Knowing everything is easy when you’re a man, because you believe that to be the truth. Thinking anything is half the battle…isn’t it?
I’m going to be a father again – for the third time. This, of course, means that I’ve experience (first hand) exactly two other pregnancies. Even with one alone, I’m sure I would have learned all there is to know, but two means I’ve sealed the deal. There is not a thing I haven’t learned about pregnancy – so I’m prepared and ready to go, and there’s nothing else I need to learn. About 48 hours ago, I had a slight change of heart.
As hard as it is to admit it, I’ve been wrong. My living room is home to three books written for expectant mothers (with the odd page dedicated to us fathers-to-be). It should be no surprise that these books are written with first-time parents in mind – you’ve all read them at one time or another. When these books first showed up in the living room, I took some notice. I discussed a few bits about them with my partner, who herself is going through this for the first time (and thus the library of baby books). Being a supportive man, I took the obligatory glance at the books and showed my interest. My status as expert was supported by this first glimpse at the contents.
Book #1 was written by a doctor who seems to disagree with my take on men being know-it-alls. In fact, her presentation of topics at a pre-schooler’s level leads me to believe that she feels men are quite stupid creatures. It was a horribly written guide for first-time-fathers-to-be. Although written in the 2010s, she pitched ideas as if we were still in the 1950s. As an example, she suggested that “men should show interest in helping mothers by doing things like changing nappies.” STOP RIGHT THERE. It couldn’t believe my eyes. I’ve seen more shitty nappies and cleaned a lot of shitty bums in the past ten years, but it certainly wasn’t because I was helping out mother. It was because it was MY child’s bum, and it was shitty, and it needed changing – those things don’t discriminate between moms and dads. The tone of this book remained the same (at least the pages I could bear to stomach) – treating men like the person designed soley for assisting. I was half waiting for her to suggest that “Dad should babysit every once in a while so that mom can have a night off”…but I didn’t get that far in to the book. I decided to retreat in to my man-shell and confirmed to my partner that the writer was an idiot, and I still did know all there was to know about being an expectant dad, especially if this book was anything to go by.
Well (and this is the I’m wrong part) I decided to pick up book number two the other night. Book number two took a different approach. This book was parent focused and contained contributions by parents. Compiled by Mumsnet, it includes a mix of both personal accounts by parents and factual information about planning, pregnancy, childbirth and beyond.
I opened the book expecting the usual low-brow tone in sections for the fathers, but I was pleasantly surprised. There were the cleverly edited humorous bits catering towards us men who might need a bit of it to ease us in to the touchy-feely subjects. However, the majority of the pieces were heart-felt, first hand accounts of what men expected, how they felt about their experiences, and things they learned along the way. I appreciated the honesty as it helped me realise that, even though I knew a lot of the technical bits, I had forgot about some of the feelings that were about to take place!
I had forgotten that as humans, we experience things in such different ways. We can understand the developmental stages of the baby, we can plan cots and cribs and wallpaper and baby savings bonds. Those things are the easy bits (that’s why I know all about them). The hard things are the emotions that we’re about to go through – ones that we may have never experienced (especially you first-time moms). We’re going to question ourselves whether or not we’re ready for it (or ready again). Most importantly, we’re going to be parents to these little things that (despite our best efforts otherwise) really don’t come with a manual and can be bloody well difficult to look after.
I don’t know it all. I realised that again the other day. Luckily I decided to pick up that book the other day and was reminded, by the experiences of others, that there are still many things for me to learn.