“The lone father is not a strong father. Fathering is a difficult and perilous journey and
is done well with the help of other men.”
–John L. Hart
I knew the exact moment my wife went into labor. Silence permeated the Uber, and for once, she didn’t have any suggestions to offer for improving myself as a human being. Having real issues to contend with, she was rather quiet.
Looking back five months later, I would not have been able to endure my nine-month sentence, emerge and have these beautiful Kodak moments with my wife, if not for my three closest friends. Like good friends should, they didn’t let me fall into the trap of antiquated social conventions and invest all my time, focus, and attention into my pregnant wife.
My friends were quick to point out that, firstly, today’s women are not only strong but indubitably brave, too, echoing the plethora of commercials and hashtag campaigns. Consequently, they advised me to reduce the effort I had been putting into anticipating my wife’s needs during pregnancy. I took this as an opportunity to focus on encouraging her, going so far as to mention (infrequently) that “working through labor pain is a disguised opportunity to show the patriarchy.” I even went so far as to suggest that changing careers during her maternity leave and entering STEM would be the ultimate show of bravery.
Seriously, pregnancy is the most challenging thing a woman can go through outside of choosing what to eat on a random Wednesday. It’s a well-kept secret that pregnancy transforms even the most woke social justice warrior into a blatant hypocrite. Every time my wife passed a mirror, it wasn’t long before she prayed aloud for her old skinny body back. “What about beauty at any size,” I asked? She had no time for that tired rhetoric outside of promoting her love of Lizzo, the empowering, body-positive, eight-nomination-juggernaut rolling into the Grammy’s (at the time of this composition).
Once a year, my closest friends and I’s schedule allows us to meet-up and momentarily talk freely without reprise from our respective families. On one such outing, about three months before my daughter was born. Slowly and without much fanfare, one friend shared the following words, which shepherded me through my nine-months incarceration. “Marc, if pregnancy is the most challenging thing a woman can do, living with a pregnant woman will be your most significant ordeal to date. What could be more trying than living with someone who wholeheartedly believes they are performing the hardest job on earth. In the realm of martyr complexes, the pregnant woman trope reigns supreme.”
The rest of the advice received that day wasn’t as esoteric. For example, on a more practical note, my friends were adamant that only a veteran anesthesiologist should do the epidural. They didn’t believe I had the maturity to stay faithful to and co-parent with a disabled partner if something went wrong.
Two months ago, while fawning over pictures of my baby, a female coworker told me that fathers are their daughter’s first heroes. All this before giving the amplest tightest congratulatory hug. At that moment, under the spell of Marc Jacobs’ Decadence, I knew that my ascent to the pantheon of great fathers wasn’t assured. However, I did indeed feel like a hero rushing back to my desk, thinking of baseball stats.