On Being a Dad

I spent some time thinking about what to blog on Father’s Day. While I was thinking about this, I naturally wandered into the philosophical territory usually left fallow, as I thought about what it means to be a Dad. The moment that immediately sprang to mind was the birth of my daughter. When she was born, she wasn’t breathing. For me, that moment held all that being a Dad means.

The pregnancy had been normal, though the delivery had been somewhat tumultuous. My wife was too far along for an epidural, no wait she wasn’t, oh wait yes we were right, too far along. No, on second thought, we can go ahead with the epidural. It was the middle of the night. The crotchety nurse must have mistaken my request for coffee as a request for a diamond encrusted gold brick, based on the scornful disdain with which she turned down my request. Then, after all that, my daughter was finally born. And she wasn’t breathing.

You see, I had three boys already. My wife had wanted a girl, and truth be told, so did I. The apple of my eye, I could picture her older, spinning around in a sun dress and smiling kindly at her beloved Dad. We were afraid she was going to be very large, but in the end it was mostly fluid, she was actually quite small. She was perfect. And she wasn’t breathing.

I stood there, my hand linked to my wife’s. She needed support throughout the delivery, as she always did. That was my job. To provide support. I was afraid. More afraid than I can ever remember being. Half of my heart was tied up in one hand, wrapped tightly in support around my wife’s hand. She clung to me as if I could save her from the pain and suffering she was going through. My other hand longed to reach out for my daughter, laying on the table. Not breathing.

Truth be told, I was probably the most useless person in that room. A nurse moved in to intubate my daughter. The doctor was helping my wife to recover. I made a snap decision to keep the worry from my face, in order to not alarm my wife. And there it was. A defining dad moment. I felt so helpless, but my wife and daughter needed me. Needed me to be strong, to be supportive, to be compassionate, to love and to treasure. A Dad knows how to fix everything.

A more experienced nurse, the nurse who had earlier refused me coffee, stepped in and was able to get the mucus blocking my daughter’s airway free, so she could breathe. It had taken only moments, but it truly was one of those moments were time had seemed to stand still for me. My daughter sucked in, and pierced the air with the sweetest cry I think I have ever heard. Truth be told, I shed a few tears myself.

Times have changed for men. The gruff men who worked hard, and showed no emotions now line a fatherhood museum with retired horse carriages and rotary phones. Today’s Dad is sensitive, caring, involved with even his young children, and has a smile or a hug for his kids always handy. Providing for his family means so much more than it once meant. And we have no road map, us Dads of the new millennium. Our own Dads were gruff and distant, but our wives and children would not stand for that now. We have to be different , but we have few role models to look to. We are forging new territory.

Dads are the rock. The support, the guide. Dads can fix everything. The truth is that we sometimes don’t know how. We have no map, no instructions, and no one has been a guide for the journey we now find ourselves on. But we are the guide. We forge ahead, without fear for what is ahead, only fear for the family that trails behind us. Expecting us to be their all, to be their savior, to fix everything.

So as I stood there, before my daughter was breathing, holding my wife’s hand without letting the fear show, I was a Dad. As I stood there feeling helpless as my daughter lay on the table not breathing, but knowing there had to be some way for me to fix this, I was a Dad. As I stood there holding my wife’s gaze, and smiling with tears streaming down my face as my daughter filled her lungs and screamed, I was a Dad. I am a Dad.

Happy Father’s Day Everyone!

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6 comments

  1. jrlambert

    Just a fair warning, I intentionally decided not to edit too much, as I know my tendency would be to edit out some of the emotion (what can I say? I am a man.) So it may not be perfectly written.

    • jrlambert

      My 1-year-old is such a nut, he is such a happy guy, and he loves to snuggle. Coming home to him, he crawls over and wants a big, long hug. It is the highlight of my day.

  2. Lois

    Great… brought back a lot of memories… although I was the one doing all the work and my husband was wandering round in a daze, a pair of plastic hair nets on his feet because they couldn’t find clogs big enough… Really enjoyed this post (“The gruff men who worked hard, and showed no emotions now line a fatherhood museum with retired horse carriages and rotary phones” – what an amazing line!)

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