I’ve done my daughterly duties today. Up early for a stomp around the car boot so that Dad could supplement his stamp collection. Then off for lunch and the inevitable wrangle over whether he should have pudding. He always does. There’s no need for the discussion, but it is a nice little bit of family theatre that eventually plays out into a happy, sweet-toothed ending.
I had some orange sorbet. I am counting it as one of my 5 a day. Especially since it arrived in a hollowed out actual orange.
I was going to blog about Dad’s 65th birthday today, celebrate him a bit and show his happy, wrinkled old face on a steam train. But I decided on something else instead.
So this is a blog post about becoming a father. The beginning of the journey.
We can get so wrapped up in the perfect femaleness of pregnancy that it’s easy to forget the other half of the equation. It’s 9 months of blossoming bumps, birth plans and becoming a mum, so that the dad-to-be can get a little lost along the way. They worry endlessly, they admire, they look on with love as the person they are building a family with suffers the pain and discomfort, but also the blissful joy of being pregnant.
There’s no physical, outward sign of impending fatherhood. So you can’t take a glance at a bump and know in an instant that they are in the middle of an incredible, life-changing period. That they are swinging from elation to worry and back again inside. Strangers don’t offer you seats on the bus, or mute smiles of encouragement during this waiting time. Dads, I know that you can be forgotten.
One of the greatest pleasures of being a birth photographer is enabling Dad to fully participate in the event as it unfolds. They know they have me there to catch those fleeting moments. They can trust the retelling of this story to someone else. It frees them up to experience as much as possible – to live inside the moment of their child’s birth rather than anticipating it from the outside.
Today is Father’s Day and I thought about Dean. How he became a father this year. How I had the incredible honour of witnessing that moment happen when I photographed the birth of his daughter.
Here’s a glimpse of Freja’s birth story, the parts where I know what it is to become a dedicated, doting, and loving father. Because I saw it happen. I photographed it.
I’d watched Dean soothe, encourage, kiss, support and sustain Louise through labour. It’s a uniquely female experience, but he shared it and shouldered it when it became tough.
Sometimes you find yourself the brief custodian of something you’ve seen. It’s yours until other eyes see it, until you give it back to them in an image. Freja had just arrived and the overwhelming moment hit Louise full force. Dean, as always, was by her side and the look he gave her was so saturated in love and admiration that I could feel it. It was something palpable that a memory just can’t retain – it needs a photograph to hold on to it.
So I wanted to take today to celebrate the Fathers, Dads and Daddies out there who show love, affection and support to their bump-carrying wives, girlfriends and partners.
The world doesn’t know it, but you’re pregnant too – you just carry another weight, one of responsibility and expectation. But the joy is yours as well. I know that you become a father long before you hold your daughter in your arms.