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My First Father’s Day

Looking back, I wish that I would have kept a journal (or written a blog!) beginning when my kids were born.  They’re nearly four now and believe me they are still cranking out new material every day.  Many of those early thoughts on fatherhood are lost to the ether, but I did have the opportunity to speak at my church about fatherhood, on my first Father’s Day.  Here’s the text from that speech, given June 19, 2011.  Re-reading it, I was surprised how much emotion it brought back about our journey to parenthood and those first months of daddydom.  Without further adieu…

It’s my first Father’s Day!  Would it be wrong of me to stand up here and do a happy dance?  My wife, D [she has a full name, but I’ll just refer to her as D], gave birth to two beautiful babies, Nate and Emily [those aren’t my kids’ real names, but they’re nice aliases aren’t they?], in August of 2010.  I say that I want to do a happy dance, because the birth of our twins meant both a beginning and an ending for D and me.

Logically, it meant the beginning of a grand new adventure with these two incredible beings who – as one friend so magically put it – chose us to be their parents.  But for us, it also meant the end of a nearly decade-long journey toward parenthood:  A journey that meant three surgeries for D, countless rounds of fertility drugs and IUIs, and a failed IVF attempt; all of which resulted in the sum total of two miscarriages.  Finally, in late 2009 we had a successful IVF cycle.  Two embryos were implanted in D’s uterus, both decided to stick around, and 38 weeks and three days later TA-DA!  Perfection!

A quick shout out to any of you out there who might be going through something similar to what we went through – I empathize with the fact that at some point all of the encouraging well-meaning words from the people who love you start to sound trite, hollow, and sometimes bizarrely callous.  But know this – it’s worth it.  Because it makes you appreciate your babies that much more.  It taps you on the shoulder on those too exhausted nights once the babies come when you can’t remember the last time you slept for more than one hour at a time and more than three hours in any 24-hour period and says, “Isn’t this awesome!”

…And your children – like mine – will NEVER be able to say that you didn’t want really them.

So, one might imagine that my path to becoming a father (I still love saying that, “father”) has probably affected my feelings about fatherhood greatly.  And one would be right.  I LOOOOOOOVE it.  I honestly, without a doubt, cannot think of anything else I would rather be doing with my life.

And I think it has had a profound impact on the kind of father that I am, because I am a radically different person than I was when we started trying to have kids eight years ago.  When I look back, I see a kid who was still trying to figure out who he was and where he was going in life.  I probably worked too much and cared too little.  With each passing year I felt a need to pull myself more closely in line with the kind of parent that I wanted to be.  I slowed down, got a respectable job with reasonable hours and good benefits, opened myself to living with mindful compassion, and reflected a lot on the kinds of parenting choices I’d like to make, rather than just going from the gut.

Oh yeah, and I joined a church.  This church; full of amazing people who have all been so supportive both in word and deed to D and me while we have muscled through the first year of twindom.  The meals, visits, coupons and words of encouragement have been invaluable.

I sometimes receive nice compliments from people who think that I’m a more hands on father than dads in general.  I appreciate that, because I do try to be “all-in” as a dad for a couple of reasons:

The first is by choice.  In the years that we were working to become parents I got to see a lot of my friends become dads, and as soon as some of their babies began to cry they’d pull the, “Oh, time to go back to Mom!” maneuver.  It seemed clever enough at the time, but cut to two years later and I would see the pained look on their faces when that child would tear herself from his arms and run to Mommy when she got a boo-boo or got upset.  Now, when one of my babies cries and my wife asks if I need her to take him or her I say, “No, I want them to know that Daddy can make it better too.”

The second reason I’m probably more hands on is by necessity.  Because, well, TWINS!  For example, D and I roomed in with our kids in the hospital – and the day they were born the nurse helped us into our room, called me over to the bassinet that our daughter was in and asked me if I’d ever changed a newborn’s diaper.  I said, “no.”  She changed Emily’s diaper and explained what she was doing as she went.  Then she turned to me, handed me a diaper for Nate, said “good luck!” and left.  While D was recovering from her C-section I proceeded to change 10 to 12 diapers per child, per day for the next 5 days – that’s between 100 and 120 diapers – and that was before we even took them home from the hospital.  Since that time I’m sure it easily totals into the thousands.

Ultimately, every guy has to be his own kind of father.  For me, this is what feels right.  In all honesty, it’s not completely for my kids that I do it.  It’s also for me – it was a long journey here and I don’t want to miss a thing.