I imagine everyone’s reaction to finding out they’re going to be parents can be quite different. The ‘oops’ parents are going to have a much different experience than the couple who’s been trying for years. I definitely fall somewhere in between these two extremes but it has certainly been an interesting ride so far… and we’re only eighteen weeks in at this point.
What follows is my reaction to finding out I’m going to be a Dad. I call it the “six stages of impact”. I apologize in advance, it’s really quite long.
Disclaimer: The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in this post are solely that of the author and father and do not necessarily reflect the views, thoughts, and opinions of the mother, however, these views, thoughts, and opinions have been reviewed, altered and redacted to only contain what the latter party is comfortable with the former party sharing with the world. And I’m okay with this. Thank you.
Stage 1: Discovery… (and the magic wand)
You know when you have a bad dream and there’s that fifteen minute window after you wake up where the world seems illogically terrifying? You know, like, maybe there IS an axe murderer in the house even though every door and window would have certainly triggered an alarm; or maybe the psycho clown from IT COULD be hiding under my bed waiting to grab my feet when I get down to go pee. It was during this illogically terrifying window of time that Ashley chose to tell me she was pregnant. Standing there waving the pee stick in the air like a magic wand. Abracadabra, I’m pregnant.
Groggy, half-asleep, hair disheveled, confused…
A million thoughts ran through my mind at that moment and all of them were scary. No more sleep. No more movies. Smelly poopy diapers. That funky smellin’ formula puke. The crying, oh god, the crying! Listen, I’m the guy that is side glaring all those noisy kids in the restaurant. I am very easily agitated, how am I going to be a father? Not to mention I’ll be forty when this kid is born, so that means I’ll be like… < half asleep math… just use your fingers >… fifty-eight when they finish high school! Am I really that old already? …
All of these thoughts are charging through my brain at a relentless pace and meanwhile Ashley is still standing there with her magic wand waiting for some kind of acknowledgment from this guy:
Stage 2: What have I Done?… (and other assorted questions)
First, let me clear a few things up. The pregnancy wasn’t a HUGE surprise. It’s not like we had never talked about kids before. It had always been on our maybe-we-might-do-that-one-day list. But as a wise man once said, “Life moves at you pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.“ And before you know it you’ll look in the mirror and realize you just turned forty.
So the truth is that we had already thought that maybe, if we think we might want kids, we should probably go ahead and give this a shot. We knew that we might have already waited too long, Ashley was already thirty-five and there were some other possible complications that we knew about.
So we tried. One-by-one the months rolled by and doubt started to creep in. Maybe this isn’t going to happen. And maybe that’s okay. I wasn’t necessarily upset about it. I would walk into a crowded store, see a screaming kid having a meltdown, just rolling around on the floor, and as I’m stepping over him I would think to myself, this is meant to be!
In my mind, I started moving on. If we can’t have a baby, then I’ll buy a house. So we did. And exactly TWO DAYS before I’m signing the closing documents and emptying my savings account on a down payment Ashley comes strolling into the bedroom waving that darn pee stick around.
So yeah, I was a little caught off guard.
– – –
With that out of the way, the rest of stage two is a dark and confusing place. Let’s move through this as swiftly as possible shall we?
This stage is all about living in a state of fog. Just dazed and confused all the time. The questions, the doubt, the fear, the awful timing. I don’t spend money, I save money, and as soon as I decide to empty my bank account FOR UNTO US A CHILD IS BORN. Come on!
Everything in life just became more important. In the blink of an eye you go from thinking you’re doing pretty well to wondering why you haven’t done more with your life. I started questioning everything – what if I lose my job? Do I even make enough money to support a family? Have you ever priced child care? I could literally own two houses instead of having a kid. That’s insane!
And then the doubt starts to creep in – can I even be a father? I have to keep this child alive. Her very breathe depends on every move I make. What if I drop her? Will I be a good dad?
And then the insanity starts – what if I mess up? I mean, what if I make a tiny irreversible mistake. A mistake that’s so small that no one even notices but it has everlasting irreversible consequences that change the course of her life completely. And instead of becoming this amazing woman or maybe the first female president she becomes a dysfunctional part of society. Maybe she becomes one those mean girls that’s just rude to everyone and has no compassion for anyone. She yells at her mother, she cusses me out, she doesn’t come home at night. Instead of keeping up with her grades, she keeps up with the Kardashians. And then, one day, she brings home a guy. She says his name is ‘Acid’ but he spells it with a ‘z’ and as he stands before me bare chested with the tattoo of a fish on his neck, I ask him why he has twelve earrings in his left ear but only two in the right and he says it’s because it brings his world into balance. And while I’m trying to process that, she says, we’re having a baby and it’s at this moment that I ask Azid the most important question of all, “Do you think I can handle prison?”
All of this because I gave her a bottle that was too hot and I burned her tongue when she was 6 months old!
Stage 3: What is Happening?… (mama’s going through changes)
Me: Can you feel the baby moving around yet?
Me: <puts hand on her belly> I think I feel a little fluttering around in there.
Ashley: I have gas.
Me: <removes hand>
– – –
I would like to start off this section by saying I have a great respect for woman and the things they put their bodies through for child birth. If it were up to men I think the race as a whole might be extinct by now. I mean, if I have a cold you need to radio in the National Guard for backup.
We’re only about eighteen weeks in at this point but as Ashley has gone through these changes she has been a soldier. With every bout of heartburn I feel a burning sense of guilt that she has to endure this alone and every round of nausea is a reminder of the sacrifice she’s making for us and our family. I know it’s scary for her. I hope she knows how much I appreciate her and that I’m proud of her.
There were a lot of these changes that I was prepared for. Exhaustion, nausea, morning sickness, vomiting – I was prepared for this, I knew these were coming. Luckily, Ashley is what I would describe as a ‘polite vomiter’. When she’s sick, you’ll never know it. She’s extremely quiet and doesn’t bother anyone. I can sleep right through it. I acknowledge this because I always assume everyone is like me – you can hear me from afar. When I vomit, the neighbors come over to ask if everything is okay. But I digress – let’s talk about what caught me by surprise.
1. Super Human Sense of Smell
“Do you smell that?” has become a very common phrase around our house. “No, I don’t” is typically the response she gets back. She smells everything. And the stuff that I can smell is way too strong for her. This was bad for two reasons – one, a small bird picked this exact space in time to get stuck in our wall and die – and very close to Ashley’s domain, might I add – the kitchen. Two, we have had problems with our new oven since we moved in. It put off way too much gas and you could smell it throughout the house. GE tried to tell us that we weren’t smelling gas – unfortunately for them, they didn’t realize they were dealing with super nostrils… super sniffer? … I’ll work on it. Anyway, I’m happy to say that after two months and four visits from maintenance guys, she finally wore them down – they’re delivering a new oven to us on Friday. Super Sniffer has saved the day!
2. Heightened Senses
Anyone that knows me very well knows that I deal with anxiety. So I completely understand when the noises and commotion in certain places can get to be overwhelming and you just have to get out of there as quickly as possible. For example, grocery stores on a Sunday afternoon. OR how about a mexican food restaurant on a busy Saturday night – where it sounds like your eating dinner inside the engine of a 747. Or my personal favorite, Walmart, to which there are a plethora of reasons you might need to get out of there in a hurry.
So I get it. I don’t judge. But you have to understand my surprise and confusion when Ashley’s heightened senses determined that she needed to get the hell out of… Home Goods. I mean… we’re surrounded by middle age women shopping for area rugs and toothbrush holders, how bad can it be?
3. Tooth Brush Vomiting
It’s a pleasant Saturday morning. We are in the bathroom getting ready for an anxiety ridden trip to Home Goods to pick out a toothbrush holder. Ashley is using her Sonicare toothbrush to clean her teeth. All of a sudden, she throws up in the sink. Now, that in itself is a strange sight to behold on a pleasant Saturday morning, and you might think I would have been grossed out by this, and you would be correct, however, this is not the end of this story. What impressed me was that she never seem to stop brushing her teeth. Now listen, I understand as much as the next guy that you have 120 seconds with the Sonicare toothbrush. After that, it just shuts off. So I get it, those are extremely valuable teeth brushing seconds, however, I gotta say, this felt like an exception to me. But not Ashley, she just grunted once and soldiered through. And then, had the audacity to find me in her peripheral and apologize… while still brushing her teeth. It was impressive. Howie Mandel would have given her a standing ovation. There is talent in America folks. I’ve seen it while wearing my eyeglasses.
4. Crying… for no reason at all
I don’t like this one. I don’t like it one bit. That is all.
Stage 4: Where Did All These Kids Come From?
So you’re getting ready to buy a car and you’ve got the perfect one picked out. All of a sudden you start seeing this car everywhere, which is strange because you never really noticed it before. Turns out this skill is completely transferable to kids. They’re everywhere. They come in all shapes and sizes. There’s clean ones, there’s dirty one. There’s fast ones, there’s slow ones. And there’s even some that are badly in need of maintenance.
But here’s the thing, like 90% of them are rotten. There’s like 1 out of 10 that are sweet little angels. But I’m sure everyone reading this has that 1 special one…
Once you’re aware of them you can’t avoid them. If I’m sitting in the engine of a 747 trying to eat my fajita, I can still hear you over EVERYONE. He wants his boppy, whatever that is, we all hear him. Give it to him. Please give it to him!
I have no patience. This is something I definitely have to work on. I know this. But more than that, somewhere along the way I forgot how to act around kids. Ask my brother, I’m not a great uncle. I don’t know how to talk to them anymore, I mean, I try but I can’t get on that level for some reason and that’s weird because I think I used to be really good with kids, ask my sister.
Now it’s more of this awkward back and forth where I don’t quite understand what’s happening where I start like:
“Hey buddy, what’s your name?”
<looks my way and starts to move closer>
“Oh.. well, lets not come into contact, you seem to have an abnormal amount of snot on your face… It seems to have somehow managed to make it past your lips and onto your chin region there. Do you not feel that or have you just given up?”
<happily comes closer>
“Oh, look at that, it’s just dripping right onto the ground now. “
<plants face onto the leg of my jeans>
Stage 5: The Ultrasound… (and the ultra turning point)
I’m sitting in the waiting room of an Ob/Gyn office. It’s week 16 of the pregnancy. I’m cold. I’m bouncing my knee up and down. Ashley knows I do this when I’m nervous and she puts her hand on my knee. It’s the first time I’ve been here.
A lady appears in the door. She calls Ashley’s name. The lady looks angry. She’s chewing gum.
Ashley says she’s the lady that does the ultrasounds. I say, why is she so angry. Ashley laughs. I don’t understand the joke.
We follow her to a small room. It’s dark. She doesn’t turn the lights on. Ashley gets on the table. No one tells me what to do. I wish someone would have told me what to do.
There is a chair by the door. It’s kind of far away but I don’t see any other options. I sit.
My jacket is still on. Now I’m hot. It’s too late to take it off. It would draw too much attention. The angry lady is smacking her gum.
Ashley raises her shirt and answers a few questions while a gob of jelly is applied to her stomach. They don’t smooth it out. I thought they would smooth it out.
I can tell the angry lady has done this a lot. It’s almost robotic. It’s disappointing. This feels like a big moment for us but it’s just part of her job.
She places the scanner in the middle of the blob and haphazardly moves it around. The images on the screen are moving around quickly. She stops suddenly. “There’s your baby” she says.
I can see her. I thought it might be difficult to see her but I see her clearly. I can see my daughter. I can see her head. I can see her little arms. Her legs are crossed.
The angry lady doesn’t seem so angry anymore. She seems grateful. She seems loving. Like this is why she does what she does. She says my daughter is dancing.
I want to cry.
I love her.
Stage 6: So In Love
We’re going to be parents.
We’re going to have a daughter.
I’m going to be a dad.
She’s going to be a mom.
We’re going to be a family.
We’re really happy about it.
I’m finding myself in target venturing into the baby aisle. I’m buying baby clothes. I’m buying baby toys. I’m doing all the photoshoot pictures. I’m planning her nursery. I’m reading baby books. I have parenting apps. I’m doing it all. And I can’t wait to meet her.
I don’t understand how I can love someone so much when we’ve never even met.
Bonus Stage: Rewriting Songs to be About My Daughter
One of my new favorite past times is rewriting songs that I hear on the radio to be about my daughter. As a bonus to this insanely long blog post, here is the first one I did. I rewrote Coldplays Fix you. I call it “Stick With You”.
If you need a reminder of what the actual song sounds like you can go here.
Stick With You
When you cry so loud and your poop is green
When you make a mess when you just got clean
When we’re out in public and you make a scene
What could be worse?
When the tears are streaming down your face
Cause you broke something I can’t replace
There’s crayon on the wall that I can’t erase
Is this a curse?
But then your smile will make me whole
Your laugh will ignite my soul
And I will always stick with you
When all I want is to get some sleep
And Baby Shark is on repeat
When I start to feel like I am going to weep
You stop the earth
Your smile makes me whole
Your laugh ignites my soul
And I will always stick with you
When tears stream down your face
I promise you’ll hear my heart break
Tears stream down your face
Please don’t cry
When tears stream down your face
I promise you I’ll learn from my mistakes
Tears stream down your face
Please don’t cry
And then your smile makes me whole
And your laugh ignites my soul
And I will always stick with you
– Thanks for reading 🙂