The Birth of a Father
When I first thought about writing this, it was just after midnight. The computer I was busy on glowed a soft, dim light into my bedroom as I watched you sleep. You had passed out on my bed and I was too lazy to carry you to yours. It was a few days before Father’s Day and I started thinking about the journey that you and I had been on.
It was almost 7 years ago, after an eerily heavy misted early morning drive that your mother arrived at the hospital for a scheduled caesarian. Roughly 2 hours later, I was in the hospital nursery and there you were, in the incubator. That was the first time I watched you sleep, our first quiet moment together. I want to say that that was the moment I became a father, the point at which the proverbial switch flipped and my whole life changed but, that’s not it. Not entirely.
Fatherhood is an anthropological cookie that crumbles funny and is riddled with contrived contradiction. For instance, there is a perception that because men do not go through the same physiological changes that a pregnant woman goes through, then men don’t go through any changes at all. It is from this scenario that a man’s well-being in relation to fatherhood is deemed dispensable.
The reality is that fatherhood does not begin at the birth of a child. This is because fatherhood is a state of mind, not biological end product. It is a mental and emotional process. Although a man doesn’t bare the traditional hallmarks of pregnancy, what he does go through internally is no less daunting.
Sometimes, a woman, for whatever reason, decides to abort her child. So too can a man abort the idea of fatherhood from his mind. He cites whatever affliction that fatherhood would bring. He swallows a lethal dose of past hurts and washes it down life’s toxic transgressions against him. When the pain of that which he is doing begins to be unbearable – because it is an unnatural act – he holds on tightly to justifications of why the life of him ‘the man’ will unduly suffer as a result of him ‘the father’. Thus, way before a child is born, a father is dead.
At times, a man has a miscarriage of fatherhood. Despite his perceived willingness to have a child, somewhere during the process, his being cannot carry the weight and complications of fatherhood. He cannot within himself find the resolve and fortitude to see it to the end and, somewhere in the darkness, he lets it go.
Then, there’s the rest of us. Fathers. We will come back to this later.
Ironically, society’s disdain for the stains of patriarchy lays fertile ground for broken fatherhood. A man is expected to be separate from his father-self because it is believed that a man’s feelings have no place in fatherhood. So, a man’s feelings towards fatherhood are tolerated, yet an impeccable performance in this role is demanded.
Ultimately, a man becomes a father when he reconciles his manhood with the idea of fatherhood. When all that has borne the man he is, the defeats and triumphs, weaknesses and strengths, give birth to the father within him. That is why a man can become a father even before the conception of a child. Or why a man can be a father to a child who’s not of his blood. Also, this is why a man can have many children but never be a father.