I became a dad for the first time at 8.15am, August 15, 2005. That moment changed my life and I will never forget it.
In what seems like the blink of an eye, more than eight years have passed, but I can still picture what I was wearing, what I was thinking, the demeanour of the midwife, what I was worried about, even the smell of the hospital corridor.
I clearly remember exactly where I was, 14 minutes earlier at 8.01am when I broke 27 years of personal tradition and solemnly made a little prayer. That clumsy, fumbly nervous prayer was aimed at any compassionate, very forgiving, altruistic deity that might care to shine some health and safety on my very imminent new arrival.
At 8.01, after 9 months of my partner’s positive pregnancy tests, morning vomiting, baby shower attending, baby gear buying, baby bonus receiving, pregnancy book avoiding, contraction having, flat tyre getting, epidural receiving experience, I was no longer able to leave this gigantic thought process to another day, not even for another minute.
I was about to be a dad…like, right now.
The truth is that for the dad-to-be right up until that very moment, nothing blindingly obvious changes.
Life goes on, work rolls on, you grow a beard, you shave the beard – and there’s always tomorrow, the same old goofy, non-parental day that it had always been.
And with that first healthy baby scream, right there in that first minute – for me, 8:16am, August 15, 2005 – you see very clearly that you are now no longer equal number 1.
You are a clear number 3.
Your job is to hold and protect your new family. And that feeling goes deep – way deeper than I could ever have imagined.
Probably into a subatomic level, ingrained over thousands of years of genetic experience and DNA success. You enter your second lap of the life-track and you just got promoted.
Living my journey through Being Dad, I learned that the birth, although a massive moment for the mum and dad, is actually a fairly insignificant moment for the physical and mental development of the baby.
What you have at the moment of birth is an independent life form. And that is a damn amazing thing to see. This little creature, though surprisingly purple, is living on its own. It’s a breathing, heart pumping, liver working, reacting, screaming, weeing human being.
Up until then, of course, it derives its life, oxygen, growth and nutrients from the mum, who derives her support and encouragement, often, from you.
I think most blokes are a bit fuzzy on the issue, but most women know that alcohol is unsafe for the baby during pregnancy. But we can understand that sometimes, even despite the best intentions, social pressure, habits, or just plain “want” make it hard to avoid booze altogether during pregnancy.
Here’s the science, and the problem. Some toxins get blocked by the placenta (which, by the way you get to meet a few moments after the birth of your baby – the very much unattractive, and broadly unexpected uterus-mate of your offspring), other toxins go straight through and the unborn baby needs to process them by herself.
One is thalidomide. Another is alcohol. The unborn baby and its tiny liver receives most of the alcohol consumed. So that half a glass of wine, could easily be imagined to scale as a wheel barrow load for the unborn baby to process.
Social pressure is enormous when the pregnant mum is going it alone at a party, wedding, family BBQ, Christmas party or an event where she has no wingman.
“Want” gets tough after a crap day at work, also where she has no wingman.
So, here is the opportunity. To engage with the pregnancy. To make a stand to support your partner and your incoming baby. To really learn to protect your family before the birth. To actually apply something you learned from Tom Cruise before he went bizarre. I am NOT leaving my wingman.
That’s Pregnant Pause. Sharing the burden and joys of the pregnancy. Creating a team of one or more around the mum-to-be, so she never has to stand up to alcohol on her lonesome for the benefit of your baby, while you count your blessings for the constantly available designated driver.
As well as making a huge commitment to the pregnancy, this step shows the depth and breadth of your support to your missus, gives your baby the best possible start, AND helps raise money for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders in Australia. BAM!
In 2013, it is conservatively estimated that thousands of babies will be born with a Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, something that they’ll have for life, and inherited in the womb, when the alcohol overwhelmed the ability of the unborn baby to deal with it and grow all the necessary brain connections at the same time.
And it’s getting more prevalent fast.
Pregnant Pause is supporting families and communities around the country that are battling (and often losing) the FASD fight.
So, by pledging your support and participating in Pregnant Pause, you can literally help protect your family, and make a real difference to unborn babies all around Australia.
If you are pregnant, your partner is pregnant, or you know someone in that boat, PLEASE head to www.pregnantpause.com.au and take up, or delegate the challenge to a worthy dad-to-be.
Our team can have a quiet word in his ear.
Man up, drinks down. Support her, support the cause.