Indifferent Dads Should Get a Second Chance at Fatherhood

Jeanne Sager

baby fatherIt's a hard thing to stomach when the father of a child treats your pregnancy like it's more of an annoyance than a miracle. But does a man's indifference to pregnancy mean he can never be a good father?

Take the story of a 17-year-old boy from California who is fighting his ex-girlfriend's decision to put their child up for adoption. The he said/she said "facts" of the Christian Diaz case make it difficult to determine whether the boy is indeed ready for fatherhood. But the case has revealed something startling for fathers in general: courts in California are given leave to deny a father's rights if he does not supply support to a mother during the pregnancy, even if he steps up after the baby is born.

Excuse me? Being a jerk during your significant other's pregnancy is by no means the right thing to do, but it hardly seems enough to separate father and child for the rest of their lives. What must be taken into account is sheer biology. Not all men feel a connection to their child before he or she comes out of the womb. It's due in no small part to the means by which a child is carried.

As a mother, I was feeling pregnant from the first time I threw up until the last push in the delivery room. My husband was proud as punch that I was pregnant and eagerly awaiting the birth of his daughter, but even he will admit that our feelings were not the same. It took him holding my hand and watching our daughter come into the world for him to feel like a dad. Does that negate the nights he got up to cuddle and feed her, the soccer games he's coached, the My Little Ponies he's romped across the living room floor?

And what of a woman's feelings during pregnancy? We specifically "tried" to have a baby, and I can honestly admit there were times during that long haul when I sat with my head in my hands wondering, "WTF have I done to myself?" They went away when my daughter arrived. I would not change a thing. But that's now, with the advantage of 20/20 hindsight. Before I met my daughter, I was not acting with all the knowledge I have now, and neither is a father-to-be.

I'm not ready to give Christian Diaz -- or any dad who disappears during pregnancy -- a medal. A real parent steps up from the get-go. But we all make mistakes, and I simply can't ignore their value to their child if they're willing to step up at the time of birth.

Do you think these dads deserve a second chance?


Image via eyeliam/Flickr

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