When I first found out I was going to be a Dad, I was super excited. Everyone wanted to know if I wanted a boy or a girl. Truthfully, I wanted a girl. I know most dads want a son first, but I had grown up in a house full of boys, and I really wanted a little girl. I didn’t get my wish. Our first son was born on July 1st, 2003.
Don’t get me wrong. I wasn’t disappointed in him, and by the time he was born I was over the disappointment of him not being a girl.
I had however spoken to him in the womb as if he was a she. Before we were able to have the ultrasound that determined the sex of the child, I would spend time with my mouth by my wife’s stomach talking to this child that I just knew was going to be a girl. I referred to it as a she and the whole nine yards. I am not even sure what the whole nine yards means, but I did it.
My wife used to give me a look when I talked that way to our unborn child. She tried to prepare me for the fact that it might be a boy. I wasn’t listening. I knew it was gonna be a girl because that is what I wanted it to be.
Then came the day when we had the one and only ultrasound we had with our first child. I remember the reaction of the technician doing to procedure. I guess I have to back up and talk a little about ultrasounds for a moment. Couples having children today have the awesome benefit of something called 3D ultrasounds. This amazing technology allows you to get a…well, 3D look at the child inside the womb.
When our first child was born, the 3D technology was not yet ready for use. The technician tried to tell us what we were looking at. She talked to us about slices of bread, and one dimensional images. Yeah, it didn’t make any sense to me either. They were doing to ultrasound to make sure the baby was healthy. I only wanted to know one thing. Was it a boy or a girl?
You might wonder why that mattered to me so much. Well, I don’t know, except I just wanted a daughter. I guess a small part of it was also that the Foster family and the Royce family (that is my mom’s side) run pretty long boys. I was just sick of boys.
So, I sat patiently through all the various measurements and the like that they are supposed to take. The technician said things like, “Here is the head. Here is a foot. This is the nose.”
All I could think was, “Right; boys and girls both have heads, feet and noses. Get to the parts that make them different!” They finally did. The technician started giggling and called in some of the other employees in the hallway. They also started giggling. Now, they had told us that when trying to determine the child’s gender, they look for “the turtle.” Well, in the case of our first child, the turtle was sticking his head way out of the shell, as if to say, “Hey! Look at me! I am a boy! Someone tell my dad to stop talking to me like I am a girl!”
There was absolutely no doubt. I have heard of instances when the prospective parents were not able to determine absolutely what the gender of their child was prior to birth. I haven’t heard of anyone unable to determine the gender after birth, but that should be pretty obvious. Nope, our first child was going to be a boy. Yeah!
Once I got over the initial letdown I started to get excited. I mean, it was a baby, and it was our first, and I was assured that someone would be there to carry on my name after I was dead. That was something to be thankful for.
I didn’t know exactly what kind of dad I was going to be; besides perfect of course. I would soon be disabused of that notion. What I did know is that very soon I was going to become this totally different person. I had been a son all of my life. That condition had started the day I was born, and I assumed it would be like that until I died. It was the one condition over which I had exercised no choice in the process. I hadn’t asked to be born. I hadn’t asked to be a son. It all happened without anyone consulting me on the issue. I guess that is only fair since the six other inmates in our penitentiary didn’t have any choice in the matter either.
Just two years and one month prior to the birth of our first son, I had exercised my power of choice and added the title of “husband” to my resume. My wife and I had freely and deliberately chosen one another as partners for life. I had never been a husband before, which when you think about it, makes the whole idea pretty scary. The total experience I possessed in taking care of another life form consisted of taking care of a dog, a tank full of fish, a guinea pig, a rat, and a parakeet. I was pretty successful with the dog. All the fish died, the guinea pig died, the rat died, and our cat killed my parakeet. Yep, I had a pretty good track record going. Bring on the full sized human. No problem.
What I lacked in experience I was willing to make up for in love and sheer idiocy. Thankfully, men and women have been getting married with not much more than this for thousands of years. We had a couple of years to get used to each other, and now I was about to add another title, and another human being to my list of dependents. I was out of my depth.
That’s what kids do to us. They take us out of our depth. They bring us out of our comfort zones, and into the stark, terrifying realm of reality. Ready or not, here it comes.
The whole birthing process was pretty disgusting. I am sorry. I know it is supposed to be the best thing ever. Fishing is awesome. The new care smell is awesome. Camping is awesome. Getting married is incredible. Watching the birth process? Disgusting.
I don’t remember much about it other than that I couldn’t wait for it to be over. I guess a large part of my dislike for the process, other than the blood, screaming and hospital smell, was the fact that dads are treated as if they don’t even exist. They can’t sign anything. They can’t make any decisions. The child doesn’t belong to them. If you don’t believe me, just pay attention to who fills out all of the vital papers after the child is born. You might be there, but you don’t matter to the doctors, nurses, or the legal system. Oh, you do matter to your wife, so be there.
So we stayed in the hospital with our newborn child for just shy of 48 hours. During that time we wore security bracelets, and no one could get into the baby ward without a special card. We had nurses and doctors there to tell us what to do, and to take care of this precious little life.
Then, after two days, they packed us up, walked us calmly to the door of the hospital, and kicked us out. We were on our own. I was 23 years old, and responsible for a wife and a newborn. MOMMY!!!!!
There is something about first time parents. They are basically like adults who are not yet parents, with one little exception. They now actually have a kid on whom to try out their theories. If my newborn son had known just how little about child rearing his new parents knew he would have cried for more than just a dirty diaper. I guess ignorance is bliss.
New parents are overly careful with their kids. I suppose that is good, since they are inexperienced, but it can also get pretty amusing to those who have had several children. Everything has to be the best. The best diapers, the best carseat, the best of it all. By the time you have your third, you are buying the cheapest diapers, putting the kid in a used carseat which has been stained by puke and baby food, and generally recognizing that these little bundles of life are surprisingly resilient.
I have found myself going through a bit of an evolution as I have been a dad now for nearly 11 years. That is over a decade! Much of what I thought I would do I haven’t. Much of what I thought I would never do I have. I still hold to some of my preconceived ideas, but have left most of them back with the new car seat and high priced diapers.