Sunday, February 10, 2008

Wife Rule #12: Thank Her for Making Me a Father

It was close to midnight, a week after the due date, and my wife, pumped full of pitosin, had been pushing for a little over an hour. After nine-and-a-quarter months, plus 12 hours in the hospital, the stage was finally set.

Like whirlwind, there was a flurry of sudden activity, a crowd of masked people mostly blocking my view, and then the pure sound of a baby's first cries cut through the chaos and my world changed forever.

I'm a father, said a voice inside my head. I'm a father!

The nurse handed me this little pink person, all covered with something white-ish, and asked me to place my infant daughter on the scale. To say that it was surreal is an understatement. As I held my firstborn child in my arms for the first time, tears streaming down my face, I didn't understand fully how I was feeling. There was an overwhelming surge of pride and awe, yet I didn't honestly feel any different at that moment--at least not in the way I had expected to feel. Just like I had noticed that I didn't feel "married" during the first few seconds after our marriage ceremony ended, there was no new blinking indicator light behind my ear marked "Fatherhood."

But at the same time, I knew that everything was different. Suddenly there was a new person in my life, a person who completely depended on my wife and me for her very survival. I say "suddenly," because that's really how it was for me. My wife's pains and discomforts, as well as the undeniable growing bulge in my wife's belly, in a strange sort of way remained fairly abstract to me during her pregnancy.

It's probably because the pregnancy had not really demanded much of me. My wife had enjoyed the blessing of good physical and emotional health, and didn't ask a lot extra from me. I was not deprived of sleep or comfort, and though I knew my wife grew increasingly uncomfortable and impatient near the end, I didn't experience the personal sacrifice, like she did, that so easily establishes powerful bonds of love between parent and child.

All that would change rather quickly over the next hours, and days, and months. That new little person would almost immediately become embedded deeply into the fabric of our family, which would be forever expanded. But for those first few minutes, those changes were still in the future, and all I could feel was the here and now, as I watched my new daughter in wonder. How beautiful she is, I thought to myself. And then I looked at my wife, still lying exhausted on the delivery table. The nurse cleaned my daughter up, wrapped her in a warm blanket, and handed her to her mother for the first time.

The first rays of sun must look beautiful beyond description after the clouds of a hurricane finally give way, because my wife, her last drop of energy spent, was literally glowing while she looked into the scrunched-up face of our little girl. The sight burned an image deep into my mind that I will never forget. And then it came: a rush of consuming love; love for my wife, who had travelled through the valley of the shadow of death in order to bring life into the world; love for my own mother, who had done the same thing for me; and love for my new daughter, who had done nothing more so far than to breathe and cry, but was here. I was beginning to understand what it felt like to be a father.

It is no light thing that the God of heaven chooses to be addressed as our Father. There is something beautiful, and powerful, and sacred about that title. And sharing that title with Him is an indescribable honor, an honor which I was powerless to take upon myself. It took two others, my Father in Heaven and my wife--the mother of my children--to choose to bestow upon me the sacred responsibility of being a father and all the attendant joy and fulfillment that go along with it. I will thank my God and my loving wife forever, for making me a father.

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