Total Freakout

Total Freakout
January 5, 2004 Jon Armstrong

With the completion of the kitchen remodel and the subsequent sitting still, I’m now face to face with the terror that will be the birth of my daughter. I know that society expects me to be distant and male and all that. Or does it expect me to be a New Father and be all up on the Mr. Mom tip? Either way, I’m terrified. Utterly freaked out that a new life will depend on me and my lady for sustenance. Sure, it’s mostly my lady providing the sustenance, but the bacon must be brought home and subsequently fried up in a pan. And right now, I’m the bacon bringer homer.

After reading this, my story is similar. Since the first date with wife, I’ve wanted to have children with her. I want the chaos, the no sleeping, the reading stories, the sippy cups, the all of it. As in the TMN piece, my wife will get a concerned look and then grab What to Expect When You’re Expecting flip frantically and then read a bit and touch her belly randomly and then put the book down and lie back with a sigh that says, “Thank God I’m not dying.”

Child rearing has been a big deal in our house since the early days of the relationship and once we survived the initial weeks with the dog, has been in the top three topics of discussion (1-regular or not bowels; 2-booze; 3-kids… but not always in that order) month-to-month. Once I was gainfully employed and we had insurance, we got about the Devil’s Business and I’m certain most of you have read all about it from her perspective.

I’ve been a bit reluctant to discuss the impending fatherhood for more than a few reasons, not the least of which are the moments of utter terror as I imagine labor, birth and diapers. I’m not worried about the next five years. I’m worried about the next 5 months. A couple of years ago, when we came back to Utah for Christmas and I introduced Heather to my family, we visited some friends who described their first child’s birth and the sudden weirdness of being home with the baby and having no professional staff nearby to answer questions or administer medication. Since hearing this, I’ve oft imagined what it will be like with Heather and I. The resulting scenes are ones that my internal stage director frequently orders to stop being played out and instead, orders us to go play with CSS for a bit. Mostly because I fear I won’t be the calm dad, but I’ll be the frazzled, crazed dad. I expect Heather to be teaching me all about diapers and changing and burping and how to not smoosh the baby when I’m reading CSS spec to her while simultaneously holding her and a laptop.

Perhaps it’s not about the lack of ability or the fear of poopy diapers as much as it is fear of the unknown. By nature, my role as father has already started detached a bit from the baby. I’ve watched the belly grow and spoken to her repeatedly, but the baby is more an abstract, hidden, moving mass whose looks and personality are all my imagining. Seeing the ultrasound and hearing the heartbeat still affect me in ways that I’ve never experienced affectation, but she’s still inside her mother. I’m just observing from the outside and trying to be supportive.

Despite the fears, I have one expectation I am certain will be met; that the second I see this child, I will love her for the rest of my life.

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