I remember that day at the hospital three years ago. The day Stella was born and my life changed forever. That was the day I became a father and the depth of what that means has grown immensely.
My father wasn’t bad, just absent. He rarely engaged in “normal” parental activities. As an adult I realized that he probably did the best he could with what he learned from his father. Despite all his shortcomings as a father I always felt love. Unconditional love. He would admonish, but at the end of the day and at the end of his life, he encouraged me to follow my dreams and find joy.
That lesson has served me well. I know I have stumbled along my path. But that path has led me to an amazing wife and magical daughter. Love has been my guiding principle in being a father. It has served me well.
It’s 5 AM and I’m sitting up in bed having my first sip of coffee. I haven’t had much sleep, maybe four hours. I worked last night. Lindsay, who’s asleep next to me, has probably had less since she’s been up and down with Stella through the night. Stuffy, runny nose. Stella is scheduled for a fairly routine outpatient procedure to unblock a tear duct, but it does involve her being under general anesthesia for 10 to 15 minutes, which is the part that scares the hell out if me.
The procedure is considered elective at this point since it hasn’t caused any major problems other than perpetual tears running down the right side of her face. Blocked tear ducts are fairly common in babies and usually rights itself by one year. Her left eye is fine and has been for some time and though there has been very little infection in the right eye, which we’ve been able to treat with a simple antibiotic ointment, it could get worse and cause more problems. Problem is that the longer we wait the chance of infections increases and the success rate of unblocking on the first try decreases.
I’m afraid this father thing will never get easy. This feeling that your child is so vulnerable. So utterly dependent on your decisions.
It’s 8 AM and the anesthesiologist has signed off on the procedure. Her oxygen levels and heart rate is great. Lindsay is going in with Stella to be with her when they put her under but has to leave and wait with me until they’re done. It will be the longest 10 or 15 minutes ever. Lindsay’s mom has come done to be with us.
Lindsay tells us that Stella put up a struggle and started crying when they put the mask on and she was clinging to her but she finally goes to sleep. Tough little girl.
It’s about 10 minutes when the doctor comes out to us. We can’t tell anything from his expression. Lindsay asks if everything is ok and he smiles and says it went great. They’re waking her up and we can go see her shortly. He goes over what we need to do and we go in to get her. She’s crying, of course, but settles down quickly. Her right eye is goofy from medication but she looks great and is thirsty and tired.
It went great and I can feel my body relax knowing she’s ok. We’ll have to wait a couple of weeks to know for sure if was a success.
As the day goes in she rests a lot and is extra cuddly and all looks to be well. I love this little girl more than anything in the world.
Am I ready? The short answer is yes. As ready as one can be. The big pieces are in place. Crib. Check. Changing table. Check. Diapers. Check. Birthing classes are progressing, although I admit to looking away, a little, when we watch the films of actual births. My psyche has not made that leap yet. The birthing plan and all the checklists are coming together. Having many nephews and nieces has prepared me for the diaper changes. Baby poop does not intimidate me. And I’ve been waking up at odd hours of the night as if in anticipation of the sleep deprivation to come. So, physically, I feel prepared.
Mentally. Well, that’s a different story. Many time throughout the day it hits me.
“I’m going to be a father.”
Then I stare off into space, dumbfounded. I truly came to believe that after 49 years this was something I would not experience.
Then, all the fears come rushing in. ” Will she be healthy?” “Safe?” ” I am not prepared for this and have no idea what I’m doing.” “Am I too old?” “Will it all be too overwhelming?”
Then … the doubts subside … and a silly grin replaces the worry lines.
“I’m going to be a father.”
“She will be healthy.” “I will keep her safe.” “I’m young in spirit.” “It will be trying at times, but I am not alone.” “Not if, but when, I make mistakes, I will have the humility to recognize and learn from them.”
So. There it is. Hopes and fears all wrapped up in one simple phrase.
We reached the 23 week mark today. Yesterday brought another visit to the doctor and with it a listen to the heartbeat of our child. It was probably the sixth time we have heard it. The rapid “Whoosh, whoosh, whoosh.” Sounding much like a locomotive steaming down the tracks in some old movie. But underwater. Each time I hear it, though, it feels like she’s getting closer.
Yes, we are having a girl.
We found out for sure over a month ago during an ultrasound. That’s when the tears came. Tears of joy. I could imagine holding her in that moment. I could see a little girl, in my mind’s eye, running towards me and calling “Daddy”. Six months ago, none of this was in our plans. I think my wife and I somehow felt the time had passed. We had been open to it the last couple of years and even stopped using any method of birth control. We left it to fate. It just didn’t happen, so we figured it wouldn’t or we couldn’t and left it at that.
When the year started we thought we would take a long trip overseas. Greece or Italy. Somewhere warm and near an ocean.
“Whoosh, whoosh, whoosh!”
That’s the sound of my heart beating. Faster. Expectant. Curious.