Time travel back to sometime in January 2011. My fatherhood was imminent. I remember, vividly, the moment I learned of this. I’m certain that if, upon me hearing the news, a picture was taken of my face, the expression of shock would make you believe that I was witnessing a car crash or train wreck. But I was only watching my wife’s lips nervously mutter the words, “we’re having a baby”.
After having a quick beer and reassuring Sonya that yes, it was a plus sign on the pregnancy test, the craziness cleared and I honestly didn’t think too much about it. It just didn’t seem all too real for some reason. 9 months later, oddly enough it still didn’t feel real. Granted, there were obvious signs of what was about to happen – Sonya, with a massive belly and seriously swollen ankles, a nursery magically appearing in the spare room, baby stuff everywhere. But nothing had really changed much. Yet.
It was exactly two days after the due date that we found ourselves in the hospital waiting on the arrival of our baby girl, Camryn. Her birth was nearly a 12 hour process during which I spent most of the time waiting and watching Sonya go through a sort of pain that I wasn’t really ready for. The final couple of hours, in particular, were difficult. Sonya was going through intense contractions and all I could do was be there for her. Tell her how well she was doing. Help her with her breathing. And watch as Camryn made her slow way out of her comfy “room”, into a strange and unfamiliar World.
And as much as I wasn’t prepared for the whole labour process, I was even less prepared for the immediate aftermath. As Camryn’s head appeared, giant red cheeks and all, I was certain that we had an alien baby. Fortunately I was reassured otherwise as the rest of her body came into sight and the proportions matched. Still – massive cheeks. She was a big baby.
The Dr’s took her to be examined and got her cleaned up and whatnot. I came with them. I couldn’t take my eyes off of her. Camryn was crying and I found myself repeating, “it’s ok Camryn, it’s ok”. Of course that didn’t help and knowing that crying was a good sign I actually welcomed it.
In my humble opinion, she was absolutely perfect. When I realized this, I turned back to Sonya and gave her a thumbs up. As I turned around, I nearly fainted, being witness to the “cleanup” underway behind me.
My advice to any father to be: don’t look back at your wife immediately after giving birth. It is a sight that cannot be unseen.
After a nearly sleepless night and a few visitors, we left the hospital with a new passenger. I drove exceptionally slow on the way home. I took corners at half that speed and made sure to come to complete stops. As we pulled into our driveway, it became real for the first time. Our lives had officially changed.
It turned out that Camryn liked to cry in the evenings. A lot. And when I say a lot, I really mean, a lot. Basically from 5pm to midnight, every night, she would cry and cry and cry. It was difficult for me, but even more so for Sonya. A big trick I found was that if I turned on the vacuum or stove fan, she would instantly stop crying. Needless to say, our evenings in the early months were often filled with white noise.
Out of everything that I wasn’t ready for, the biggest was the constant care and attention that a baby requires. Before Camryn, when I wasn’t playing volleyball, tennis or baseball, I’d be attending tech meetups or working on projects or randomly going for a pint. Sonya and I actually made it to the movie theatres nearly every weekend over the year leading up to the birth. After Camryn, virtually all of that stopped. My main focus was on making sure that Camryn was good, and just as important, I was there for Sonya. The latter being especially difficult for some reason.
Being a good father means also being a better husband.
But the crying stopped. Camryn began sleeping more or less through the night, I’ve been able to get out to play the odd baseball game and I’m learning how to best balance my interests with the best interests of my family. This is a difficult difficult thing.
Despite the massive change in lifestyle, I can safely say that I am the happiest I’ve been… ever. There is no joy like what I feel when I come home after work and see my baby smile and reach out for me to hold her. And see Sonya smile in amusement as we watch Camryn experience things for the first time and look at us, knowing that we are her parents and we love her unconditionally. If I could, I’d take these days and fold them up and put them in my back pocket, so that I could forever walk around with pure happiness.