‘Honey, we’re pregnant!’
What goes through a man’s mind when he hears he’s going to be a dad?
For the majority of men the fact that sex may lead to fatherhood seems to come as a genuine surprise. Until there is actual physical evidence, like a basketball-tummy, or better yet, a real-life human baby we can see and touch, many men find it quite difficult to relate to what it means for them to become a dad.
When I first heard that my partner Sam was pregnant for the first time, I wasn’t even in the same country. Physically, I was in Germany, visiting family. Mentally, I may as well have been on Alpha Centauri. It’s not that I was shocked - we’d been trying for a couple of months - just that I wasn’t really prepared and hadn’t really thought through what it would actually mean for my life.
Sam told me on the phone and I think I had the opposite of a near-death experience. Instead of seeing my past flash by in front of my eyes, I saw my whole future in a millisecond. Babies, toddlers, pre-teens, teenagers and grown-ups, all of whom were our children, were milling around Sam and me while we were growing old among them. I guess you could call it a near-birth experience.
In some ways it was quite a frightening vision, but mostly, I found it incredibly inspiring. The enormity of it all only started penetrating my thick primate skull when I actually held Josef in my arms three quarters of a year later. But at that moment in Germany, the thought ‘I’m going to be a father!’ became a concrete reality for me for the first time. One of the top 5 moments of my life? Absolutely!
I spoke to some other men about their first reaction to the news that they were going to be fathers:
- My old varsity buddy Motsweng, who’s now a father of three and a successful attorney, was seriously taken aback: ‘. . . what do you mean you are pregnant?!’
- For Mike, an online media producer and father of Pablo, the experience was quite traumatic: ‘I was lying half asleep on my back and the news was the equivalent of having been electrocuted.’
- Lewis, a romantic hydrologist says: ‘I remember my partner Jen bringing through the little stick from the bathroom, and us sitting on the edge of the bed and really having a good look at the blue lines. The sunshine was streaming in through the window and gave the scene a cinematic quality. We had a hug, a smile and a laugh, and then we had to get on with life. I went to work and Jen started planning - that’s the difference between her and I.’
- For Angelo, things got better every time: ‘Kid 1: oh shit; kid 2: yes please; kid 3: I can’t wait to meet this one.’
- Peter felt ‘a combination of joy and panic in almost equal measure as it was unplanned. Same the second time round.’
- Cameron is another guy whose first real confrontation with fatherhood was the pregnancy test. He remembers ‘looking at those lines ... then checking the pamphlet again and then back at the lines - sheer disbelief. Then flat panic... How the hell was I going to pay for all this? Then I kinda got into the idea.’
- My surfer friend Ross had an altogether more mystical moment: ‘It was wonderful news. We both felt a gentle defragmentation. I think we were tired from walking the road far too long and just a little bit porous, like when you've swum in a cold sea and stand in the wind and it’s like the wind blows through you and maybe you'll float out of the car park.’
What went through you mind when you first found out?