Labour – it can be surreal – because, as a man, I simply cannot empathise. I had kidney stones pain once – and I’ve heard some women claim the pain comes close. But still, we are bystanders to all that is to come. Watching and waiting, as like clockwork, the contractions come. We watch the suffering – we offer words – not knowing if the words are useful or if it prolongs the agony.
Watching and waiting is exhausting and guilt ridden – ‘How can I be tired and exhausted and be in pain?’ She’s the one in labour! Stop labouring. Focus. But now, it’s a wait. A long wait. Joyful thoughts come – as you imagine: ‘What if it’s a boy?’ or ‘What if it’s a girl?’ And sadness and sorrow comes as you remember family and friends who have had to grieve even from this almost, but still not there moment. A reminder that even at this moment of new life, death can instead come and take its place.
Snap out of it – no matter what happens, we are there for each other. Father, Son, Husband, Wife, Mother and this new-born…no matter what happens. Then complications happen – the baby’s heart beats faster than it should – over 200 bps. My heart beats faster than it should – heart sinks, heart breaks but you mend it fast as you need to focus. Everything happens so fast – the doctors don’t take chances. It’s surreal as you get into scrubs – just like the first: Flashbacks to the first birth come flooding back; that was a planned caesarean for a breach baby unlike this emergency C-section.
Into the theatre – where the bright lights dazzle – and the show goes on. We now have the other actors in place: doctors, nurses, anaesthetists and surgeons. She is so brave – not once did she flinch or show worry. She asks for Surah Maryam. Which narrates the labour of Maryam (as) and birth of Isa (pbuh). It can bring comfort to those who know the story and especially more so during labour and childbirth. It’s played on YouTube on a mobile – the modern approach to recitations and instant Quran access. The curtain goes up! Not a red one, but a blue surgical curtain to stop you seeing the real action – a PG rating, how ironic. The doctors rehearse and recite their roles.
The Quranic recitation plays in the background. Then enter stage left – another voice, a new voice. And it’s a foreign voice – but an altogether familiar one as we hear this angelic cry for the first time in our lives – but the encore will come and not for the last time. Lofted up like Simba, he is a lion cub, lifted up just like his brother at the first act, the one family member not at the show. The lights shine bright, almost too bright for this new star who is born as he blinks and sees his father for the first time. One familiar stranger meeting another familiar stranger that’s how it feels at this exact moment.
The doctors and nurses are still in character, busily stitching up mum and checking on baby, his weight, and his overall health. My one cameo is to cut the umbilical cord, like it’s some grand opening of a new show. Truth be told, I’m just lucky to have a front row seat and a perfect view, as all I can do now is spectate as mum finally has her babe in her arms and I simply watch in awe at this maternal bond. This bond of 9 months and a lifetime as mother and new-born babe touch: skin to skin for the first time– even though they have been cuddling and caressing this entire time. This is their moment in the limelight. And for the rest of the ensemble, it’s not their first performance, for these heroes of the NHS, they run matinees and evenings and are on-call 24/7. The show must go on for them. We’ve got our 15 minutes of fame.
Now with two under two – and mum having been cut open – I really need to step up even more than I have done so. From looking after beaming big bro – who thinks it’s his baby. To lifting and carrying and lending a hand. To looking after both while she sleeps. We need to work as a team and get sufficient rest to survive this joyful fatigue.
The hardest part is connecting. The mum’s connection with her baby is as strong as the strength of her umbilical cord. As a father with no such literal connection, you need to create this connection after birth, not a surrogate, but as a father – your own unique bond.
But just like seeds, if you nourish that baby, that connection; it grows stronger and stronger. Just as the decibel levels rise through the first few nights, the decibel and signal strength of that connection between father and son grows stronger. And over time you and I can achieve something close to the relationship of mum and baby.
But for the child, mum is #1. Early on – and perhaps always. And that’s because of the bearing and the nourishment provided. It would be easy to say equality – but there simply is no equality – and so it is better to be a champion of their relationship – for your time will come.
This also reminds me of the hadith that both my dad and especially my mum used to narrate: When a man came to the Prophet and asked who is the most worthy of my good companionship? The Prophet (pbuh) said ‘Your mother.’ The man said ‘Then who?’ The prophet said ‘Then your mother.’ The man further asked ‘Then who’? The prophet still replied: ‘Your mother’. The man asked for a fourth time ‘Then who?’ The prophet said: ‘Then your father.’
I look forward to bonding with my sons through parenting and by taking them to activities to strengthen that connection. And maybe, if we are lucky enough to get to old age – those bonds and roots will run so deep that when the time comes, they won’t hesitate to tend to those withered oaks. I hope they remember those bonds and connections when they are in the same position to nourish new relations of their own.
What is everyone doing for Father’s Day? Whether you are remembering a Dad who is no longer with us or spending time with your family please share your memories of your best Dad moments in the comments!
Kasam is the father of two and husband to Farhana in this story. He is a technology enthusiast and creative writer.
All guest writer articles come from our Muslim Mamas community or from our network of supporters. Some contribute one-off stories; some contribute as anonymous mamas. All experiences and opinions are those of the writers.