Fatherhood: Week One

Changing my son’s diaper and seeing my wife breastfeed in the backseat of our parked car was not my ideal Tuesday afternoon, but I am barely one week into this fatherhood gig. I think my wife and I can cut ourselves some slack.

If anything, my admiration for my spouse has grown each day. 

It’s a cliche thing to say, but it’s a fact. All I have had to do in the last week was watch her grit her teeth through the pain for over fourteen hours, hold one of her legs up as she pushed our child through the birth canal, change about 30-40 diapers, and run some errands. She’s been up at all hours breastfeeding and healing from the miraculous ordeal that is pregnancy. I try to sincerely reassure her she is doing a great job (which she is).

If I’m lucky, I get to see my son Beckett gaze at me for a few minutes. Otherwise he sleeps, poops, and cries. As soon as the crying starts, he needs mom to feed him. Right now I am the equivalent of Chris Paul in the NBA team that is our marriage: I make the assist so we can win. It’s a good job to have. I want to do more, but being a team player is what wins the game.

It’s hard to gauge how this routine will go in the next few weeks. I return to my day job next week, which means I pass the ball to my in-laws for a few days. Then I have to start asking some big questions: When and should I start pitching stories to publications again? What if we can’t find suitable day care for our son? Will I be a stay-at-home dad? Can I find enough freelance work to supplement our income?

It’s these questions that cause me anxiety, much like the kind I described when I talked about waiting for our son to be born in a post I wrote last week. I expect the worst so I can be prepared if the worst actually happens. I don’t want my dream of becoming a full-time writer to cause my spouse to resent me, nor do I want to feel any bitterness toward her or my son if some sacrifices need to be made on their behalf.

Years ago, when I was previously married and my ex-wife was pregnant for the first time (she would sadly have her first miscarriage a few weeks later), I was asked to interview for a position in Milwaukee for a publication I admire. I reluctantly turned it down as it appeared we would be putting down roots in central Illinois. It was my choice alone, but one I regret. I carried a lot of disappointment toward myself and others over that call. Now that I have a child, I don’t want to put myself or my wife through that again.

I know things are much different this time. I’ve gained some wisdom and lost that chip on my shoulder. When we announced Beckett’s arrival on Facebook, an old friend wrote me and told me that being an “older” parent is the best thing I will go through as a man. I pondered that a lot. I remember how angry and immature I was nearly 10 years ago when those events took place. I barely knew who I was, so how could I expect to guide a child through the world? I was still recovering from the mistakes my parents made so I could learn from them. 

In the last week, I’ve noticed some positive changes in myself. I feel less abrasive to others. I seem kinder and more tolerant to strangers, but more protective when they invade my space with their gigantic Dodge Ram trucks when I’m driving with my son in the backseat. I can see what my friend was saying when he said being a parent is the best thing I would go through. I'm glad it's happening now when I'm better equipped to handle it.

I’m hoping I know when I’m ready to answer those other questions in the weeks to come. I know that if my wife and I work together, the three of us are going to be fine.