a father, to feel uninvolved in your own pregnancy is a terrible feeling, and it takes a strong relationship to resolve. Every book we read suggested that close communication with your spouse is key to resolving issues of alienation.

In my mind, this is one small example of why Jaynee and I waited to have children. We needed to be ready; together. We will need a strong marriage to resolve a host of issues throughout parenthood, and this issue was the first small speed bump in that process. I'm thankful that our marriage is strong and that we communicate with each other about our emotions. As soon as we talked about it, identified key issues and developed a plan together, the problem was fixed. Just like that! From that point forward I have felt completely involved in the process. Well, as much as a father can be anyway. My experience will never rival that of Jaynee, but I'm thankful for the closeness that Jaynee, Tweet and I have shared throughout this journey.

Jaynee's day-to-day struggles have been difficult to witness, but every day she makes me proud for the way she handles them. She handles the struggles in stride and seems to keep an appropriate perspective during hard times. This is where I think father's have an advantage during pregancy. While we'll never know what it feels like to have a child growing inside of us, we do however enjoy an untainted, almost utopic perspective of pregnancy. We see the miracles of pregnancy without experiencing the harsh side effects. This is a really big deal. One that I hope to never take for granted.

So, from this father's perspective, pregnancy has been a beautiful experience. I wish I could share in the burden's of nausea, swelling, cravings, etc., but I can't. I can only be supportive, do things to make them feel better, be kind when others are mean, be understanding when others are not, rub her belly when she doesn't feel well, and run to store when a crazy craving hits. In essence, I just need to be there for them, and "being there" mostly involves handling logistics, rubbing her feet and preparing the nest.

So, my role as Tweet's father, aside from emotional support, has involved a lot of house construction and "jumping on grenades." I'll explain the latter in another post, so for now I'll explain the former; house construction and nest preparation.

Preparing the nest has been a huge job for me. I first found out that we were pregnant when I was up to my elbows in basement construction. I had hit a proverbial wall at that point, in terms of both energy and ability, but knowing that Tweet was coming gave me the energy and drive to continue. I finished my all-time biggest construction project in short order and the results were better than expected, especially for a fish biologist with no dry-wall experience.

The room was designed from the beginning to be completely baby proof. Even the TV is mounted high on the wall, way out of Tweet's eventual reach. I can thank my co-worker Matt for that bit of advice, as his son Spencer is known to climb on the TV, A LOT. We intentionally left the far side of the room empty so that we can accommodate things like cribs, rockers, bouncy chairs and play pens in the future.

With the basement squared away it was time to prepare Jaynee's home office. Jaynee's employer has been gracious enough to allow her to work from home when Tweet arrives. But to accommodate a home office we needed to completely re-purpose our house, which involved more demolition in the basement. I tore out another bedroom, formerly known as the "man pit," where I once studied for my entrance exams for graduate school. The room was in dire condition. So dire in fact that even without walls or carpet the room is in MUCH better shape.

Once the bikes, tools and cat (yes, my wishes finally came true and the cat was permanently kicked to the curb) had been removed from the eventual office upstairs, it was time for more construction. I decided to surprise Jaynee with this renovation while she was traveling for work. I worked on this room for long hours at night while she traveled and was able to complete it before her return. The room will obviously allow her to have a comfortable work space in the future, but has also allowed us to organize ourselves before Tweet's arrival. We now have all our insurance, finances, documents, files, etc. in proper order.

Up next? The baby room! I'm most excited about this project, but it will have to wait a couple more weeks. Jaynee and I are still wrestling with weather we want to know the gender of the baby. For now we are leaning towards finding out, so we figure we'll wait to start painting when we know what colors are most appropriate. So, the building of the nest continues and I'll be sure to share my construction progress with you in a future post.

Preparing for Tweet's arrival has been a lot of work, but I'm confident that the real work lies ahead. I know that my job as a father will never be easier than it has been for the past 4 and a half months. But that seems to be the beauty of this process. We are gradually introduced to increasing gradations of responsibility. Until that is, on October 20th when Tweet finally arrives. THAT my friends, will be a whole 'nother ball game. But rest assured, when Tweet arrives our home will be fully prepared, full stocked and ready to rock. Our home will be everything we dreamed it would be. A home where we will raise our family.

A place where love will always come first.


Kelly said...

Nitro is gone? Ben, I can see you are all in tears about it :) The rooms look awesome! Paul, Cooper and I need to stop by and check them out. I love the lights above the couch. Paul has been talking about doing that in our basement.

Mommymeepa said...

You are going to be a rockin' dad. I love all the rooms and can't wait to see Tweet's room. I totally teared up when your mom realized there was a sonogram in the grandma's brag book. I'm so glad you got that on video. Great post. Thanks for sharing.

heleneti1 said...

You two are amazing....thank you for sharing this incredible time with us. The basement...WOW! What a transformation - Benny, you rock! Jaynee, I can't wait to talk about your pregnancy and nothing else:)!! Love, Helen

greyhound said...

Kind of reminds me of one of those documentaries on animal planet where the male of he species works himself into a lather building and protecting the nest or the burrow. Super nice nest, though.

If you were penguins, I've no doubt Ben would be dutifully standing out on the ice, holding Tweet's egg on his feet and keeping it warm and safe.

momo said...

i didn't realize how much i'd missed your blogging, benny - um, i mean papa tweet. :-)

fish biologist, schmologist, you were meant to be a father.


stronger said...

I love grandma's reaction. I watched it 3 times.

While you may never understand just what your role/support means to the development of Tweet- let me assure you it is huge. Pregnancy is something a mother can always look back on- you never forget the nausea, stretching pains, cravings, aversions, the ultrasounds, the sugary orange drink, how long month 7&8 drags on, the moment you started having contractions, how long they lasted and how many hours it took to deliver the baby, and who helped you through all of it.

I can look back on the total lack of support/love/admiration during my pregnancy. I don't have the best associations with that time. I remember feeling tired, yet unable to complain. E was such a happy baby, but when I left the room she cried and cried and cried and nothing her dad could do would comfort her. Once I'd return, she'd immediately stop crying. It's easy to say that my babies felt very little attachment to their father until they were about a year and a half. The first year and half are some of the best memories you get to take with you the rest of your life.

I have to admit, I've always wondered what it would be like to go through pregnancy with a partner as loving/supportive/excited as you are to share in the experience.

I so enjoyed sitting and listening to you two talk about "the glow" and what it means to both of you.

Jaynee gets to look back on all that you did to make her more comfortable, make her more loved, and to reassure her that she'll be the best mother ever. You are giving so much to Tweet right now...and she'll show you in Oct.

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