A few days before Father’s Day this year, just as I had arrived home from commute across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco, my wife, Tatiana greeted me with an eager kiss and was excited to show me the greeting cards she had picked out for our dads. I thought her enthusiasm was a bit exaggerated, but I began reading a card that changed my life as I knew it. This was MY first Father’s Day card and she was pregnant!
We are now solidly settled into the second trimester, and to be honest, I still have no idea what I am supposed to be doing. However, one thing I do know is this is something we are going through together, and I am doing everything I can to learn about how to be the best dad I can be, while supporting my wife as she is doing the brunt of the work during the pregnancy.
The first few weeks came in like a hurricane; almost immediately, Tatiana began to feel nauseous and could not stand to eat anything. This was coupled with a general feel of disgust, confusion and uncertainty that plagued her daily. I wanted to comfort her, but she did not want to be touched. I wanted to make sure she was eating properly, but every type of food made her want to vomit. I wanted to talk about our child that was growing inside her, but because it was too early and there were no visible signs other than the sickness, coupled with a history of reproductive health issues, she was concerned this child was not actually there, or may not make it through the first weeks. I did not know what else I could do. Then one day, I turned to her and asked, “Tatiana, do you know I’m going through this pregnancy with you too?”
I know that all of the physical and emotional changes of pregnancy belongs to the woman, but I also knew how I was feeling during the first few months. I think my involvement and what I was going through never occurred to Tatiana and she just assumed I was going on with life as if nothing had changed. My feeling of helplessness mixed with the excitement of meeting my child next spring with nobody to talk to was confusing. By opening up to one another and understanding we were in this together as a partnership, we have become a team. She explained to me sometimes she does not want to be touched, not because she does not desire me, but because of the changes she is going through. Many days I prepared two entirely different meals; basic, unseasoned food for Tatiana, and perhaps pasta for myself (which I learned I would be banished to eat in a different room for adding garlic).
After making it through the first trimester, things have calmed down; there is much less nausea and we are mostly back to eating the same meals. New pains present themselves to Tatiana, sometimes at inopportune times. But I am there to support her through it all. We now are able to have open conversations about what is going on with her, but also what I am feeling. Knowing that I am with her through the entire process and she is not going through it alone has helped her to feel more confident in me and allowed me to be vulnerable with my feelings through the pregnancy. I will continue to be the man Tatiana needs me to be throughout, learn what I can to be the best dad to my boy when he arrives, and celebrate next Father’s Day with not only my beautiful wife, but my amazing son as well!
JP O’Hanlon is a Dodge City, Kansas native who fell in love with a California girl after moving to San Diego for law school. He currently manages the on-demand technician community across the U.S. for a tech startup in San Francisco. When he is not at home you can find him hiking in the woods, building things with his hands and looking for his next adventure. He is excited to begin this new adventure and hopes that his humble words can help other confused fathers navigate pregnancy and fatherhood.