I’ve heard many stories and read many blog posts explaining how having children changes the relationship between a husband and wife. Many of these men and women reference the effects of late-night feedings, date nights when there’s no longer the possibility of a romantic night out, and watching your spouse rock your fussy infant to sleep so that you can rest for a bit. These stories focus on the transformation that occurs when a man becomes a father and a woman becomes a mother- once the baby has already been born. Andrew and I are both eagerly waiting to experience this transformation first-hand throughout the first few months with our son. I have eagerly anticipated seeing Andrew hold our son for the first time, seeing him kiss our baby boy before laying him down to sleep every night, seeing him give our son his first bottle. I have eagerly anticipated seeing my husband embrace his life as a father in a whole new way.
But there’s an aspect to this whole transformation that most stories and posts do not mention. Many women write about what it is like to watch their husbands become fathers when they bring their baby home from the hospital, when the nurses and helpful family and friends disappear and it’s just mother, father, and baby for the first time. But here’s the thing that most posts don’t share- this transformation begins long before the baby is born. It begins when a woman becomes pregnant. When a woman learns that she’s expecting, she does not have nine months before she “becomes a mother.” She is not a mother-to-be. From the moment that a child is conceived, that woman is already a mother. And if she is already a mother, her husband is already a father. I became a mother nine months ago, when JT was conceived. I became a mother at the same time that my husband became a father.
Soon our lives will change forever. We will no longer be the mother and father that we are right now. Carrying a child in your womb is not exactly the same as carrying a child in your arms. As many friends have already told me, even though I will continue to carry my baby boy everywhere I go, it will not be the same. It’s a lot easier when you have full access to your arms, when the only thing keeping you up at night is your bladder, when feeding your baby just means feeding yourself. Parenthood becomes a bit more complicated when your baby is no longer in the convenient carrier of your womb, when your beautiful baby boy is colicky in the middle of the night, when your little girl is screaming for food. The birth of a child changes a man and a woman forever. But so does the conception of a child.
Over the past nine months, Andrew has taken on all sorts of new responsibilities. He has made dinner when I was too nauseous to go into the kitchen myself. He has learned the art of washing a woman’s clothing- not just sorting lights and darks, but also dry-able pieces of clothing and pieces that need to be hung to dry. On a regular basis, he thanks me for making all the sacrifices involved in carrying our child. And once we’re in bed, before he kisses me good night, he kisses my stomach and tells John how much we love him. It is this quiet moment before falling asleep that I most look forward to every day. In that moment, I fall in love with my husband all over again, but now, I am falling in love with the man who is not only my husband, but who is also the father of my unborn child.
In these instances, however brief, I get a glimpse of the type of father Andrew has already chosen to be. I know that he will be willing to make sacrifices for our son, and to put the needs of his wife and child before his own. I know that he will continue to think in terms of ‘us’ rather than ‘me.’ I know that his love for our son will only grow with the birth of our son, when he will be able to kiss our boy’s head rather than my stomach. Though we do not know what color John’s hair or eyes will be, or whether his skin will burn or tan in the sun, his presence has already changed us irrevocably. Though we have not yet been given the opportunity to hold him in our arms, to rock him to sleep before laying him down in his crib, John has already helped us to make the transformation from woman to mother and from man to father. Though many people have told me that the birth of our son will change the way that I look at my husband as he accepts his role as father, I can only say this in response: our son began to change us long before he made his entrance into this world. Our lives have not been the same since John first came into existence all those months ago, when we first became a mother and father to our beautiful baby boy.
Mary Help of Christians, pray for us!