First things first, being a Dad has one ultimate initial requirement. You must have a child. Duh. Pretty obvious, I know but this is the beginning of the whole thing. It is life changing and never ending. One day you’re just a guy, then you’re a guy whose wife has the proverbial bun in the oven, then bang….it happens. Your name has changed, it is now Dad. Well it’s actually Daddy for a good number of years, but at the core you are Dad and there is no turning back. There are a few other “no’s” that come with being a Dad (or Mom).No uninterrupted nights of sleep, no sleeping in on the weekend, no carefree weekends, no extra money and above all, no extra time. Now I am not whining here, these are just simple facts.
So first things first you either get married and decide to have children, then “get pregnant”. I love that one, when the guy says “we are going to get pregnant”. We? Really? WE DON’T’ THINK SO….. The woman in the equation surely doesn’t think so. Or without getting married you decide to “get pregnant” Okay, so the decision consciously made, or subconsciously (someone forgets to use protection just this one time) and life is about to change forever. The test is positive, OMG! What now???
I’m going to step back in time for a moment. I was 19 years old, in a might-be-heading-towards-marriage relationship. This alone was a frightening prospect for me. Heck, I had just moved out of my folk’s house. Wife? The thought sent chills down my spine, I was NOT READY. As with all couples, we each brought our own group of friends to the table. One evening we went to visit a newly-wed couple, friends of hers. My throat was tightening and I broke out in a cold sweat as she joyfully told me they were married less than a year and how she was eager to see their new baby. BABY?!?! I had gotten out of high school, a mere year ago…. WIFE? BABY? This couple was just over twenty as I remember, having gotten married when they were both nineteen. NINETEEN! Oh boy, not me man, no way! I could not even get my head around a household of children with a child.
My worst fears were realized. They lived in a small third floor walk up apartment in an older building with hardwood floors. Lots of nice hard surfaces to reverberate and amplify the NEVER ENDING CRYING AND FUSSING of their precious new baby. This young new Mom seemed to take it all in stride with peace and calm as most Moms do. The smile never left her face. He on the other hand never smiled, not once. He looked worn, tired, haggard and well, he had the pallor of an inmate that doesn’t get enough sun in the prison yard. Two jobs, no sleep, no money, bills piling up, no chance to go to college. A trap, a big, frightening trap. I couldn’t wait to leave.
I didn’t say a word on the way home. She on the other hand talked endlessly about “what a lovely baby” how happy “they” seem. Had we been to the same place? Seen the same people? She had it, the bug. The I want to get married and have a baby bug. It was the beginning of the end of our relationship.
I sound like a real jerk just then don’t I? But ponder this: I was truly not ready, nor was he. I don’t know if their marriage lasted, but many don’t. Here is a tip if you haven’t taken the get married have a baby step: TAKE YOUR TIME!! You want to be completely sure you are ready! This is life changing stuff. Remember my comments above? Facts, real true facts. I knew it and I knew I wasn’t ready.
Now let’s fast forward a bunch of years. I have sown my wild oats (read: wasted years having too much self centered fun) and now I am ready. Marriage then baby. It is quite different when you are ready. Now was I (were we) fully prepared? No, you just can’t grasp the life change until you live it. But we wanted a family, we wanted children, plural. We had lived enough life and seen enough young familes succeed to know that it can work. Work, now that is the correct word. Being Dad or Mom is WORK. Hard work, never ending, but with more reward than you can gain in any other way. In my youth I looked at the double-income-no-kids crowd as the smart ones, the lucky ones. Then SHE arrived, our first born.
She was not eager to enter this world. No, Anika has always been a very self determined individual and that rigid will and stubbornness was apparent on the day of her birth. TWENTY-TWO-HOURS-OF-LABOR… It wearies me to read those words, twenty two hours of labor. And all I had to do was stay awake and be a good “coach”. We had taken the birthing course together: bring the soft music, keep the lights dim, and quietly coach your partner as you approach the blessed moment. The birth of a child. Sounds all sweet warm and idyllic. NOT!! Three shifts of mid-wives used all their skills before the end. Mom was beyond exhausted, way beyond. The weaker sex…wow, that is way, way off. Most men would be begging to be put out of their misery to end this kind of suffering. At long, long last the moment arrived. Baby was born; Mom held her new baby smiling at her with a grin that wouldn’t end. All was right with the world. As to that weaker sex thing, Mom recovered in short order, I mean like less than an hour! Are women really machines? Nope, they are just that strong, that resilient. Men we should all be in awe. Then it was my turn. I held MY BABY, my precious first born for the first time. So small, so fragile. Welcome to the world Anika! Welcome. Life would never be the same..