We went to our second Meet-the-Midwives gathering last night, and it felt wholly different from the one we attended a couple of months back. At that first meeting, it hurt me to be in a room full of pregnant women. I was bitterly aware of the difference between their experience and mine. I felt excluded, marginalized, extraneous. At the meeting last night, I was thrilled to be in this role. I was excited to ask questions about how my presence might best serve my wife as she labors to bring our child into this world. I felt camaraderie with the fathers in the room. I felt that – when I asked questions about how to be a non-gestational parent during birth – I was asking questions that might serve all of us. I felt open. Expansive. Delighted.
This pregnancy is going by so quickly! We’re already halfway through it, and it seems like we’ve only just now settled in. I’ve realized that if I spend too much time mourning the aspects of this experience that I don’t get (aspects that would have been nice, but that don’t define what it means to parent), I’ll miss so many of the aspects I do get, the ones that are mine.
Feeling him kick. Reading to him. Laying my head lightly on J’s belly so that I’m close to his little, growing body. Cooking for her; ensuring he’s getting the nutrients he needs. Holding her and listening to her and loving her through the scary parts. Sharing the intimacy of these fleeting weeks.
There’s a good chance I’ll never get to do these things again. If we’re blessed to find work in a state where adoption is available to us, we’ll likely adopt the rest of our children. I’ll miss these early moments. And that’s okay: our other paths will no doubt bring intimacies I can’t even fathom. But these are the ones I get this time, and I’m grateful to have realized how blessed I am to have them. These are the sweet mysteries of bringing this particular child into our world.
If I had to name the one thing that you, as a community, have taught me this summer, it would be this: parenting is a lived reality. It’s not biology. It’s not a particular set of physical or emotional experiences. It’s not the swelling body, the pushing, the bond of nursing. And it’s not about how anyone else perceives you (this has been the hardest one for me: the fear of being seen as less important). It’s the lived reality. The daily commitment. And in this way, parenting is like all of our other roles, so I’m surprised it took me so long to get here. I mean, I’ve known since the day I married J that being her wife was about the lived reality of respecting her, of listening, of learning to compromise. I’ve never questioned my role as her partner, though I know that many people dismiss it entirely.
So: parenthood as lived reality. That was this summer’s lesson. Thanks for that, and happy September!
(I leave you with a photo of my gorgeous, twenty.weeks.pregnant wife. I’m afraid to blink, so quickly is this flying by. Lie to me: tell me that it slows down from here.)