Some time ago I was driving by car to a workshop together with my sister. On the way we talked about all kinds of things, we had more than enough topics. At some point the conversation turned to my - this - blog.
We talked about the fact that some of my articles seem happy and light, others rather sad and heavy. I told her it all depends on the feelings I have while writing. And I explained to her that with every article I try not to show my feelings too much, because my main goal is to report on my experiences, to show possible ways, to offer solutions and to open up perspectives.
My sister asked me: “Why don't you write an article about your feelings? This would give other men permission to show their feelings as well. That could help a lot more than some well-intentioned advice! "
Spontaneously I thought: “Oh my God! How should I do that?".
I already had the first excuses and reasons for a rejection on the tip of my tongue, but somehow they wouldn't come over my lips. I noticed that there was something to be said about my sister's proposal. And even if I don't really know whether and how I can do it, I decided to write this article about my feelings anyway.
Here we go
My children now are 24 and 18 years old. I can still remember the birth of my daughter in 1996. The pregnancy was largely unproblematic. We looked forward to our child, were excited and also a little scared. But for me as a father most of the time it was a development that I only observed from the outside — also emotionally.
I watched my wife’s belly get rounder and rounder and from time to time I could feel the kicks and blows of our child in the mother’s belly with my hand. I did see the ultrasonic images at the gynecologist, but my imagination was not good enough to recognize a face or the limbs. The main thing was that everything was fine, I didn’t have much to do with the rest.
After all, the birth was like a bang on a drum that follows the play of a flute. It was a premature birth with all sorts of complications, some of which were even life-threatening for our child. I stayed in the delivery room most of the time — about 14 hours — trying to help my wife without needing any help myself. The midwives were about to send me out into the fresh air because they thought I was going to collapse any minute.
After a long night, four doctors in mint green lab coats were suddenly standing around my exhausted wife’s bunk in the morning, working on her as if they were trying to recover an engine block from a dented car. Blood was also flowing, and I can still see the image of a doctor’s rubber shoes that still shone white only in a few places.
Suddenly it became quiet, everyone relaxed somehow, there was little talk. I couldn’t see what was going on and I didn’t want to see everything. But that magical moment when our daughter first saw the light of day was wonderful. Time stood still for that brief moment, because in that moment nothing mattered anymore. All fears, worries, and hardships voluntarily took a back seat and left the big stage of life up to our daughter.
Now the moment followed when I really and finally became a dad. A midwife wrapped our daughter in a clean, white cloth and put her in my arms. While the doctors tended my wife and sewed her wounds, I just stood there with my daughter in my arms. She had closed her eyes and looked very peaceful. Surely the labor of childbirth had exhausted her as much as my wife. I watched her breathing, felt every little movement and had tears of happiness and wonder in my eyes.
I looked into her small, delicate face, looked at her hands and feet, which peeked out from under the white cloth. At that moment I felt the change in me and knew that it is no longer just about me and will never be about me again. It scared me, because the responsibility for such a small and helpless human child is enormous. But it also made me strong, because I now knew why and what for.
No matter what I say or do, how I behave, what I stand up for, what I fight for: I held the motivation, the drive, the source of strength in my arms in this delivery room in the Munich Rechts der Isar Clinic. I looked at my daughter and felt like I was making a pact for life with her.
The pact for life is still in place, but some days I feel like I am not able to fulfill it. I had sworn and wished so much that I would be a good dad, do anything for my daughter, help her and be there when she needs me. And what did it end up to?
She has been over 800 kilometers away for many years. When I think of her, imagine her face or her voice rings in my inner ear, it can happen that I get deeply sad. I then feel an enormous longing and I notice how my eyes are slowly getting wet.
When she visited me for the first time after moving to Hamburg, I hugged her in front of the door in the stairwell, as if I wanted to hold her tight and never let her go again. While I was still able to keep my composure on the day of the move, I lost it completely the first time we met afterwards. I held her tight, cried into her hair, and couldn’t let go of her for many minutes. The pain of the loss came with a vengeance at the first meeting.
This first visit only lasted an hour, because she also had appointments with her friends. When she left me after a cup of coffee and a far too short chat on the balcony, it was much worse than on the day of the move. I watched her through the window as she walked to the garden gate, turned and waved, stepped out into the street and disappeared from my sight. At that moment I collapsed on the floor and cried uncontrollably — for how long, I don’t know.
Even now as I write this, I have tears in my eyes and my larynx hurts like someone is pressing my neck. I feel that my breath is no longer flowing properly, but is doing its duty with great effort and reluctance. It’s been over 9 years now, but it’s still a huge pain. It’s still not over!
These many years cannot be replaced or made up for. What happened in that time is over, forever. I am a dad and still sometimes have no feeling for it. I can only cope with my life reasonably well because I successfully suppress a lot. If I really would allow everything that keeps on to be imposed on me, I would go miserably to pieces without help.
It was a caesarean birth and it was like scripted. As planned, my son was born 6 years after my daughter in the Munich Harlaching Clinic. Because of this, and because I was already a seasoned dad, his birth didn’t matter so much to me. I was very happy and proud, but nowhere near as agitated as when his big sister was born.
I can still remember how I was sitting in the waiting room, hearing the screaming and moaning of the women in the neighboring delivery room and thinking: “Thank God my wife is not there!”. I sat reading a magazine and waited — like for the bus. I was really cool and serene, until my son was brought to me with the words: “Your wife is fine. And the little one, too! “.
I sat there with him on my lap, looked at him and felt an uncanny pride. I was proud to have a healthy and strong son. I felt this happiness that one has when something is perfect. When everything fits and nothing is missing. My son was the last piece of the puzzle in the picture I had of my family and my fatherhood. I felt that it was finally fine now.
My son’s early childhood was also rather unspectacular in comparison. The only thing that overshadowed his first years of life was a mysterious nausea that kept pounding at the worst of times. This earned him the nickname “Spucki”, which I picked up from a Bully Herbig film (Traumschiff Surprise).
My son was not even 3 years old when my wife and I separated. In the following months and years I saw him regularly every two weeks and during the holidays, but unfortunately we were unable to develop a really close relationship in this short time. I was absent far too often and far too long.
When my children moved to Hamburg, my son was not even 9 years old. Separating from him was not easy for me, but it was not quite as difficult as separating from his sister. When I parted with him, I felt more trust and confidence, there was little fear or despair.
It only got really difficult for me when my son hit puberty a few years later. Although we did not and do not have very intensive contact, there was an invisible connection line that signaled to me that my son was becoming a man and needed me.
I felt an enormous need to be there for him, even though he still did not ask for me. I wanted to be a role model for him and show how a man thinks, speaks and acts. I wanted him to learn something from me, to orient himself towards me and not only have a father with me, but also a friend. And I wanted to be the one to show him how to shave.
I had this scene in mind of him and I standing in front of the mirror in the bathroom, lathering our faces and then shaving together — accompanied by my knowledgeable comments and instructions. A very banal process, nothing special, but it would have made me incredibly happy.
The reality is that I didn’t even notice my son’s first beard fluff. And his mother got him his first razor. I found out about it at some point afterwards. The sadness that overwhelmed me at this news showed me how much I would have loved to buy him the razor.
When I meet my son today, I have the feeling that I am standing in front of a stranger. I feel my love and my connection to him, but at the same time I am insecure and somehow helpless. It is not a relaxed, self-evident and casual approach, but rather a careful feeling.
And no sooner do I get the impression that we are getting closer than the alarm clock rings and reminds us that we have to go to the airport. Lufthansa will not be waiting!
I then stand at the security barrier and watch my son as he is checked in and then disappears into the crowd of the terminal. Sometimes he turns around briefly and waves to me. Then there is just deep sadness and great regret. For hours! For days!
If I didn’t have my sense of humor and the ability to look ahead, I wouldn’t be able to manage my life. Today I have a wonderful, loving wife and great friends who are with me and have built an invisible safety net around me. My father and sister would also be on hand immediately if necessary. I have hobbies and an interesting job that challenge and inspire me. And I still have this infinite love for my two children!