When Andrea, my wife, and I first found out we were expecting our first kid, I was in graduate school for counseling and Andrea was in school to be a massage therapist. We lived in the upstairs apartment of a charming hundred-year-old brick house ten minutes bike ride from downtown Denver. I was just completing the final internship hours for my program and had started a support group for guys called “Holy $#!t She’s Pregnant,” which never got off the ground…really. Little did I know at the time that my efforts to start the support group brought me the kind of support I needed. My co-therapist for the support group, Jean-Jacques, told me something very important. He said, “You, Joe Valley, are a father NOW to your yet-to-be-born baby.”
I remember sitting there in the intern counseling office next to Jean-Jacques and working on counselor things when I received a call from Andrea. It was bad. She was 5 months into her pregnancy, suffering from HG, and dealing with a pending tooth extraction. There was nobody there for her. Jean-Jacques sat quietly next to me as I listened on the phone. What was I going to do?! What could I do?! I panicked. I told Andrea I would figure something out. I hung up the phone. I looked at Jean-Jacques. He said, “You can do this.” I realized then that I was capable of bringing relief to Andrea. I called a cab and gave explicit directions for picking her up. I called her and said a cab would be soon waiting for her out front. I slapped on my bike helmet and started riding to our rendezvous at the acupuncturist.
Having Jean-Jacques there was a big deal for me. As an empowered dad to a five year old daughter, he normalized my experience of pregnancy. He didn’t bat an eye when things got tough. When I rolled up in a sweat to meet Andrea at the acupuncturist, I realized that the important thing about being a strong birth partner is CARING. Could I take away her pain? No, not really. I could, however, look her in the eyes after pedaling hard on my bike to get there and say, “I love you. I care for you. I am here for you.”
When Sacha was born on May 8, 2009 in our living room, I knew I was a valid part of the process. I had spent all that time being a father throughout the pregnancy, so I was ready when I saw his face for the first time. If the only thing I do with Empowered Papa is instill confidence in expectant dads, then I have done my job. And I hope to do more. A whole lot more.
If you’d like to know more, then shoot me an email — firstname.lastname@example.org