Growing up, I always heard that parenting comes as second nature. Its been done for thousands of years, and you could honestly say “its so easy, a caveman can do it.” Hollywood makes it look so glamorous, even the birthing part. Then there’s that show, “16 and pregnant”, soon to be “32 and grandma”. Makes you think that if they can do it, and its been successfully done for thousands of years, then it can’t be all that difficult, right? Au contraire, mon frère! Cue Halloween 2013. I’ve watched all the Youtube videos in existence, talked to all my family members, talked to doctors and nurses, and kinda/sorta read those daddy books. Hell, I even went to a Daddy Boot Camp class! I was ready to go. I packed my wife’s bag (with her guidance and assistance), secured the car-seat for the trip to the hospital, and had the crib, cradle, pack n’ play, and sleeper/rocker all set. My wife was scheduled to be induced on the 31st of October, which happened to be her due date, due to low blood count and potential issues with the epidural. However, at 3 AM on the 31st, she sat straight up in bed, grabbed my arm and yelled out. I may not be a doctor, but I’m pretty sure that meant she was in labor.
So I’m driving to the hospital, wife’s best friend in the car behind us, and she starts having full blown contractions. I have no idea what the hell I’m supposed to do…”What to expect when expecting” doesn’t have a paragraph about high speed back-country highway deliveries. Needless to say, that 45 minute ride became the worst 25 minutes of my life.
We got to the hospital, and after they argued with us about not calling ahead of time (we had a bed secured the night prior) they finally placed us in a room, and in came an army of nurses with tubes and medicines and information flying at us from all angles. I’d honestly say that, in retrospect, it was too much information to handle. I’m sure they told us information on how to breathe properly, and to prepare for the delivery, but in the madness that was occurring, neither my wife, nor I paid enough attention to what anyone was saying. In fact, the only thing my wife was concerned about was that she had her good, fluffy socks on.
Anyways, in the interest of not dragging this story out forever, with it being my first, I’ll skip forward. 1139 AM rolls around. The midwife is doing her thing, my wife is screaming, pushing me away and puking on me from a combination of anti-heartburn medicine and going numb all up her body from epidural (sorry sweetie). The midwife, very nonchalantly I might add, says, “theres the head, and theres the baby! Congrats daddy! Hold her this way! No, not like that, prop her head up! Ok now bring her here. Time to draw blood. Daddy, go check on mommy. Wait, Dad, come back and cut the cord for a photo shoot. Oh look…she pooped! Well done! Heart normal, breathing normal, peeing and pooping VERY normal…ok time to go to Mother/Baby side…”
Wait one damn second…what the hell just happened?! Thats my kid? Why’s her head misshapen, why isn’t she crying? Is she supposed to look like an alien? I had a myriad of questions but all the nurses were worried about were rushing us into the next room. Once we arrived, another barrage of nurses came in. Sticking her foot with needles, then dunking them in ink. Rushing her to NICU for tests, and then bringing her back. I felt like I was a preschooler…charting pees and poops and feedings like it was our life. More I wrote, the better chance I had of a gold star!
Somewhere in this process they slipped an ankle monitor on my baby. They warned me that if I walked to close to the elevator, it would set off an alarm, and the MPs would be called. I felt imprisoned, and my daughter was only 3 hours old. I’d spent maybe 20 minutes with her, and those minutes were spent staring at her, wondering how in the world I was ever that small. Every minute passed brought two more questions, and yielded no answers. I was querying dad forums and mom pages (hadn’t found out about #DadBloggers yet) and the best advice I received was to “take it in stride, and learn as I go”…Thanks to the poetic genius who gave me that advice, it served me really well when she projectile pooped on me from two feet away…I was really glad you taught me to “learn as I go.”
Minutes turned to hours, turned to days, turned to nearly a week. My wife continued to have blood count issues so we were held in the hospital nearly 5 days. In retrospect, those 5 days really just felt like one really long day. Interrupted by 30 minute spurts of closed eyes and inquisitive nurses. We had one awesome nurse who ironically was a college classmate who took great care of us. She ensured we were stockpiled with whatever we needed. She took the time to answer questions, and assist us with any issues we had. But she was one nurse, and we were one of many on that floor, so inevitably she had to leave, and my questions continued to build. On November 4th, while eating my fantastic steak and shrimp dinner, so ungraciously provided by the Hospital, the final nurse came in, cut off my daughters ankle monitor, gave us some paperwork to sign and then looked at me with the straightest face ever and said, “Congratulations Dad, here’s your kid” and told us once we checked out, that we were free to go.
What the F***?! Where is the manual? Users guide? Anyone!? Bueller?! How can a 26 year old honestly be expected to handle this 7 lb human being and do everything right? Walking out the hospital doors was the most surreal feeling in the world. Crisp cool air blowing around, people hustling and bustling, and I’m carrying my infant daughter; my pride and joy, and my legacy, all bundled up in a pink carseat and there’s no-one stopping me. I wasn’t given a 40 hour block of instruction on child raising, no one gave me a certificate of training saying I was ready…I just had to step into the batters box and start swinging.
The next days, weeks, and months would bring many trials and tribulations that no one could have ever prepared me for. That being said, in retrospect, I don’t think one is ever truly “ready” to be a dad. I learned, stubbornly I will admit, what it meant to “take things in stride and learn as you go.”
So to all you soon to be dads out there, if I can offer you this one piece of advice, it is this: This is your adventure, don’t follow anyone else’s path. You will trip and stumble, slip and fall, but when you reach the peak there is no feeling like it. Enjoy raising your child and most of all, enjoy being a dad. To all those out there who were already dads and to whom I spoke: thank you for letting me live my own adventure. I can honestly say I’ve learned by doing things my way, and having to adjust fire, and do it differently. You are all amazing for what you do, and I wish you all the best!
Congratulations dads, here’s your kid!