Thursday, May 6, 2010


How has fatherhood changed me?

Hmm, good question. When I was younger and had my life mapped out (this was the late 70’s, early 80’s) I thought I would meet someone and get married by 25. Isn’t that what you were supposed to do? Then start having 2.3 kids by 30. I had the perfect parenting life set up in my head. The kids were always good, never cried and my wife knew everything about child rearing. I sort of lived in a perfect little bubble when thinking about the future. Didn’t all girls know everything about kids? Isn’t that what it meant to be a girl? Have kids and raise them. It’s just genetics, right? Everything was going to be perfect.

Well, real life isn’t exactly like what you’re taught as a kid. For starters, I didn’t do a lot of dating or look for mates very seriously. I had a period of time where I didn’t really have a date for 7 years. So that set me back a touch. Well, I finally met Liz when I was 34 and we got married when I was 36. That put me back 11 years from my initial plan. What else would be different? Surely the rest was right, right? We planned to try to get pregnant about 6 months after we got married. We thought we should have a little “getting used to” time before adding another to our crew. But after just 3 months, we changed our plan and Liz got pregnant and I realized I knew nothing. I kept asking Liz questions and realized she didn’t have all the answers. What? Wasn’t she supposed to know this stuff? She’s female. She’s supposed to know it all. OK, she bought books for her and for me. We named our little child-to-be “Bunny” and always referred to her that way. I think of Bunny as a girl. Well, we really don’t know what Bunny would have been. Liz, or more specifically WE, miscarried at about 10weeks. Liz had some spotting and we went in for an ultrasound to see what was going on. I was watching the screen and saw Bunny. The tech then said she had to go get the doctor to take a look. I almost passed out; there was no movement on the screen. No little heart beating, nothing. Luckily I had a stool next to me. I fell onto it. I was hoping that I was just missing something on the screen. The doctor then comes in, takes a look, and tells us that we miscarried. I was in shock. How could that happen? Didn’t women have babies all the time? What was wrong with us? Everything in the world was flashing through my mind. But the single most important thing that flashed in my mind was “Oh. God. Liz!!! What is she feeling and how is she feeling?” We went to the doctor’s private office and he talked to us for a while. I don’t know how long actually. I was still in a daze and worrying about Liz. He told us that miscarriages happen a lot more than talked about and that there wasn’t necessarily anything wrong with either of us, it just happens sometimes, and we could try again. That helped somewhat, but we were still in shock about losing Bunny. We went home and called family to let them know what happened. I was calling people until we got to my dad. I couldn’t call him and tell him. I had been the one who called him and told him that my sister’s son Jacob had died. I couldn’t do it again. I remembered hearing his anguish and it just about broke me. I just couldn’t do it; I almost couldn’t even talk to ask Liz to call him. (Wow, thinking about that almost made me cry all over again.) After calling people, we spent the rest of the day lying in bed trying to support each other. Each of us took turns being strong while the other would break down in tears. So, try number one sure didn’t go as I had pictured.

After 2 months we went to the doctor to see if things looked ok for us to try again. He gave us the go ahead and we got pregnant again. This time we didn’t tell anybody for a long time. I was scared. I kept thinking about the miscarriage. Everything seemed fine. We went in for an early ultrasound just to be sure things looked good and lo and behold they were. There was the heartbeat. I still didn’t know anything about being a dad or raising a child, but a huge burden was lifted. I felt better and felt things would go right this time. Everything was right with Teagan. We had a scare when Liz’s heart rate went all wonky and almost had to be de-fibbed to get it back in rhythm, but that’s a different story and Teagan was fine. I finally read the books Liz had gotten me and still had no clue how to be a dad. Luckily I have a partner who helps me when I struggle.

So even before I was officially a father I changed in many ways. I realized a much deeper love than I thought I could feel for something I hadn’t seen. When we lost Bunny, my heart felt like it had been ripped out of my chest. When I saw Teagan’s little heart beating, my heart felt like it would burst out of my chest with love. It’s amazing how such a little thing could have such a huge impact. I watched Liz go through her pregnancy loving every minute of it, even when she hurt and complained. I saw the look of love on her face and loved her more for it. I could not have physically gone through a pregnancy. Props to women on that one.

I have learned to be patient, loving, strict, understanding, mad, upset, dumbfounded, etc… from my kids. I used to be solely about me. I think that has been the hardest thing to adjust to with kids. I now have little people relying on me and my time and my attention. I know the pride in seeing my kids do something for the first time or discovering things on their own. I hope fatherhood has changed me in a good way and I hope to keep getting better at it even when they drive me nuts.