Even though it has been 32 years now, I cannot forget the experience and feelings I had becoming a father for the first time. After seemingly endless prenatal classes, learning Lamaze, and figuring out my role as labor coach, my sweetheart finally went into labor. Back in the day, we had no idea whether our first child was a boy or a girl, so we had lots of yellow and green baby clothes! We had the crib, stroller, changing table and everything all ready.
Once labor started, my wife was anxious to move things along, but the baby was not particularly cooperative. After 28 hours of labor, and many of those walking around the corridors of the hospital to keep labor moving, Julie delivered our first child. In my journal later that night, I wrote the following:
As I drove home to our apartment, the reality of fatherhood hit me, and it hit hard. I was now responsible for a little life, for the boy I had dreamed about all my life. Was I ready? Could I provide for him? How would Julie and I teach him all he needed to know about life? It had taken us three years of trying to become pregnant—would he be our only child or would there be others? My head was swimming—partly from total exhaustion and partly from my fears—mostly about the unknowable future.
When I finally arrived at the apartment and dropped into bed, I found all my fears melting away. I was filled with a sense of awe and reverence at the experiences of the last few hours and a total consuming love for this little child that was back with his mother in that tiny hospital room. At that moment, what I felt was complete gratitude for the opportunity to be entrusted by God with this little life full of potential and also for the challenges that would lie ahead.
The pregnancy, labor and delivery experience were, for me, a sense of partnership with my wife. I felt keenly my role as supporter, coach, cheerleader and protector through our nine month experience. From back and foot rubs to cravings, from reading together to planning together, this was the experience of a lifetime and I wasn’t going to sell it short.
I also found that the level of my satisfaction through the pregnancy process was directly proportional to my level of commitment and sacrifice to be her supporter and protector. The more I put into the equation, the greater my sense of appreciation and personal fulfillment. And that formula has worked through five amazing pregnancies!
So, as we approach another Father’s Day, my suggestion to expectant dads is, to use a sports metaphor, to leave nothing on the field. No regrets. Make your partner’s pregnancy experience as positive as possible. Learn all you can about pregnancy, labor and delivery so that you can be the support she needs. The returns are amazing and the sense of awe and reverence that follows will change you forever. I have not been the same since that first night, and neither will any father who is committed to the twin concepts of family and fatherhood.
The Ten Basic Principles Successful Fathers Use to Raise Happy and Responsible Children which will be published later this year by Tate Publishing. Follow Wayne on Facebook and Twitter or on his blog at powerdads.com.