I confess. For most of my life, if I ever thought about raising children (which was hardly ever), my immediate internal response was panic. It’s not that I’m afraid of children. In fact, most of the time, I think I kinda like em. I am just mortified of ruining some unsuspecting and underserving kid’s life.
The all-prevailing American marketing cabal has taught me that dads are supposed to be gentle, patient, responsible and wise. I am NONE of these things. Ok, on a good day, I can cover one, maybe two of those qualities. I just can’t imagine myself providing the emotional buttressing that good parenting requires.
I consider myself a pretty level-headed and enlightened (or enlightenment-seeking, at least) individual when it comes to most things. When facing new situations, I like to keep an open mind, gather a substantial amount of information, and then proceed to make an informed judgement on how I should move forward. I pride myself on not jumping to immediate conclusions, while I search for deeper meanings or insights. I strive to respond to situations objectively, based on the merits of pertinent facts, while quarantining any personal feelings or leanings.
Below my detached, analytical shell, (like most dumb=men) I also have a macho self-perception of this rugged, I-can-take-on-anything, cool dude. Most of my immediate, emotionally-driven reactions tend to be sarcastic, comedic commentary. “Cute” and “cuddly” are less accessible when you’re operating in Macho Mode.
Neither of those dominant personality traits scream “good parent.” I’m either “too cool for school” or too analytically-inclined to be good at parenting. It makes me uncomfortable.
New scene: ultrasound room, 18-week pregnancy check-up
My cheeks are literally aching, but I’m not really aware of the perma-grin that’s causing it. I am also desperately telling myself that the water draining from my right eye and rolling down my cheek is just a result of eye irritation. My right hand is numb and twisted in a freakish position, clinging to the fingers on my wife’s hand.
My neck is screaming with discomfort, but my eyes are transfixed on the too-high mounted TV screen. There, white, gray and black swirls periodically reveal tiny, jerky movements of the glory that – in five short months – will become my daughter.
Here’s the crown of her head… the face, eyes, mouth, spine, kidneys and rump (that’s the pregnancy-lingo term for baby butt). Every little inch of her is captured by the magical ultrasound wand, and assembled into images to be expertly analyzed by the technician and excitedly pored over by her parents to-be.
I am frozen.
Imagine my shock. No sarcastic thoughts bubbling up from the caverns of my mind. No worries of inadequacy, or incompetency, or natural parenting ability. No panic attacks, shortness of breath or out-of-body experiences. Just pure bliss… and pride.
Three days later, I’m posting a grainy ultrasound photo of my daughter in utero on Facebook. I hate Facebook, and haven’t made a post in at least six months. That doesn’t stop me from lighting up inside every time a “Like” notification graces my account. I, guiltily, spend hours watching other people appreciate the perfection which I had a hand in creating.
I’m obsessing over the little nose which gives the slightest suggestion of the final shape it will take one day. It’s the only feature that can really be made out in the rough profile. But, I don’t need to see it any better defined to know that it is beautiful and unforgettable.
How can it be that I already treasure this thing so much? I’ve never held her or seen her in person. We won’t form a physical bond for another 21 weeks, but already I feel an overwhelming need to protect her and make her happy.
This isn’t at all like what I was afraid I would (or wouldn’t) feel. It doesn’t feel like a chore. It doesn’t feel foreign. It doesn’t scare or intimidate me… Ok, maybe a little.
It also feels natural and right and how it’s supposed to be. Let’s hope that doesn’t fade.