This past Sunday we had a rainstorm with chilly temperatures more fall-like than spring. You’d been eyeing a nearby bunch spot, perusing the artfully snapped photos on their Instagram account. We made plans to walk over after our daughter, Priscilla, woke up from her morning nap. We put on our rain gear and bundled her up in a thick sweater, blanket, and her stroller canopy pulled all the way over to protect her from the wet. You grabbed a giant umbrella and we made our way out for the quick, five- or so-minute walk. You opened every door, and once we were outside, held the umbrella over the stroller and me, getting yourself wet at the cost of keeping us dry.
This is who you are, the kind of father you are, and the kind of man you are.
Priscilla didn’t sleep much as a newborn. I guess I felt slightly confused and very more than just a little cheated. I thought newborns were supposed to sleep all the time? She took thirty and forty-five-minute daytime naps while I tried to use each short break to my full advantage: cook a meal, shower, or take the garbage out. You can’t choose all three, just one, perhaps two.
Nights were a little better, but not by much. I was exhausted and too much so to even say so. You’d stay up with her in the early hours of the morning while I slept the first shift with pillows over my head, the bedroom fan on, and the bathroom fan on to drown out the crying. You were the break I desperately needed. You affirmed me each time I was honest. “She screamed all day,” I told you once. In turn, you cut my anxiety and frustration with humor and lightness. You remind me that it is hard to take care of a baby. You’re always there to buoy me up.
At a few days old you told me you’d taken Priscilla into the guest room so I could sleep. Priscilla had yet to hear music. You put on a song and within the first chord, her eyes had lit up and looked at you. You, a music lover, later introduced your daughter to vinyl classics sitting her on a blanket next to the record player while I took an hour to work out or do a photo shoot. During this time, you cooked almost daily for us. Healthy, delicious meals like steak and rice over spinach, baked chicken, plates of charcuterie, and glasses of wine poured and resting precariously on the side of the couch while I cared for Priscilla. Because of this, I could focus on nursing and my own healing.
As much as I wish her first word had been “mama,” it was, of course, “da-da.” She adores you, and it’s no wonder why. Anyone who knows you is aware of your deep love for Priscilla and your devotion to both of us. When she gets up from naps these days, we always look at an engagement photo that hangs on the wall directly outside her door. She loves to point to you, and grins, sometimes giggles at the image. If the light is just right, you can catch her baby smudges on the glass.
I often look through my phone at photos from during Priscilla’s newborn period. I’m starting to forget the memories, they’re fuzzy now. My favorite capture is you holding Priscilla on your chest, a giant smile beamed across your face. She was hours old at this point, and we had just discharged from the Birth Center. I don’t remember where I was, but I love looking at the pool emotion in your eyes.
You have never complained, been annoyed, or refused to help. You dove in, protected my rest, learned how to change a newborn baby’s diaper, and helped me learn how to mother. The kindest thing anyone has ever done for me you did: by turning visitors away so three-day-old Priscilla and I could sleep, her body next to mine in a small bassinet. When I told you we were expecting I, for the first time in my life, had trouble getting the words out. I was so slow to speak you looked and me and said, “What?” The smile and joy that spread over your face when I finally got it out, was the giant sigh of relief my heart needed.
Recently we visited your parents for Mother’s Day. I came down the hallway to find you lifting Priscilla up. You were drenched in sweat from an early run and she was still in her pajamas. Her fingertips were grazing the crystals of a chandelier, a drooly smile spread over her nine-month face. You were smiling, too, and you spoke to me without taking your eyes off her “She likes the chandelier!” you exclaimed. These are the kind of moments that make me realize your beautiful heart for our daughter. To you, you’re just a normal dad, blissfully unaware of your exceptionalism.
So, this Father’s Day, thank you for the ordinary life you create for Priscilla and I that feels extraordinary to me.