"We Don't Quite Believe It's True"
"The pregnancy only became real with the ultrasound," says Dave Quast, a dad of a 6-year-old in New York City, "especially when the nurse pointed out the hands and feet and tried to find out the gender. Thinking in terms of an actual boy made it personal and real; this was no longer something that was just a part of my wife, but a person with a name."
And I'm not the only dad-to-be who was wowed by the spectacle of a baby wriggling around inside his mom. "At first, I couldn't help but think of the movie Alien," says Downey. But after his initial reaction of "It's alive!" he says, "I started to feel attached to my child."
Avrin found that his own pre-birth connections to his daughter helped him bond with her later on. "When the baby would get active at bedtime, I'd sing a low, rumbly song to my wife's belly, and without fail, my daughter would stop moving to listen," he says. "Moments after she was born and was crying, I sang the same song and she calmed down. It was absolutely overwhelming."
Most men would agree that the wonder of pregnancy and childbirth doesn't subside with time. When our second child was coming along, the baby's inside-the-womb antics weren't as surprising as the first time around -- like a cinematic special effect you've seen before -- but it was no less amazing. And the older our kids become, the more miraculous those early moments of acquaintance seem. Back then, it was all mystery and possibility. Each child's personality, abilities, enthusiasm, and sense of humor were a closed book. Now my kids are 9 and 12, and I have a sense of who they are. The fact that they're wonderful -- even when they're aggravating -- makes me cling to those first recollections like the memory of a first kiss, because those moments were part of falling in love. I look at how far we've come and how far we'll go and can still find only one word to take it all in: "Whoa."
Richard Laliberte, a former senior editor at Men's Health, writes regularly about parenting.