The Irrelevance Of The Father


The Irrelevance Of The Father At First

by Eric Poirier

“Really?! CONGRATULATIONS! That’s wonderful news! You look great! I’m so happy for you!”

Thus is the shower of praise as two women coo and coddle each other upon hearing the news that one of them is three months pregnant.

“Oh. I guess you had something to do with it too. Congratulations.”

This is the point where the receiver of the news notices the guy who donated the sperm standing behind the cute mother-to-be…this person is the father-to-be. Instead of the heartfelt hugs my wife gets, I get the equivalent of a pat on the back, much like a coach’s pep talk, “Way to go!”, which then invokes the clichéd response from me: “It was my pleasure.”

This exchange is all too common and very visible during the first few months of the pregnancy; during the news-breaking phase. What is also common, but not noticeable, is the father’s “disappearing” act behind the cooing and coddling women. Remember the first Back to the Future movie when Marty McFly starts fading away on stage while playing the guitar because the root of his existence is being threatened? Well, that’s what happens to the father each time the baby news is delivered to someone else:

“CONGRATULATIONS! You’ll make a great mother.” My hands start to disappear.

“You look great. You’ll be the cutest pregnant lady.” My hands are gone and my smiling face starts to fade.

“You must be so happy and excited? I’m happy for you.” By now only a faint, transparent apparition of my upper body remains.

“Oh, and I guess you’re excited too.” This is the part where I snap back into existence for a microsecond as I receive my pat on the back from the one receiving the news. Just like Marty McFly suddenly reappearing on stage, jumping back up to his feet and continuing to numbly strum his guitar, narrowly avoiding non-existence.

Of course parents and siblings are a little keener to congratulate both of us as one tender body of love and care that will raise a new life together. And kudos from buddies are more or less sincere congratulations rather than an opportunity to make a joke. The guy friends are genuinely happy for me but they’d rather express it by saying “So your boys can swim, eh?!” A good friend of mine passed on some heartfelt advice and warmly said that becoming a father makes you a better man. Ah! But then another friend joked that my life was over.

No, the type of kudos and attention that usually renders the father irrelevant, because they are focused on the mother, usually comes from female friends and healthcare professionals and services providing instructions to the new parents-in-waiting. For example, we recently registered to a prenatal community centre near us that offers advice and Lamaze classes. The registration was done in an email exchange. The reply to our initial request to join contained a series of questions we needed to answer to complete their members’ profile database. Such were the questions:

For the mother:

  • Name?
  • Nationality?
  • Current occupation?
  • Academic and professional background?
  • Family situation?

 For the father:

  • Nationality?

 The questions might as well have been:

For the mother (the centre of the universe):

  • Name?
  • Nationality?
  • Eye colour?
  • Current occupation?
  • Your hopes and dreams?
  • Academic and professional background?
  • Family situation?
  • You deepest desires?
  • Hair colour?
  • What are you good at?
  • What do you enjoy doing?
  • Are you well?
  • How are you, really?
  • Tell us everything about you (even details that have nothing to do with childbirth)

 For the father:

  • Who the hell cares

 With that one email, the sheer obviousness of the irrelevance of the father hit me like a stampede of pregnant women. How nice that they want to know the nationality of the father, I thought.

After we registered to give birth at the hospital of our choice we received a welcome package (cutely written in the tone of a child) which detailed exactly what to bring on the day of the birth:

Mommy should bring:

  • My new baby clothes
  • My cute little cap to keep my new head warm
  • Some comfy nighties

 Daddy should bring:

  • Daddy can sleep in the ditch outside (Obviously this bit wasn’t in the package. In fact, there was no recommendation on what the father should bring to be comfortable at the hospital. I guess it’s uncommon for the father to want to stay in the hospital with his new family. “Are you kidding? The father is supposed to go drinking with the boys and screw hookers before the mother brings the baby home and he has to become some kind of role model!”)

The father seems to get some attention during the second trimester. It seems to happen when I’m alone while running an errand and I bump into mutual friends of ours who have known for weeks about the pregnancy. They act genuinely delighted to see me than ask, “So how’s the new mommy?” Of course they want to know if the bump is showing, if she has any weird cravings, if she knows what the gender is (and the question is never “do you know the gender?” but “does she know the gender?” as if the father is unworthy to be the source of such knowledge). At least someone is talking to me…

Another example of the irrelevance of the father is highlighted during the visit to the local municipal office to confirm the birth of your child and get the certificate. I discovered from a friend recently that in order to do the paperwork myself, to let my wife recover after pushing a watermelon through a garden hose (another cliché, I know), I have to first get the form from the municipal office that is an official statement of the mother granting the father permission to complete the paperwork on her behalf.

Wow!

I can’t image going to this office to register my child without that permission:

“Hello, sir. May I help you?”

“Yes. I would like to declare the birth of my newborn.”

“Oh. Congratulations. And who the hell are you?”

“I’m the father of this newborn.”

“Says who? Do you have official consent of the mother of this child to apply for registration?”

“Official consent? No. She’s still in the hospital.”

“I’m sorry, sir. I cannot legally allow you to register the birth of a child without explicit written permission from the mother. Now get the hell out of here!”

How dare a proud new father attempt to declare the birth of his child without a real parent present…the mother?

I don’t mean to be an insensitive asshole (although you might think so now after this little rant). I understand the mother has the most difficult job throughout the entire pregnancy. I know that trying to comfort your wife during her many pains and saying things like “I know what you’re going through” gets you a boot to the head.

I am in no way trying to trivialize the mother’s role. But, damn! Why is the father so insignificant during the pregnancy? Is it some universal secret that the irrelevance that fathers suffer is some kind of pay back for planting the seed? I am extremely proud to be a father. Oh well. I’m sure I’ll get a bit of recognition when the kid understands what father’s day is.

Some words of encouragement came to me one day from friends who recently had their first child. They said: “Don’t worry. When the kid comes, you’ll both be irrelevant.” Makes sense, I guess. Attention automatically moves to the new bundle of joy. The mother becomes irrelevant only after the birth, which means the father becomes doubly irrelevant…

Copyright Eric Poirier 2013

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One comment on “The Irrelevance Of The Father

  1. Eric this one tops it all! I see why this,is one of your favourite Tara. Eric you do great work, Keep it up bud.I loved it.

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