There was a shift.
And suddenly everything had purpose.
Suddenly, all of the things we had fawned over – the crib, the bassinet, the changing table, the clothes and cloth diapers – they had a purpose.
They weren’t just decoration.
They weren’t for show.
They were necessary.
Before Eleanor’s birth, these items were just an idea of what our lives would be like when the baby arrived.
And when she was born, they became tools. They had purpose. They were being used by our daughter. Seeing her, our baby girl, not even 48 hours old, laying in her bassinet; Seeing her, no more than 7 pounds, crying on the changing table; Seeing her, no more or less human than me, fully in this world; Seeing her scared me.
Who in the hell let me bring this child home?
What do I know about raising a child?
Who am I to bring another person into this broken world?
Am I really changing another diaper?
I’m not sure I had ever felt that scared before. Or tired. I kept finding myself looking at my wife and daughter asleep on the couch, or sitting on the rocking chair in our living room, or pacing the apartment, and I wasn’t sure I could do it. Be a dad, I mean. Be the partner my wife needed me to be. Be the father I so desperately wanted to be.
This isn’t about stereotypes. It’s not about physical protection or earnings. It’s about showing up every day. It’s about working hard to give my very best to my wife and daughter. Acknowledging my faults and my wrongdoings. Recognizing shortcomings and embracing growth.
You don’t know anything when you have your first kid. There’s no book that’s going to tell you what it’s like the first night your baby is in her bassinet, and your wife is barely asleep, still in pain, still store, still crying, heartbroken and she doesn’t know why, and you can’t make it 5 minutes without getting up to check and make sure she’s still breathing.
There’s no book for that.
There’s no book for that first moment when you wish things were like they used to be, and you weren’t the parent, and you could sleep through the night, and you could sleep with your wife, and you weren’t always scared.
There’s no book for that.
Ultimately, you don’t know what it’s like until that first night when you keep thinking I don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t know what I’m doing. Who in the hell let me bring this child home? I don’t know what I’m doing.
With time, that feeling fades. But I’ve learned it doesn’t go away. You’ll still get up in the middle of the night to check that she’s breathing. You’ll still look at your wife and daughter and wonder how it is that you went from being a reckless college student to the parent of a child – your child. You’ll still look at your own father and feel like you don’t live up. You’ll still feel that pressure, but you’ve built the muscle to carry it further.
I’m not so sure I’m the best partner I can be for my wife. I’m not so sure I’m a good dad. I do know that I love them unconditionally.
I do know I carry them in my heart.
I do know I wouldn’t trade this life for anything.
I do know that I’m thankful they let me take my child home.