To be an expectant father is to exist in a world of dichotomies.

Time is crawling by.  It seems as though she has been in the womb forever, and it is still months until she arrives.  Each day spent waiting is an eternity.

It is only two months until she arrives!  I have so much to do and literally no time to do it.  I have to paint the hallways, finish assembling the nursery, make sure the house isn’t a deathtrap, and a hundred other minor mundane tasks that need to be accomplished.  Each day rushes by at top speed.

To be an expectant father is to be powerless.

My wonderful wife is really doing most of the work for this pregnancy.  She’s the one bearing our child.  She’s the one with backaches and leg pains.  She’s the one who can’t sleep at night because it is impossible to get comfortable.  She’s the one throwing up at night.  She’s the one unable to eat all the most delicious foods.

As the partner, there is not a whole lot I can do.  I can massage her back, get her extra pillows, make sure she has water and crackers on the nightstand, but I am not the one suffering.  I can stand by her side and support her, but sometimes that just doesn’t feel like enough.

To be an expectant father is to worry about the future.

My daughter isn’t even here yet, and already I am worrying about things far down the road.  What will I do when she goes to daycare—will she be safe?  What if we go to the store and I lose track of her?  How will I instill confidence in her?  What about when she is a rebellious teenager?  What if she starts drinking?  What if any number of innumerable bad and unforeseen things happens?  What if I fail as a father?

To be an expectant father is to realize your own inadequacies.

How does one prepare to be a parent?  My wife and I are doing what you would expect—taking classes, reading books, talking to friends and family who have kids—but the main lesson I’ve learned is that I really don’t know a lot.  The question I keep asking is “Is this normal?”  I don’t know, I’ve never had a child before.  I’ve never been pregnant.  I’ve never even seen a live birth.  The gaps in my knowledge are astounding, and much as it is good to take classes and read books, no amount of theoretical knowledge seems adequate.

To be an expectant father is to know joy.

For all my doubts and fears, I have never been more excited about anything.  Every time I see my wife’s baby bump, there is an incredible warmth that passes through me.  My wife will text me throughout the day just letting me know how our daughter is doing—things like “Baby is good.  Seems to be sleeping right now.” Or “Whoa, I think she’s practicing kickboxing right now!”  Even the smallest news about my daughter brings me such joy; I can’t even imagine what it will be like to actually hold her.

Every day, whether it passes slowly or in the blink of an eye, brings me closer to meeting her.  When she arrives, I’m sure I will feel a whole new level of powerlessness and worry even more about the future.  I am sure that I will make a lot of mistakes and do a lot of on-the-job learning.  But I am also sure that she will bring me joy.

Paul Menn

Paul (’10) lives in Grand Rapids with his wife, Emma (’10), and cat, HandsomeMarcoCat. He loves board games, Babylon 5, and honey-curry chicken. Everything else is negotiable.

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