Archive for April, 2010

Apples and Oranges

My biggest concern for impending fatherhood is that I feel the way about being a father that I expect myself to feel about being a father. I want to be overwhelmed by the joy of everything. I want to be struck by the revelation that my life has changed forever and just be consumed with love for the new little person I’ve helped to bring into the world.

I want these things, but I’m concerned that I won’t feel that way at all. Perhaps I’ll be happy to have the baby here, but beyond it being a cute baby, I’ll feel about it as I would about any tiny, pinkish new roommate with a neck that doesn’t really work right. Maybe instead of being filled with joy about the presence of a child in my life, it will basically just be the source of new tasks and responsibilities and will become an everyday staple of my life, more than a focal point for it.

I’m equally as concerned that when the baby arrives I will react exactly as I’d hoped, and it will be as if I’ve fulfilled a lifelong quest and I will be overjoyed. And Janelle will feel the same way. And then we’ll look at each other and ponder that maybe second place isn’t such a bad finish after all.

This isn’t a comparison of like-to-like, but never having been in a position to love a child before, I’m not sure how that goes about affecting love of a spouse. I find it hard to imagine that the magnitude of a life change that this baby will represent won’t have an impact. I hope that all it will mean are more private, quiet moments for Janelle and I, and that we’ll be able to use our new family as a reason to basically shut ourselves in with one another for a time. Fewer external responsibilities and distractions is something that I think sounds very appealing right now. It’s probably the single item I look forward to most outside of the actual baby. But that kind of tranquility presupposes quite a few things about us and about the little tummy stowaway.

I’m not at all concerned about the relationship we have with our families. We’ll see them more, have more in-depth conversations, share advice. There will be a new layer to all those relationships. Janelle and I though had a level of exclusivity that will never be there again. There will be many new layers to our relationship, but not without a bit of sacrifice.

Effort may be the way to ease my own likely unnecessary concerns. If I’m thinking of it, it’s already unlikely to be much of a problem. A weekly “date night” would already be a more steady event than we’re currently used to having. We don’t buy one another flowers or gifties that much, but I think our chances to do so will increase. Part of the problem with spending all your time together is that you don’t really have many windows to surprise the other. There are also aspects about our relationship before we moved in together that we each miss a little. Having time apart always made us that much more pleased to see the other and we’ll certainly see our schedules split apart more and more as the baby grows.

I know this is a silly concern. Things will change as they change all the time and it will likely be so gradual that I’ll never even notice. We’ll go on from being a duo and simply add a new member to the act. Maybe one day we’ll think about being a quartet (let’s not get ahead of ourselves there, quintet). I’ll just set my sights on the future and look forward to the day that I can embarrass the hell out of kid because Mom and Dad are being so gross, they won’t stop making kissy face at each other.

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A Cautionary Tale

Postpartum depression (PPD) is a serious affliction. It’s something that affects a fairly broad swath of new mothers (numbers are unclear, but some studies suggest as high as 25%). The rapid hormonal changes that a woman undergoes during and after pregnancy are the chief suspects in the onset of PPD, so there’s really no way to tell if it is something that will strike your partner. A history of depression is not a necessary precursor—though research does suggest that postpartum psychosis is linked to genetics.

The unpredictability of the disorder is part of what makes it most feared, but it’s also something that hits during what should be a joyful period in anyone’s life. I know that I’m not really going to be able to avoid watching Janelle like a hawk after the birth. I’m sure I’m going to begin to get very annoying, asking if she’s okay and how she’s feeling and if she wants to talk about anything and she can tell me if she’s upset about anything and I’ll be right in the other room if you need me.

But, were it not for a friend of mine, a recent father himself, I never would have thought to keep an eye on myself.

PPND – paternal postnatal depression (though I’m sure you could go for PPPD, but that just looks silly to read) – is not just Dads not wanting to change diapers. It’s a medical condition just as PPD is. The specifics of PPND are just as vague as with its maternal companion, likely moreso as not a diagnosis with a lot of history behind it, though there is research out there.

Just as with PPD, there are both environmental and physiological changes at play. A new father is likely concerned about the well-being of his new family and is more than likely placing undue stresses upon himself. Studies show that hormone levels change in men as well. Male testosterone levels drop and estrogen levels rise after the birth of a child, supposedly to assist in the bonding process by lowering typically male aggressive tendencies. And, as everyone knows, when you mess with the concentrations of what make someone tick, it doesn’t always go smoothly.

In the case of my friend, he stacked an engagement, a move to a new home and a pregnancy within about six months. That’s a lot to take on. Follow that with an actual baby a couple months later, and it’s quite the haymaker. Making matters worse, he didn’t realize anything was wrong. He had been reading the books and browsing the websites and doing all the things that fathers are supposed to do in advance of actually becoming fathers. He was focused externally and totally unaware that when things began to go wrong that he might need to take a look at himself to see if everything was okay. In the midst of the enormity that is welcoming a child into world, he simply wasn’t even thinking that something might be wrong with him. It was seven months before he realized he was in trouble, and by that time things had gotten bad enough that his fiance was considering moving back home and taking the baby with her.

He’s managed to turn things around now, but managed to do so only because he was able to recognize in himself that there was something wrong. He took stock of things, saw that he wasn’t himself and sought help.

I know I’ve argued that Dads need to be stoic from time to time, and I still believe that to be true, but part of looking after your family should be looking after yourself as well. I think if you read this blog, I don’t need to justify the following statement, but just in case I’ll do it here: mothers get the raw deal in the pregnancy as far as physical and mental comfort goes by far. However, a father needs to realize that he is a part of the birth. You cannot focus exclusively on your baby and your partner because you can’t help them if you’re broken yourself. That baby may have only come out of one person, but it has become a part of many lives and it will affect everyone. Let’s all light up some incense and imagine it’s like the baby is a stone you throw into a pond and we are all leaves riding upon the ripples sent through the water and then let’s remember that metaphors that involve hurling babies into water aren’t really so great.

Don’t assume that the baby didn’t happen to you. Babies are wonderful, but they make a hell of a mess of things. Why should you be immune to that?

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Baby Bump Progression

We’re entering the home stretch (I guess that’s going to be a belly growth pun now). This Friday will be the start of week 31. That means that we have realistically anywhere from 7 to 11 weeks left. Phrase another way, we might be within two months. Yowzers.

And while Janelle and I have come a long way so far, Janelle’s belly has perhaps come the longest way. Here’s a bit of a retrospective so you can see how things have advanced to date. We’ve taken photos every day since we knew she was pregnant. Here are seven images, starting October 2 of last year and then the 2nd of every month up until now. Seeing it altogether makes for quite a show. As usual, click the images for larger size shots.

The first image we took.

Still looking pretty small.

Little teeny bit of a bump

Still doesn't seem to be much going on, huh?

Hey, now there we go. Not really round, though.

Now we're really cooking here.

Aaaaaand now it seems to get bigger every day.