He may not be carrying our baby, but he's barrelling blindly toward parenthood just as I am. And I couldn't do it without him.
So here he is, the man who holds my hair back while I barf; cooks me exorbitant breakfasts on demand; rubs my back; fetches my industrial-size bottle of Tums; watches with awe as my belly grows; and dreams with me about our new family. His name is Daniel, and last week, I interviewed him about his impending fatherhood.
MEGAN: Have you always wanted to be a dad?
DANIEL: I didn't always want to be a dad. When I was 7 or 8 my oldest sister Jean had her first kid. I had to hold the baby on the couch. It was one of those things that you do when everyone is oohing and aahing about the miracle of life. Someone asked me if I was ready to be an uncle at so young an age. I shrugged my shoulders. Someone else asked me if I wanted to have my own children one day. At the time, the answer was a solid no. I didn't mind that my sister had just had a baby, but the thought of me having one of my own was appalling.
However, in sixth grade, I started officially dating my first girlfriend. I knew it was official because she had written her telephone number on a scrap of paper and given it to me. I carried her number straight home, clenched in my fist, and carved it into the top of my dresser with a utility knife. And, while I still had the knife in my hand, I started imagining what our children would look like, hers and mine. I didn't feel particularly happy or sad so much as tremendously accomplished. I had crossed a threshold. I knew then that I would have kids, and I would have them with her. She broke up with me a week later.
MEGAN: Why do you want to be a dad?
DANIEL: There are enough men in my life, people important to me, who have given me this wistful look as they talk about the joy of having kids that I am intrigued. I want to join the club. And I've grown tired of being a non-dad. I really like playing games, imagining the rules for fantasy worlds, drawing pictures and working on projects. I imagine that I will have a great excuse to do lots of those things as a dad. I've been told that there are hard parts, too. But until those come along, I'd rather speculate on the positive side of things.
MEGAN: How often do you think about the fact that you are about to become a dad?
DANIEL: I think about becoming a dad less often than I'd like to admit. When I think about it, I think about it intensely. I imagine all sorts of exciting activities and learning lessons. I imagine you and me and the little one shrieking with laughter.
But then there are long stretches when I completely forget that I have launched a real, live baby countdown that is ticking inside of you like a bomb. For instance, I was just standing in front of a sushi fridge, trying to decide if I wanted tuna sushi or salmon sushi. I was looking closely at the options because I don't like how the spicy tuna is all ground up. And suddenly a colleague said, "Hello." And I haven't seen this guy since last June, so he asked, "What's new?" and I told him, "Nothing much." It never crossed my mind that I am about to embark on the most important journey of my life.
MEGAN: What makes a good dad?
DANIEL: A good dad loves his kids, but not in a lame, "I love you, little Timmy" sort of way. A good dad wants to spend time with his kids. I don't think it really matters what a dad does with his kids (board games, horse riding, archery, computer programming). All of the stuff seems somewhat interchangeable. I think what matters is that it's a lot of time, and that the dad really wants to be there. I think kids can tell the difference between an adult who is paying his dues and an adult who really wants to be there. This is all very optimistic, and probably naive, but that's all I've got right now: optimism and naiveté.
MEGAN: What has surprised you about this pregnancy period of our lives?
DANIEL: I hope this doesn't come across as sappy, sentimental or pandering, but I've been most surprised to see that you have remained rather civilized through the months of morning sickness, heartburn and achy hips. I was warned that once you got pregnant you would become hormonally insane. You definitely seem to be suffering from some crummy symptoms, but you've never become the crazy person I was warned about. Maybe that'll happen in the third trimester, or maybe that's just labor!
The ultrasound at 20 weeks also surprised me. I didn't expect it to be so entirely captivating, and so permanently etched into my brain. Many of our baby's key poses keep playing through my mind from time to time. I can still see the inside of her brain, her spine, her leg bones, her feet and her big yawn.
MEGAN: What's the best piece of advice you've gotten so far about pregnancy/parenting?
DANIEL: The best piece of advice was given to me by my brother-in-law a long time ago: Spend time with your kids and give them everything you have to give. Another piece of advice that I liked, I heard today by the sushi fridge. It was to ignore everyone else's advice.
MEGAN: How are you preparing yourself mentally for our baby's arrival?
DANIEL: I'm talking to you as much as I can whenever you are nearby and I have something to say. I am mentioning our baby to my students at school so that they know that she is already an important part of my life. I'm sleeping in as much as I can and trying not to worry too much about the future. I'm thinking about people I know who I have judged as being either good parents or bad parents. I'm wondering about the ways that I will be judged as a good or a bad parent.
MEGAN: What scares you the most about becoming a parent?
DANIEL: I have the occasional horrific vision of something going horribly wrong, but it's so far off and so unconnected to any of the evidence that we have so far that these little nightmares don't stay with me for long. I don't know, maybe it's coy to say that I have no fears at the moment, but I don't. At least nothing specific.
MEGAN: What excites you the most about becoming a parent?
DANIEL: I'm excited to see the two of us in action. I think were going to make good team. I think we've been good to each other, just the two of us. I think we'll be good as a family. I'm excited that we'll have a new role to play as mom and dad. I'm excited that we'll have someone to show the world to.
So much of the hullabaloo surrounding pregnancy is focused on the mom-to-be — for obvious reasons. And I'm not going to lie: I love the attention. But sometimes, I worry that I'm leaving my husband out of the equation.