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Six weeks ago, on a warm California afternoon, my wife, Deborah, labored our first child into this world. Lazer, whose name translated from Yiddish means, “With God’s Help,” arrived stunningly close to his due date, but years after we started searching for him. Each night, Deborah and I watch Lazer’s little chest heave up and down as he dozes in his crib, marveling that he is ours.
I myself was born in the 1980s and was taught from an early age that fatherhood was easily attainable, almost perilously so. I remember watching the 1984 movie, 3 Men and a Baby, where 3 buddies in New York become fathers overnight when a baby shows up on their doorstep. Fatherhood almost seemed too easy, and most likely to strike the unwitting or “reckless.”
Yet it wasn’t in my case. For me, becoming a father has been a complex, multi-year siege. Deborah and I learned early on we were not a terribly fertile couple, and thereafter scrambled from one clinic to another in search of answers. For the longest time, it felt like the life we were trying for was falling further beyond our reach.
The hardest part about being denied entry to fatherhood was seeing my wife robbed of the joys of becoming a mother. Deborah treasured the idea of having children, and I always I imagined her tenderly bundling up our babies in the winter, and running through the sprinkler with them in the summer. Reality quickly set in, as did the bills from our unsuccessful fertility treatments. We spent a good portion of our savings attempting to become parents. What I kept in return, and still have to this day, are the crumpled up tissues Deborah would clutch after each disappointing call from the clinic.
To this day, I played more of a role in our collective hardship than I’d like to admit. On a physical level, we would learn my sperm was no fitter than Deborah’s ovaries, despite all the treatment she was made to endure. I now know men’s sperm are the culprit in 30-50 percent of cases. On an emotional level, I inflicted distance between us by trying to remain too optimistic, and at times cavalier, when Deborah needed us to face our stark reality head-on. Talk to most therapists, and they will tell you this textbook behavior.
After years of physical and emotional tinkering, as well as the recommendation of a new doctor, we received the news we felt like we were waiting an eternity for — Deborah was pregnant. With every passing ultrasound, our emotions progressed from apprehension, to disbelief, to rapture. The emotional scar-tissue we developed while trying to conceive soon brought Deborah and me back together, and girded us when pregnancy was hardest, and labor most excruciating.
As my first Father’s Day approaches, this holiday has taken on a new meaning for me. It represents the triumph of having a newborn baby, but more so a newfound appreciation for my relationship with Deborah and how we managed to cope during those darkest days. We’ve endured hell to have our little munchkin, and as he rests soundly in his nursery, I know we’ll raise Lazer in a home brimming with appreciation, with God’s help.
Happy Father’s Day to all the dads, and hopeful dads, this coming Sunday.
Jake Anderson-Bialis is the co-founder of FertilityIQ.