NOTE: Daniel and Kelly speak to this question on Episode #26 of The Abel Speaks Podcast. You can listen on Apple, Spotify, or your app of choice.

Daniel Crawford:

Welcome to the Abel Speaks podcast, where we speak to commonly asked questions by parents who have received a life limiting diagnosis for their child. We’re Daniel and Kelly Crawford and we’re glad that you’ve joined us.

Okay, friends, welcome back to the Abel Speaks podcast. We are approaching Father’s Day in 2022. You’re going to be able to listen this for a long time after that. But with it being Father’s Day, we wanted to take a couple of episodes here and really talk to the dads. And so, we’re going to do a bit of a role reversal here as I’m joined, as always, by my lovely wife, Kelly. But we’ve also got a special guest in the house. We’ve got our friend, Pierce Hilbert, joining us for the conversation. What up, Pierce?

Pierce Hilbert:

Hello, hello, hello.

Daniel Crawford:

He is another dad here in the Dallas area where we currently live, and just got the honor of getting to know and walk with his wife Haley and him last year as they carried their son, August. And so, I thought that Pierce, my baldheaded brother-

Pierce Hilbert:

Yes.

Daniel Crawford:

… we’ve got to stick together, man.

Pierce Hilbert:

Yes.

Daniel Crawford:

We’ll have some good insights for what will be a couple of episodes here where we kind of talk to the dads. And so, let’s go, question asker lady.

Kelly Crawford:

Yeah. I’m playing a different role for these few episodes, which we’ll see how it goes. But for this first episode surrounding the dads, our question is why do fathers struggle to stay engaged?

Daniel Crawford:

I think that it’s a good, comprehensive umbrella term there, that I think as far as if we’re going to list out five things, and if we were just reflecting personally, which is what we’re about to do, of, “Hey, what was hard in that season?” It’s like there’s no limit to the number of things that were hard, but I feel like something about being the dad, being a guy, being not pregnant, being all of these things made it feel like there were almost some additional obstacles to connecting, to being fully present, to being fully engaged in that season. And so, if you want to chime in with some initial thoughts-

Pierce Hilbert:

Yeah, a thousand percent.

Daniel Crawford:

… you can riff off.

Pierce Hilbert:

I think for me specifically, like you said, because it wasn’t my body and I wasn’t carrying the baby and I wasn’t being asked about baby or pregnancy at grocery store or church or whatever, I think it was just easy for me. And not necessarily easy, but almost just more comfortable to avoid, mostly because I was trying to avoid pain. It was just easier for me to work more or to busy myself with things that weren’t necessarily pressing into Haley at the time. But I think it was mostly just to protect myself and try to avoid pain at all costs.

I think that’s just how we’re raised right now, is just, “Don’t do pain because pain is terrible.” And for the men, a lot of times, especially for me, what that looked like was checking out, going to events more, things outside of the house, or not talking to baby like I did my other pregnancy because I knew I might be able to talk to them after birth or whatever it might be. So for me, it was mostly protection for myself. And I think that’s just the easy thing. I think that’s why it is a struggle is because it’s almost easier to just avoid at all costs.

Daniel Crawford:

Yeah. And so, I think there’s elements of that are… Well, A) I think that’s kind of a human thing that you touched on.

Pierce Hilbert:

Sure. Yeah.

Daniel Crawford:

Which is we don’t… If there’s pain and hardship standing over here, and then there’s over here, any other number of things to either distract or entertain or amuse to take the mind off, or just to commit ourselves to from a busyness standpoint like you said, work or social dynamics or whatever it is, there’s a very human part of us that wants to run towards those things rather than facing the hardship.

But then, I think if I was going to say the masculine struggle on the male side more than anything, at least I’ll speak for myself, but I think it’s generally true, is the processing of emotions. I think that in this situation there’s elements of, yes, the hardship, the sorrow that lays ahead, combined with really the helplessness and the powerlessness. Because that’s our other piece, right?

Pierce Hilbert:

Yeah.

Daniel Crawford:

Is, “What do I do to fix it? How do I make it better? What’s the solution?” And that’s practical, that’s head more than heart. And so, that’s like, I can do that. But in this situation where it’s like, “You’ve told me something about my child that I am I helpless to change, and that we’re now looking at this long stretch of time before I will be able to do anything practical or tangible or that I’ll have more information. I’m at a deficit of information. All of that stuff leaves us at a place where it’s like, “Okay, you can’t really do, you can’t fix. So instead you’ve just got to feel, you’ve got to process, you’ve got to talk.” And it’s like those are three things that Kelly can attest to are not strengths of me, and I would guess for a lot of the dads listening. And so, I think that puts some loose words on some of what’s difficult in that initial season.

Kelly Crawford:

Yeah. I think too, just what we have seen as a ministry, is that 99% of the time, the mom is the one that’s reaching out, and the mom’s the one that’s looking for resources and trying to get connected with people that can support them. And so, that’s not inherently bad. The Lord creates men and women differently. And so, to see that union of a husband and a wife as complimentary is a good thing. But also, it doesn’t mean that you get to abdicate responsibility. So just trying to find a balance, I think, with all of that between spouses is a good place to land, just so that it feels like both people are sharing the load and it feels more like a team.

And so, I would also just say that I think when dads do pull back, what ends up happening is that moms just feel isolated and alone in a season and journey that is already isolating and lonely. And so, there’s just a great opportunity for men to step up and lean into all the things that you guys have shared that are hard. And it’s our human nature to run away from those things, but I think there’s a lot of fruit to be had if the dads lean in for them individually, for their marriage, for their family as a whole. And so, what would you guys say to men that are listening to this episode that want to love and lead their wives and their families? What would you guys kind of leave them with?

Daniel Crawford:

Yeah. I think I would say that in that season there are… It’s an unprecedented season. I’d venture to guess that y’all have never walked through something like this before. And so, the stakes are so high that the opportunity to make deposits into your marriage, into your family, and equally, the potential to make some withdrawals that are going to sting and that are going to stay there for a long time are bigger in both regards.

And so, to focus on the first half of that sentence, the opportunity that you have that isn’t necessarily something that you can count on, “Oh, I’ll do better a year from now or two years from now.” It’s like, “I don’t know how the Lord’s going to write this story. I don’t even know what lies ahead tomorrow or next week or next appointment. But I know right now, while there’s so much that I can’t do, what I can do is choose to press in to that tension and to that struggle, that I can choose to in a way that feels unnatural, maybe uncomfortable for me, process and sift through my own thoughts, emotions, fears, anxiety.” Step one, just to even do that for myself.

And then, step two, to put words on that in a way that probably feels vulnerable and maybe even awkward, but is such an opportunity to build intimacy with the Lord first and foremost, but then with your spouse. Man, I wish I was speaking from, “This was something that I’m so glad that I did really well.” This is something that the Lord’s grace has taught me over time in retrospect, where there are aspects where I’m like, “Man.” I do look back and I’m like, “I didn’t take full advantage of the opportunity in the ways that I just described.” And yeah. That’s hard. And that’s what I don’t want-

Pierce Hilbert:

Yeah. I know.

Daniel Crawford:

… for other dads that are listening through this right now. And so, I don’t know what you would add to any of that.

Pierce Hilbert:

And I think the encouragement is, is you’re not alone. I think oftentimes as dads, there’s this, you’re at home alone with your wife, and you see all this pain and suffering that she’s experiencing. And oftentimes, because we are disengaged, we might not necessarily feel that, and it creates this shame and guilt. And what it actually ends up doing is it makes us go further away and kind of even disengage even more.

And so, my encouragement to the dads out there is, you’re doing it right now by listening to something like this and trying to gather things. And also, just know that each one of us men struggle with something like this. And so, there’s a lot of things, like you said, that I didn’t do or regret not doing or doing during the process. And pressing in on some of these things was not one of them. It was extremely life giving. It brought me and Haley closer.

It’s 10 months from when my son was born and passed, and I think we’re still closer in a lot of ways than we would have been without that season. And so, at some point, the pain catches up to you. You’re going to feel it at some point. And I think for me, I think I felt it at a decent time, but I do wish I had pressed in even earlier than what I did. Because oftentimes, and even for the Ubanks and us, it’s like the baby comes sooner than October, right? And so, it’s like I’m sitting here in July thinking I have till October, but I only have till August 10th. And so, at some point it’s like the pain does catch you. You will feel it eventually. And so, I think one of the encouragements, as I was thinking here, is lean into that pain sooner. Yeah. That’s my encouragement, is just keep pressing in, keep asking questions. And I think it’s beneficial and rewarding at the end of the day.

Daniel Crawford:

Yeah. And I think I would just close by saying that threefold, our hope, my hope for every dad who gets to listen to this is just that, A) just for your own sake, to not look back on the season and be like, “Man, that was the time on this side of eternity that my son or my daughter was with us, even in the womb. And I didn’t fully dial into that, and I didn’t fully connect and experience that.” We want that for you.

B) just for your spouse’s sake, as Kelly had articulated earlier, so that it doesn’t feel like, hey, 90/10 or 80/20 or whatever it is, as far as who’s carrying the weight of this and who is kind of, as you said, Pierce, kind of checking out and just staying busy. And so, for your own sake, for your spouse’s sake, and then yeah, just for the long term, not just in that season of walking through the pregnancy-

Pierce Hilbert:

That’s right.

Daniel Crawford:

… as husband and wife, but for the long term intimacy and unity and oneness in your marriage, man, take advantage of this season. Don’t abdicate the God-given leadership opportunity that the Lord, as a husband in general and as a father in general. And then specifically, just don’t expect to do it perfectly.

Pierce Hilbert:

Right.

Daniel Crawford:

So that would be the last thing. And so, hopefully you heard Pierce and I both say that we did this imperfectly.

Pierce Hilbert:

Yes.

Daniel Crawford:

Would be a kind way to summarize it. And so, just take one step at a time, one day at a time. And so, to help with that, we’re going to launch into kind of a part two to this conversation, another episode with just some really practical ways that all of this can play out. And so, for this conversation, we’ll go ahead and land the plane. Tune in next time on the Abel Speaks podcast. We’ll see you then.

Hey, friends. Thanks for listening in. We hope this content has been helpful. At Abel Speaks, we exist to support families who have chosen to carry a child with a life-limiting diagnosis, and we want you to know that the foundation of that support is rooted in relationships. And so, if you are a parent in this circumstance, then by all means, continue listening in. But we’d really encourage you to reach out by sending an email to support@abelspeaks.org. Again, our heartfelt prayers that this episode has served you in some way and that we might have the opportunity to serve you further in the future. The Abel Speaks podcast is produced, mixed, and edited by the team at Sound of a Rose.