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Stoking the Fire of Fatherhood

Today I am sharing a piece I wrote for this month's Sacred Journeys Childbirth and Parenting Newsletter. If you find it valuable, please consider subscribing and join me and other families desiring to raise happy and healthy children with wisdom and love.

Entering into parenthood is an initiation like no other.  It is a process of becoming most significantly felt by the woman who is becoming a mother.  For her, the change is undeniable –she's like a caterpillar entering into her chrysalis, and re-emerging a butterfly.  A day doesn't go by where she forgets that she is pregnant. If there isn't nausea, there are body changes, food aversions, smell sensitivity, exhaustion, trouble sleeping, and as baby grows, sweet little flutters, kicks and jabs. It's often an uncomfortable and long process of expansion and transformation. The fact that life is growing inside her and the life is changing is ever present in her body and mind.

But what about him?  Husbands and partners are watching the changes happening in her, but gaining “sympathy weight” is really the only physical change that they may experience.  The uncomfortable changes for them are external.  He finds he only has a sliver of space on the bed to make room for her fortress of pregnancy support pillows.  He experiences 2nd hand effects of her pregnancy nausea–the smell of cooking is just too much, so they order out.  Maybe he can’t brew coffee in the morning until she is out the door.  

In spite of life continuing without much change for him, he is in the process of becoming a father: whether he feels it or not.

So how can a dad prepare and connect more deeply to this process?

For one, you can prioritize talking about becoming parents together.  It may be hard to imagine that this is actually happening, but it will feel more real if you talk about it.  As baby grows in utero, maybe you put your hand on her belly during these conversations, discussing what kind of parents you want to be.  What are your family values?  How are they similar or different to the ones you were raised with?  You can talk directly to your baby about the love that you have and your hopes and prayers for them. You can sing them a special song, that will be a watery memory–a deeply soothing, familiar lullaby in their life as a newborn babe. 

If possible, go to prenatal appointments together, engage with her in the journey-that is both of yours.  Listen to your baby’s heartbeat and let that sink in.  

Next, I highly recommend talking to other fathers, especially ones you admire.  It seems that men often have to make more effort than women to connect with other parents and talk about deep relational topics like the role of fatherhood.  I have seen so many fathers, blindsided by the challenge of postpartum family life.  Don't be like them, learn from other fathers what to realistically expect and prepare for.  The more we embrace this process of becoming parents as a rite of passage into increased maturation and responsibility the healthier our culture will be.  Our culture has devalued the deep work of being responsible husbands, and caretakers of our children and communities in exchange for the dream of wealth and status via individualism.  For example, how many dads do you know, who when asked what they do, start with "I’m a dad and husband", rather than what they do for a paycheck? But I am convinced that for the vast majority of people, our legacy (for better or worse) will live on in our children.  Of course being a good provider is a huge part of parenting, so asking questions about work and home-life balance is prudent.  Sometimes, through these conversations, you may more aptly recognize your own values, so you can forge your own path in this new life you are building together as parents.  

And it will be a whole new life.  That may be uncomfortable to hear.  You are being entrusted with a completely helpless child.  Life has to revolve around this baby for its survival.  But the love and care you invest–the sacrifices you make in this season will serve you for a lifetime of meaningful, messy, and joyous parenting. 

Becoming a father is a huge honor and responsibility and the world needs more men to rise to the call– to raise families with wisdom and love, seeking harmony with their spouse/partner and committing to growing together on this sacred journey of life.  

P.S. If you are lacking good healthy father figures with wisdom, I recommend checking out the work of Dan Doty who hosts groups and rites of passage for men to become responsible and loving fathers and leaders for our kids.  


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