Fatherhood in context

Young Conversations

I am sitting in a bar, having a conversation with friends, like any 21 year old.

And like most conversations involving such variables, the conversation shifts to the future.

There's the places we hope to visit. Europe is a must.

There's our career. God knows we have such plans for our careers, after all, this is pre-2008.

And then there's love followed by the possibility of children.

I remember clearly, the kid conversation. The argument, specifically whether or not to have children, was based on the soundest logic.

We had all of course interacted with a child, and while no one doubted how precious they all were, the argument to avoid having them seemed overwhelming.

Kids are expensive, require a vast amount of time and responsibility not to mention the need (best case scenario at least) to find a mate that you actually love.

Practically speaking, having a child and raising a baby didn't seem possible between work and a healthy social life. We could always just buy a dog.

The Olympics, Accents and Tears

It's August of 2012 and I am standing in an operating room clutching my Cannon Rebel XT, though I would never turn it on.

Through my surgical mask, I see my wife on an operating table, moaning softly. She's almost unconscious, but she manages to get out a few words.

An anesthesiologist with an almost disturbingly thick Eastern-European accent is standing over her saying, "You are ok."

Two surgeons and two nurses are working on my wife, talking about the Olympics and Michael Phelps while they work. There is a radio playing somewhere, but I can't really make out the music.

One of the surgeons turns to me and says, "We are about to pull the baby out now."

Out comes this tiny, limp and purple baby that is quickly handed to a nurse before being carried over to a far corner.

The surgeons continue their discussion on the Olympics, recounting details of a close finish. Despite their conversation, the is silence is overwhelming.

I quickly realize everyone is waiting for a cry, a scream or any kind of sign of life from the baby and I begin to panic. Despite a tremendous amount of anesthesia, my wife asks me if everything is ok. I reply, "Everything is just fine," but I am less than certain.

Silence.

Eventually, a scream erupts from the corner interrupting the track and field TV schedule debate. This sets of a myriad of activity by the nurses, who are taking tests and measuring things I don't understand.

Measurements are recorded. Readings are read. Tests are carried out.

The surgeons are working on my wife again while a woman in blue, cartoon covered scrubs turns around and hands me a tiny bundle.

"Here's your daughter," she says, smiling.

Wrapped in a white blanket, my daughter turns her head and opens her mouth, though she isn't crying. Then, ever so slightly, she opens her bright blue eyes.

An avalanche of emotion crushes me. Love, purpose, exultation, anxiety, fear.

It is a moment that I will never forget. For the first time in my life, I experienced tears of joy, and shed them generously.

The Eastern-European man then says, "If you need to sit down, there is chair."

Today

Today, I am picking up my daughter at daycare.

Her name is Mackenzie Ann Heath and she's three months old. She's starting to look a lot like me, and she often smiles when I touch her nose.

Her daycare teacher is scolding me about some procedure I am unaware of and I am ignoring her.

Mackenzie, or Mac as I call her, is laughing even though she just threw up all over her clothes.

Adjusting to the role of parent hasn't been easy. The first six weeks were a virtual bootcamp of responsibility that was more often that not completely overwhelming.

As it turns out, the expensive and time consuming arguments were completely accurate.

I still take her kicking and screaming to my wife in hopes she can devise some kind of remedy to make her calm down. Some times we just have to wait it out.

Also, I learned that all of the jokes people made about getting sleep before the baby was born were indeed true. There is nothing funny about any of them.

In such times of sleepless frustration, I often think back to that conversation at the bar.

There is no denying that parenthood isn't for everyone, but being on the outside of the experience, it's impossible to understand the significance of the experience.

It's impossible to compare the logic of being bound by the law and morality to be responsible for a living being to the emotion of holding a newborn infant in an operating room right before she opens her eyes.

There's a reason why perfectly intelligent and cultured individuals mass post pictures of their kids on the Internet and talk in ridiculous voices while making embarrassing noises in public in hopes of getting their child to smile.

Just a few months into the experience, fatherhood is everything I thought it would be eight years ago. It's exhausting, frustrating, expensive and intense. But it's also so much more than I ever could of imagined.

As things go, it's been the best weeks of my life and I highly recommend it.