“The decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” – Elizabeth Stone
I went all of my life wondering if I would have what it takes to be a father. My childhood was spent without one. One after another, self-proclaimed fathers had left my life and just as quickly as they entered.
The thought of being a father sent shivers down my spine and crippled my thoughts with fear.
I often wondered if my thoughts stemmed from my never knowing my biological father. My life was filled with questions about him, questions that would never be answered. Where did he go? Why did he leave? Who was he?
His absence led me to question my own life.
- Could I be better than him?
- Would I follow in his footsteps?
- Would I use him leaving my family as fuel to be the best father I could?
As I aged financial implications entered the equation. Could my wife and I afford it? How can we afford it? Would I want to afford it? In an effort to clear my thoughts, I sat back and scrutinized our budget for weeks.
- If I gave this up, then I could allocate a little more towards a baby.
- If I made more money, things would be a lot easier.
From a selfish standpoint, I didn’t want the emotional, mental, and physical tie-down that a child brings. I was accustomed to a certain way of living and I didn’t want to give it up. In short, sacrifices would have to be made.
That was a hard pill to swallow. I spent years crafting the perfect life. I had married the most amazing woman, adopted and fostered more dogs than most would ever know, traveled to multiple cities and countries, and had begun to lay the foundation of a successful investing career.
Why would I want to give it up?
I couldn’t do it. I wouldn’t do it. My life was mine and not meant to be sacrificed for someone else. This reasoning caused stress, grief, and frustration and even began playing with my reality.
The night before we were set to leave for Jamaica, the pregnancy test turned pink and in that moment, my wife and I knew that our lives had just changed. This trip would be very different than what we were accustomed to.
As days turned into months, my anxiety grew. I still didn’t have an answer to any of the questions I was asking. Would I? Could I? Should I?
I reassessed the budget, our living situation, and everything that I could. Anything to allow my anxiety to catch its breath. I didn’t realize it at the time but nothing I was doing could change the inevitable. The moment that I told my wife I was “ready” was the moment I committed to jumping.
In September 2015 my anxiety subsided with the most amazing noise on Earth. As my son entered the world, he reached out and grabbed my finger. I think he was trying to tell me that it was going to be ok. Without even thinking about it, I reached into my pocket, grabbed my phone and took a picture of that moment. I knew that this was a moment that I wanted to remember forever. And I do.
His arrival signified change.
I remember looking at the clock at 3 in the morning of our first night thinking to myself, “What have I done?”
As any parents know, the restless nights seem anything but temporary. Lucky for me, I have the most amazing wife. Because I was still working, she refused to wake me up every time that he woke. 1, 2, and 3 o’clock in the morning, it didn’t matter. If he was up, so was she.
Her eyes told a picture that he mouth wouldn’t dare tell. She was tired.
Those first four months were difficult. My son, the man I helped bring into this world, wanted nothing to do with me. You can’t prepare for that.
I made as many attempts as I could to soothe him, to comfort him, and to bring ease to whatever was bothering him but nothing worked as well as her voice, her touch, and her calm.
I wanted to help her on a level that didn’t include diapers and bath time but he didn’t want that. She was on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and I was just a spectator. I went to bed each night assuring myself that one day this would change.
At approximately four months old, something happened. Suddenly, he realized that I was more than just another body in his house. I was his Dad and he wanted to be with me.
More importantly, after 33 years, I instantly knew what all the fuss was about. I was proud to be a father.
As he approached 9 months, it was my turn. For the next three months, he was mine and I his. My wife went back to work and I took three months off. During these three months that our bond solidified. We became closer than we had ever been.
I knew that I had to make the most of my time. I had three months to teach him whatever I could without the watchful eye of my wife.
The question was, “Where do I begin?”
I opted to teach him something that would prove valuable for the entirety of his life; the “high five”. After a very quick 20 minutes of work, he finally repeated my action. Almost as though I needed reassurance, I asked him for 30 more.
Now entering his 18th month, he is the best part of my existence. The anxiety and fear that controlled my thoughts have been replaced with happiness and joy.
In hindsight, it is pretty easy to see that life always works out for those who allow it to. As if it were magic, everything I was worried about disappeared. The traveling, investing, and everything that I selfishly didn’t want to give up have become a bigger part of my life. Now as I look to do them, I do them with conviction.
My thoughts have changed from, how does this benefit me to how does this benefit him. If I learned anything over the last 27 months, it is to embrace life for what it is… beautiful.