As I helped my wife up on the bed in preparation for yet another baby scan, I joked that they really should call dads and dads-to-be "scaffolding".
The more I thought about it, the more the joke actually made sense though.
Physically, we're doing a lot of support as our partners do the actual building. Sometimes that can be the late night run for the snack your pregnant wife is craving, sometimes it can be tying her shoes because getting over the belly is tough and her back hurts, and sometimes it's just being a pillar that she can use as a support to get up and down.
Emotionally, we've got be the scaffolding too. We've got to share in the joy of first discovering this pregnancy is actually a thing, and be calm and assured when the first anxieties about it inevitably hit. When lack of sleep and hormonal changes affect our partner's behaviour, we need to be understanding and encouraging.
(And not fall to our instinct of offering obvious solutions). When the time arrives to meet the baby, we have to be educated and ready to show empathy while also being our partner's ultimate advocate at time when she is at her most vulnerable.
Don't get it twisted: being the scaffolding is an important job, because without it the job of building is so much harder.
But...here's where the analogy falls apart, because scaffolding is just a tool. It's a bunch of metal that gets put into a corner and ignore once it's job is done. Most importantly, no one cares about what the scaffolding thinks or feels about the building that is happening around it.
And maybe that's a big problem with the way we think about pregnancy and parenting: dad is a useful tool, but we don't stop to think about the human who is also going through a fundamentally life-altering experience.
Think about that dad-to-be or that new dad that you know. Have you asked him how he's coping? Has he received any indication that his feelings and experiences of parenthood are also important, and deserve to be spoken about and celebrated?
If the answer is no, maybe he feels like rusty, old, unimportant scaffolding right now. And that would be a shame.