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How does a father feel about the birth of his first child?
I remember the dream, before she was born. I was walking around the house with a baby in my arms and she was already talking, pointing at things, asking questions, though she was as small as a kitten. I remember that dream more vividly than the first few days with her at home.
I remember the moment of the birth, bright light and nurses milling about and then a living, tiny creature being whisked away and soon after, she’s in my arms. I looked at her, all wrinkly. This is my daughter. This is it. I’m a dad. Now what? What does she need? Is she okay? Can I kiss her? Sure I can. She was warm and soft and fidgety and she was a person, very small, but distinctly a person. And I thought, this is it. Her life begins and I’m just a supporting actor in her play.
Jim Herriot was right, she’s not as cute as a puppy. No wait, she is. My mind readjusted itself and then she was beautiful. Just a few weeks later she was beautiful for real.
Some dads take about a year to get attached to a newborn child — I know, they told me. It took me 20 seconds.
There were moments in the coming months when my desire to get to know her all grown up was overwhelming. And there were moments when nothing mattered but her then-present form, every little thing she did.
I remember taking her home and people coming to visit and she’s resting on my chest and I feel proud like I’m the first person to have a very little girl on their chest. I didn’t know yet that it’ll be so hard to calm her down during the coming months, that she won’t be sleeping much on my chest, that there’ll be sleepless nights and crying and frustration. It didn’t matter afterwards and it also didn’t matter in those first few days. I was just trying to teach myself that I’m a father.
She’s not as cute as a puppy. No wait, she is. My mind readjusted itself and then she was beautiful.
I remember the first time I made her laugh like crazy. She was still tiny, couldn’t walk, sitting on a blanket outside, and I pulled the blanket abruptly underneath her and she rolled, laughing her little heart out. She looked at me and her eyes said, again! And I did, again and again and again.
I remember always trying to imagine what she’ll be like when she grows up. What will she enjoy, what will interest her, what will she read and learn and do. I remember some of those imagined versions of her and, of course, they were almost entirely off.
There she is, about halfway between then and now. Her name is Maya, and she is wonderful.