|photo cred: Molly Snelson|
While it will seem like the rest of the world will be waking up to coffee and burned toast in bed, lovingly unwrapping gifts of goofy ties and humorous coffee mugs...I want to take a moment to talk to the dads who are still eager to clumsily hold that baby of his own someday. God is using this time for you, guys, and you are not forgotten.
When my husband and I were hoping, waiting, praying for our firstborn to be conceived, it was a strange process for Josh. Not only did he have to balance his own dreams of what fatherhood meant to him, but he had to care for mine as well. And, for the first few months, I took it upon myself to relish in the burden of waiting. Meanwhile, Josh confusingly wavered between sympathy and frustration, not knowing how much of the emotional toll was really his to claim. And, I was too focused on my own body, desires, and anger to allow him any room to grieve and process in his own way. After all, I was the one who would carry the baby, clearly it matters more to me. No, that's terribly, terribly wrong. And, looking back now, I'm sorry I didn't recognize that my husband's lack of expressing his emotions was a source of protection and comfort for me, and not in any way a sign of his lack of investment.
After a few months of bearing the roller coaster of "trying" (by the way, don't we all just hate that term?) we breached a new level of understanding. I shared with Josh how every month I didn't get pregnant felt like getting rejected from a job I was perfect for. Here was a position that I dreamed about, had all the exact experience, knew I would be a great fit for, could commit to, and would do anything to get...yet, when I saw another pregnant woman or got my period, it was as if God Himself was turning me down in the middle of an interview. I'm sorry, the position has already been filled. Thanks, anyway. No feedback. No reasons. No explanation.
This idea clicked with Josh, and the power of the analogy shed new light on his emotions. Maybe he didn't know the pain of hoping to be pregnant, only to have hopes dashed in a single bathroom break once a month...but, he knew what it felt like to get rejected from a job opportunity, and that brought empathy into our relationship in a new way.
While he was able to relate to my emotions, however, it was months until I started to truly recognize his emotions invested in the experience. It wasn't that he was holding out on me or keeping secrets about how he felt. Like most men, he genuinely was unsure how to interpret the feelings he was experiencing. Waiting to become a father is twofold for men, emotionally. If there's two duties for a husband that seem to be nearly universal in most relationships, it's the need to provide and the need to fix.
These are wonderful characteristics. They are simple, direct, and often effective when paired with a woman's ability to nurture and engage. But, when it comes to conceiving a child, they are of little solace. Josh could not provide an explanation, and he couldn't fix the problem - month after month. We were waiting on the hand of God to intervene, and (as are most experiences with waiting for men) his impatience quickly manifested as anger and inadequacy.
Guys, this is totally valid. Those feelings are not wrong or bad. And, while your wife might be in need of a hug more than you going for a beer with the guys and taking a jog to blow off steam - waiting is a time to take care of your self as much as your spouse and your future family. But, don't stop asking God for help. Don't stop telling your wife why your angry (and direct that frustration at your Xbox instead of your fragile wife!) Don't stop growing in this painful process that has the opportunity to truly shape you into the man you will have to be when those 3am diaper changes finally arrive. You are becoming resilient. You are becoming adaptable. You are becoming a father right now.
A word to my mamas-to-be: You are not alone in this. Don't forget that your husband is your partner, your friend, your strongest advocate for what's best for you...not just your babymaker. He loves you, he wants what you want, and the more you can team up toward the goal of becoming the people God wants you to be together the better parents you will make in the future, and the deeper the experience will be for the both of you. If you feel alone, if you're not sure how your husband feels, Ask him. If he doesn't know how he feels, believe the best about him. His feelings matter as much as yours do, but you have to listen (sometimes to actions more than words) before you can interpret what he's saying.
This Father's Day, my husband will be hugged fiercely by our two daughters. To the point of annoyance and insurmountable joy. Fatherhood has brought my husband more challenges and happiness than probably anything else in life ever could, and I'm so grateful to know him in this role so intimately. Fatherhood didn't begin when he changed our daughter's diaper or even when he held her for the first time. It isn't counted in the number of ties or socks or silly crafts he will receive over the years, and it's not comprised of even the sweetest moments of butterfly kisses or storybook readings.
For Josh, and for many dads, Fatherhood began way back when God started shaping Josh moment-by-painful-moment into the man our family needed him to be. God uses time as an element of conception just as much as any biological essence. Dads-to-be, maybe you won't be unwrapping any goofy ties this Sunday, and maybe you will have to wait for a while longer before your baby is in your arms, but your joy can be complete today. You already have everything you need to provide and fix what's within your responsibility. And, I pray that God's timing continues to mold your marriage, as He did with mine, to create a unity welcoming of the child he's preparing for you.
In the meantime, know you are not alone. Know you are a craft in progress. Know you are enough. Know you are understood in your anger and frustration. And, Happy Father's Day...right now.