It’s not always how it’s shown in the films ladies and gents. The lady isn’t always as graceful in taking the pregnancy test; the man doesn’t always lift her up and spin round with absolute euphoria, and sometimes the only fade to black we see at the end of the scene is due to us passing out.
Most of you reading this will fall into one or more of the following three categories:
- You (as a couple) are pregnant
- You have a child
- You’re planning for 1 and 2.
For all you number 1s and 2s out there, I want you to cast your mind back to how you first found out (for the dads) or how you let your partner know you were pregnant (for the mums).
You don’t have to spend long on Facebook, or social media in general for that matter, to see videos of men finding out they’re going to be a father. There’s a build up – he’s totally not expecting it. There may be casual conversation beforehand so that the news has maximum impact when it catches him off guard, there may even be tears, and there will definitely be hugs, kisses, “Oh my God!”s and smiles.
Yup, well it went down a little differently for me!
Where was I?
Let me set the scene for you; I’m at work. I wouldn’t say the office wasn’t a social place per se, as far as offices go, but I’m at work. I worked in finance back then and I’d spent the day with glossy, bloodshot eyes in front of a screen and doing actuarial calculations on the sea of detritus and pretentious documents I called a workspace. It was nearing the end of the day, we had a ridiculous finish-time of 17:15 which meant that for the last 15 minutes of every day people were pretending to work while they were actually quite pissed off that they could have caught a train home since 17:00!
Furthermore, I always stayed behind as to not bump into my ex on the way out. Yes, my ex worked in the same office. I know, I’ve heard it all before. “Oooh that’s a bad move”, “That’ll end in tears”, “It will affect your work in the long run” – I’m sorry to say that all of these were inescapably true, but it was what it was. Needless to say my current relationship wasn’t something I paraded round the office, being a sensitive guy and all that. Anyway…guys…don’t dip your pen in the office ink, ok?! You’ve been warned.
Hit me with it!
So I stood there, trying to look busy (I was frowning thoughtfully, nodding and staring at a blank piece of paper), and my phone gave me that one-two vibrate pattern which means I’d received a text off my girlfriend, Kathryn. The conversation went as follows:
Kathryn: “Can you come straight to mine tonight instead of going home, we need to talk”
Me: “What’s up?”
K: “I need to tell you in person”
Me: “Just tell me!”
K: “There’s a picture on its way”
Me: “A picture of what? Are you ok?”
K: “Yes, just wait for the picture, it’s taking ages to send”
Me: “You’re pregnant aren’t you?”
K: “Just wait for the picture. It just says sending”
Me (admittedly a tad panicked): “Are you pregnant??”
K: “Just wait”
Me: “Send it through Couple” <- Couple was another chat app we both used.
Me: “Well I’m getting all these messages so you mustn’t have sent it through properl…”
Then it came. It imprinted itself on my retinas with such ferocity that I’m pretty sure I could draw it out pixel for pixel on MS Paint. Here it is in all its glory:
I have no idea how I’d guessed it. Thinking back, I suppose I’d just thought of the most extreme news that Kathryn could have given me.
Now, we’ve all seen these dramas that have a character say “I think you should sit down for this”. I’ve always rolled my eyes at that, I just thought it was one of those things they say; that was until now. I sat down hard on the chair, mouth gaping, head spinning, that voice in my head that usually speaks my thoughts out to me in a calm manner was screaming “SHIT SHIT SHIT”, all the lights in the house that was my brain went off. There were two “Closed” signs where my eyes used to be. Shit. Shit shitty shit shit shit.
I hadn’t even given thought to the fact I wasn’t replying. The picture had been sent, she knew I’d seen it, I knew she knew I’d seen it, and I wasn’t saying anything!
I’d met Kathryn in September 2012, this was March 2013. March 6th to be exact – I know this because we were due to move in together on March 7th! Yes – 6 month’s I’d known her and she was pregnant with my child. What if she was one of these psychos that takes 7 months to manifest?! What if I didn’t know her well enough? What if she cut my balls off as I slept? What if the baby has my hairy arse? ARGH.
My life had just changed so fast, and like a fighter pilot pulling up to avoid a collision, the rapid change in velocity was bringing me close to a blackout.
A minute or two went by and I gathered myself. Pull yourself together Mark, if any time of your life had warranted you manning the f**k up, it was now. She’s just as scared as you are at this point, but she’s carrying the bloody baby – so man up! I thought about what I could message back, but nothing seemed right given the gravity of it. So I just told the truth, I said the first thing that came into my head:
Me: “I Love you so much! Xxxx”.
There. First message over, DEFCON status eased, feet back on the ground and blood circulating around my brain in a quasi-normal fashion. Breathe. Here’s how it appeared on Couple (ignore the time, I’ve just had to download it and scroll back on our timeline to capture this image):
So that, ladies and gentleman, is how I discovered I was to be a father. Was I ready? No. Was I prepared? Absolutely not! Did I want this? Unquestionably yes.
Well…I say unquestionably but if I’m perfectly honest there was an element of “Shit, what about holidays and stuff? Freedom, sleep, Playstation, all these things I take for granted!”. But we’ll cover that another day…
Tips for newly-expectant fathers
If you’re reading this then it’s probably too late to change how you first reacted to the news. But just in case, here are my top 3 tips for you guys.
- Don’t panic. Seriously, whatever your first reaction is – that’s what will stick. No matter how smooth you recover from a panic-reaction, shaking and sweating in the corner of the room will have a more lasting impact.
- Reassure her. At this point she’s more interested in being a team than she is you trying to fix things, so try and hold back on throwing a thousand solutions at her.
- Be understanding. She’s carrying the baby, you’re not. There’s nothing to stop you walking away at any point and she knows this, so if she seems defensive or apprehensive then don’t let it get to you.