My world is small
But her world is smaller
I see it shrink day by hour by Nano second
as I watch them
sharing their breaths
tears running silently from her sleeping eyes as the baby’s eyelids flicker in sync
She is withering in this period of endless motherlove and primal urges
and I am helpless
So I stand here
by the edge of the bed
watching the two I love more than my body knows how
There’s no place for my protection here
No need for breadwinning masculinity
or strong arms to lift
Which is lucky as this whole scene is bringing me to my knees
The toolbox is out on the living room floor
I have knots bolts and things I have no ideas where go, ready in my hands
The baby’s cot
The bookshelf she has asked me to repair for more than a year
I didn’t tell her that I couldn’t
Because I am not that sort of man
I am the sort of man that stands helpless
Watching my love cry herself to sleep next to the miracle baby
And I am helpless
I suggested a trip to the sea, her mum, the doctor.
She says okay.
Then melts into the beautiful red chair I found in the dumpster down the road
The baby sometimes looks at me from her tight grip
As if saying, ‘try harder dad.
I need to feel the soul of your skin too’
But I don’t dare.
If I hold him to my heart, maybe she’ll disappear
Maybe I will
Then what would he do
This is the fourth trimester
And I am the one who is pregnant
With trying to do what is right
What is expected and
I have no clue what that is
So I buy small green plastic fish
And googlehow to use a power drill
And I stand here
By the edge of our bed
Watching the two souls I love more than can possibly be healthy
And I wonder
If I take off my armour
If I lay down my useless tools.
If I move the green fishes and soft toys
And lay behind her
My knees against hers
My arm over the two of them
Will she push me away?
Is the world too small for me already?
Am I still here?
Or should I lie on the other side
My knees to hers
My arm over them both
Watching their world
Maybe there could be space for me there
A trinity to be nurtured
If she will let me
What if she won’t, I know how scared she is
I am so scared too.
Salty dried streaks on her eyelashes and cheeks
Surprise then recognition
I lie down
He is still asleep
the miracle between us
And she wipes my eyes with feathers as she drifts away again
For now the world may be small
But it is for us
Sussi Louise was the vice chair of the Danish Network for research on Men and Masculinities (NeMM) for a number of years and has maintained an interest in fatherhood and parenting. During her time in NeMM several studies were carried out in Scandinavia by members concerning paternal post-natal depression and trauma. Sussi strongly believes that fathers mental health after traumatic births is an ill covered and even tabooed subject. For the dads, for the new mums engrossed in their own experience and not least for society who still expects new dads to be traditional strong men, nappy changers and emotionally supportive husbands. But what if a new father is experiencing deep seeded sadness and anxiety too? Who is supporting him? Where are the new fathers’ support groups? The birth trauma support service for men? Sussi is also a mother of two, who herself went through more than three days hard labour and who didn’t always manage to let her husband in to share the burden. It was only much later during her studies and research she realised how closed-up and overprotective she’d really been. If only she’d known. And understood.