In this episode I have a conversation with my friend Zarko, who learned he and his partner were expecting a child. You'll get to hear Zarko consider his upcoming role as a future dad in the first trimester, in the third trimester, and once he comes up for air, in the fourth trimester.
This one way we thought of capturing his thoughts as they evolved over the duration of the pregnancy, to see the kind of growth and the considerations he'd have as a future dad awaiting his first child.
As always, feel free to share this with other future dads you may know.
In part 1, Erica shares her birth experience. I challenge her to dig a little deeper, because I know what she experienced wasn't as simple as she made it sound. Have a listen, and as always, feel free to share this podcast with a friend you think might appreciate knowing they're not alone.
In this episode, my partner shares her side of the story. I've split it into 4 parts to make what is an emotional and demanding day a little lighter yet relatable for you. If you're a future dad, I encourage you to have a listen with your partner.
We hope our story gives you something worthwhile to discuss, or highlights insights to explore.
The longer I live, the more it seems, that details surrounding major life events are private and not to be discussed too openly. It could also have to do with how comfortable people are at digging a little deeper and questioning things. For example buying a car, or a house, are two things that require an appetite and stamina for bargaining and possibly not getting what you want. In a North American cultural context, where most things are off the shelf, it seems like the pain associated with an unknown experience, excuses the unnecessarily higher costs associated with these purchases. Oh yea, weddings are totally on that list as well.
When it came to my partners' pregnancy, I can't recall who told her this, but essentially it was, when you start showing, be ready for open season on the way you look, the way you feel, and the pain you'll be going through. We noticed that what people were most interested in talking about, were the, let's say, challenging highlights of their pregnancy. Morning sickness, the smells, the lack of sleep, and almost always, any unresolved trauma they underwent while giving birth. Rarely did people just ask and listen to my partner, it was almost always a variation of, "Let me tell you about this terrible experience I had, which you'll also probably have, because, that was my experience, but it's all worth it in the end! Good luck!" complete with a road runner Meep Meep and dust leaving you to contend with their 9 months of stuff. Suffice to say, my role a lot of the time was to bat away their worries from my partners current experience. Yes the baby is moving, no you're not a bad mom and you won't get diabetes from eating one donut, yes you're getting enough exercise, for every negative story that involved X situation, remember there's so and so and so person who had a healthy and positive experience.
So real talk, where is it happening in this culture, when it comes to sex, it's called the birds and the bees, and when you're an adult, it becomes, schedule that C! Folks are happy telling you they've been pregnant for 4 months, that the baby was born safe and healthy, that they won't let you sleep, and when they learn you're expecting a child the ever present advice that you should always always, opt for the drugs and schedule that C-section. So we went to a birth class a month before our due date, to supplement the information we had from our wonderful Doula, and the many books we acquired over the nine months. It was a 9 to 5 and it went into pretty good detail on what to expect before and during labor. Even had the videos that were clearly shot in the 90s. I think the most useful part for me, was seeing how other people fared. It attracted first time parents, and what I saw there was part of what got me doing this podcast.
The instructor also recalled a story about another future dad, who had suggested men consider arranging to spend 1 to 3 hours a month of alone time, with their child, male or female, and that by the time they're 12 years old, that Saturday weekend ritual with dad, will be equal to 144 hours of personalized time with daddio. The instructor then asked if anyone in the group recalls spending that much time with their father, the silence was powerful and affirming. And a bonus tip, if you have 4 children, that's one special Saturday they each have to look forward to. If you have more than 4, please let us know how you solved for this math equation.
A final note, by far the book my partner appreciated most was Ina May's Guide to Child birth. It's like a curated collection of people telling you their experiences, except they get into important details and you can put it down when you've had enough.
I like to understand the etymology of words, particularly in Arabic because it can be poetic at times. For instance, the Arabic word for human being is Insaan. From what I could find, it could have two roots, one is to forget and the other is to relate, to love or be loved. So now I'm thinking wow! to relate, and to love or be loved, that makes sense that they're similar, that's what relationships are, the ones you choose anyway. Because I'm reminded of folks who say, "you don't choose your family". Which touches again on transgenerational trauma, experiences that shape a generation, and impact another. Paul Raeburn, in his book "Do fathers matter? what science is telling us about the parent we've overlooked" describes the research conducted by the Cowans, a married couple, both psychology professors at berkley university. And they like most couples have had to deal with challenging conflict after their children were born, they also noticed the same trend in their circles of friends and family. This led them to take a look at research out there and they found studies across the world that traced the beginning of difficulties in relationships to the early years of becoming a family. This had led them to ask the question "what is wrong with us?" So the Cowans engaged a number of couples In a longitudinal study that followed couples before they became parents and until their children were 18 months of age. The study found that 20% get divorced by the time their children are of kindergarten age, with the remaining 80% having severe reservations about their marriage or heading toward divorce. Keep in mind the study was conducted between 1979 and 1990, when women were not as likely to be working outside the home as they are now. There was some good news, the children of present dads, or fathers who were fully present in supporting their partners' pregnancy had an easier transition years later when they went to kindergarden. They think that happier couples, are more nurturing which in turn results in children who enter school feeling loved and supported. Ever since we got married, I started paying attention to older couples, those who've been together for a long while, overwhelmingly the things I heard revolved around respect, communication, and placing their relationship ahead of the children. There are many programs that address parental skills, and what I like about the Cowans and the work they've done, is that they've found that, more than parenting skills, it's how couples communicate and overcome conflict that contributes to the family being healthy and happy. According to Paul Raeburn, Amina Alio, a professor of Community and public health, at the University of South Florida, along with her colleagues, found that fathers who were involved with their partners during pregnancy reduced the risk that children would die in the first year of life. The death rate of infants whose fathers were not around was nearly four times that of infants whose fathers were involved. Infants whose fathers were absent, and had no involvement in the pregnancy, were more likely to be born with lower birth weight and to be born prematurely. Anemia, high blood pressure, and more serious ailments were also more prevalent among women whose children's fathers were absent. So if you're a future dad, and you're taking time off to attend all the prenatal appointments, if you're allowing your partner to be heard about their fears, actively listening and being present, you are actively contributing to the survival of your child. Have a friend who's about to become a dad? ask them about their experience so far, let them talk. Also, letem know to check this podcast out, and to submit any questions, or comments they may have to Future Dads Club @ gmail.com
I'd previously shared that my dad met his father at the tender age of 16. I might dive deeper into his story in a future podcast, but suffice to say, his idea of what a father's responsibilities are, did not fully align with my needs. Keep in mind, that, there is a nagging feeling in the back of my head that tells me I'm lucky. Call it survivors guilt, but as a child that survived a war, and was provided refuge in a western industrialized nation, largely due to the sacrifices of my parents, I should count my lucky stars. My hierarchy of needs were met, but I still find myself with an urge to do it differently. This will have an impact on the things I prioritize, be it career, extended family, purchases, living arrangements. My people are nomadic due to the natural environment they inhabit. They have always sought to thrive by picking up and moving depending on the season, of which there are two. Dry, and Wet. As a result they became resilient, proud. Nomadic, yet fixed. I imagine that once upon a time, someone must have asked what I think may have been a very important question. A question so powerful, it forever changed the way they interacted with their environment. A question that had them seek out lands that were bountiful, when the grass was no longer greener, when the earth was no longer wet, when the good times stopped. If we are already ancestors by virtue of merely existing. If we recognize, in passing moments, behaviours, conversations, inaction, that lead to more of the same and don't ask a question, so powerful as to change the trajectory of our children's lives. If the inter-generational trauma, is not halted, questioned, taken apart and addressed. Then what is a good father? Have a friend who's about to become a dad? ask them about their experience so far, let them talk. Also, let'em know to check this podcast out, and to submit any questions, or comments they may have to Future Dads Club @ gmail.com
Outside of this whole future dad thing being what my friend described as the only time you'll have "stress filled fun", one of the reasons I believe I needed to undergo this self reflective process was synthesized by a pair of voices I've recently enjoyed listening to on the "find the outside" Podcast. On an episode where they reflect on their ancestors, Tim and Tuesday shared the idea that quote "We are already ancestors, by virtue of being alive". That struck me as a powerful way of looking at what it is I'm trying to create, impart, share and participate in as a future dad. One of the things that can create lasting memories is how intense the emotions are. The more intense, the longer one remembers. So taking stock of what may have influenced me, what memories have lingered, and what intense emotions may accompany them, might help me be a more present dad. Inshallah. It's also heartening to know I'm in good company. A 2015 report on Parenting in America by the Pew Research center stated that 57% of dads see fatherhood as a positive experience that is central to their identity. Care to guess what percent of moms see parenting as central to their identity? 58%. That surprised me, until I saw the part where they found moms, more than dads, turn to family and friends for parenting advice. 19% of fathers turn to a family member who is not their spouse for parenting advice, and 8% of fathers turn to friends for parenting advice. That makes me wonder, if almost 2/3 of men see fatherhood as central to their identity. Where is that conversation happening? In what ways is it expressed by these men. If only 19% and 8% turn to family and friends, respectively. Is the majority trying to go it alone? Have a friend who's about to become a dad? ask them about their experience so far, let them talk. Also, let'em know to check this podcast out, and to submit any questions, or comments they may have to Future Dads Club @ gmail.com https://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2015/12/17/2-satisfaction-time-and-support/#parenting-matters-to-overall-identity
Because so much of my partner's life energy and routines were bump centered, an inherently physically and emotionally taxing process. I initially wasn't as useful, or supportive as I could have been. We didn't know how to communicate about our new need to divvy up this responsibility of bringing the child into the world in a way that makes sense. One of the things I heard often, was the beautifully American way of making a directive statement in the form of a question. Do you want to buy that thing we spoke about? do you want to read that book? It took us a while to sit down and have a good conversation about what my part in the 9 months was to be. For instance, that looked like an increase in the share of household duties, research and logistical planning for birthing options, lining up assistance for the first weeks, not bringing sugary and fatty foods home to tempt her, encouraging physical activity, more frequent trips to the store before she got home from work, etc. Knowing what I know now, it would have served us better if we had the needs and wants conversation early on in the pregnancy. Not later than the 3rd or 4th month mark, because psychologically, it's just more real, and you're probably telling most friends and family at the end of the first trimester. Also it's better have this conversation at the what are you doing phase, so it doesn't get to the do you think you want to do X phase. Having less stress is generally a good thing, it goes a lot further if there's less stress during pregnancy, so do your best to keep those cortisol levels low. Watch out for a future episode on the link between stress and epigenetics
When asked what having a child meant, my friend said "History doesn't end with me", it was much more profound. The idea is that having a child activates a mortality mirror, this lil bean may create a drive in you to do better, or stay alive long enough until they're no longer dependant on you for their survival. Another friend said, "I started spin class, don't laugh, I used to make fun of it, but it's hard, and hopefully it'll help me avoid getting heart disease, I want to see my kids grow bro"
Things to goog
Wheel of life, coactive coaching.
White board markers for windows.
Personal coach, pregnancy.
I recall a story my dad told me about the first time he met his father. He was playing football, soccer, on a dirt lot, when a man who seemed familiar walked towards him. He squints at this man through lashes made heavy by salty sweat, and without the drama of buzzing sounds of lightsabers. Hears the man say, I'm your father.
I remember taking my phone off airplane mode and my phone buzzing a lot more than usual, it had a bunch of missed whatsapp calls and messages from my siblings, they're much younger, so if it's not on snapchat, it had to be important. I was worried, because we live oceans apart. so when I reached out, I learned it was because they had a heartfelt conversation with our dad, well past midnight, when he at some point, broke down, and cried. They were, to say the least, shocked. They called because it had never happened before, though they finally felt heard, they were also scared for him. To see a mask of steel, melt like butter was at once heartening, and terrifying. My father lived a tough life, as did his father before him, and his father before him. In his drive to be all he understood a man, and father needs to be, he wore masks, that decades later had to come apart.
Laying the ground work for what this is all going to be about. A set of short musings and mostly reflections on my struggles with being a future dad who wants to become a present dad. I don't know a lot of guys who want to talk about this in public, so I'll start by talking to myself. If you know a future dad, send them my way, I'd love to know what's going through their head.
I'm not sure I fully realized that this child was coming in to the world for most of the pregnancy. There were no changes in habits, morning sickness, or cravings in my body to make it "real". I had to feel ready, in the beginning, for this to end as quickly as it began. Because I needed to be strong for any possibility.