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How My Newborn Daughter Taught Me Who I Really Am

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How does a father feel about the birth of his first child?

I wasn’t the — “Oh, who’s the boo? Who’s the boo-boo zhoo-zhoo boo?” — dad that I’d always heard you turn into when you first see your kids.

The first I saw of my daughter was her foot poking up out of my wife.

My first thought had no words but it was something like the first time you see the Grand Canyon.

You know what the Canyon looks like. You know it’s going to be big. But when you see it, you still have this, “holy crap, that’s not a picture, that’s a big gaping maw gouged out of the Earth and I’m a grain of rice on a platter of sushi it could swallow in one bite without even giving it a thought” moment because it’s real and physical and monumental and now it’s part of your life that will always be with you.

A doctor performing a typhoid vaccination in Texas, 1943
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The first I saw of my daughter was her foot poking up out of my wife.

After that, we took the kids back into our patient recovery room. And they were gorgeous. And not the “Oh, they’re just gorgeous”, gorgeous, but the real thing. Which hit me again as a surprise for 2 reasons. First, because I am not. And second because while most babies are cute-baby shaped, these kids were gorgeous -new-people shaped (no bias).

My son was covered in light down all over his forehead and cheeks. But his face was round and the most inviting face I’ve ever seen. My daughter. I don’t know how to describe it. She was flush pink. And, the only thing I can say is that the attending doctor came into our room at about 1:15 AM and stood over her bassinet for about 45 minutes (at one o’clock in the morning) without saying a word. Then, walked out without saying a word. That’s what a force of nature she was.

And all I could think was:

the-stakes-in-Tim's-life

That’s what was in my head. I remember someone asking me, “how is it being a father?” and I couldn’t say. I just drew 2 phantom lines on the wall. “I thought I knew what life was. Now, I’m doing something completely different and I don’t know what this thing is that I’m doing any more. I’ll let you know …”

And it took me about 18 months to come close to figuring it out … though I have to say 15 years later, I still don’t have it knocked …

Tim Dawes is a professional trainer in communications, negotiations, and persuasion. You can find more Quora posts here: