If you’d asked me a decade ago whether getting married and having a kid were anywhere on my life’s horizon, I’d have laughed in your face and called you crazy. Even over the 10 years that followed, parenthood was a topic that barely registered in my mind — I was too busy wining, dining and having a good time to even consider settling down, fully responsible for someone else’s well-being. There were blogs to write, people to see and things to do.
This was future Casey’s problem!
But the future never stays that way forever. For expecting fathers, until they hold their baby for the first time, a child is little more than a concept. Logically they know that the mother’s carrying a child for the better part of a year, but logic has nothing to do with this. All you know is that the clock’s ticking, and your freedom’s melting away with every passing day, inching closer to this vague territory called “the rest of your life”. You live each day as if it were your last, because you might never get another chance.
And right when you think you’ve come to peace with it all, when you think you’ve done all you could to prepare yourself for all the things that lie ahead — that’s when it happens. That’s when your life’s turned about its axis and nothing makes sense like it’s supposed to. Your sleeping’s jacked, your priorities thrown to the wind — you’re still you, but you feel like another person entirely, clueless about how you’re supposed to raise this little person who’s been thrust into your life.
And that, my friends, is when you’ve become a father.
But even though it might feel like it, it doesn’t happen overnight…
“If you can’t feed your baby (yeah, yeah)
Then don’t have a baby (yeah, yeah)
And don’t think maybe (yeah, yeah)
If you can’t feed your baby (yeah, yeah)
You’ll be always tryin’
To stop that child from cryin’
Hustlin’, stealin’, lyin’
Now baby’s slowly dyin'”
–Michael Jackson, “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin'”, Thriller (1982)
It’s not like we dove into parenthood blind — we’d agreed that we’d start trying for kids in 2013 (more my idea than Sarah’s, I’ll admit), and while we entered pregnancy with few complications, you can’t do some things in life on a whim — if you’re bringing a child into your life, you need to plan.
Fortunately, planning is something that Sarah enjoys thoroughly, while I’m better at executing and managing crises. We play well off of each other.
In the months that passed, some major things we did included:
- converting the second bedroom from my home office into a nursery, furnished with dresser/change table, crib and rocking chair
- buying a second freezer and making enough meals to last us through to January (mostly due to the kindness and generosity of family and friends being bringing food over these past couple of weeks)
- attending prenatal classes at Toronto East General Hospital, which for me were a huge help in understanding what Sarah was going through, how I could help, and get us comfortable with the ward where DoomzToo would arrive
To put it simply, we’d be doomed if Sarah wasn’t as ready as she was. With DoomzToo born almost 3 weeks before his expected due date, had we left everything to the last minute, we’d probably be a lot more stressed out than we are today.
However, you can do all the planning in the world, but you’ll soon realize that it’s going to take a village to raise your kid. They’re going to need a strong community around them — reliable people you can trust to help raise them in the moments where you aren’t available.
We’re blessed to have friends and family around us who represent just that, and they went over the top with kindness and generosity in her baby shower. I’d be a liar if I didn’t say that the generous contributions of friends and family wasn’t a huge help; despite DoomzToo’s early arrival, the only things left to get by then were a stroller and a rug for the nursery!
Also, a special shout-out to Serena Mangal, who catered the event — she helped with a lot of the food and decorations that made it happen. If you’re looking to organize something, give her a shout:
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Surprisingly, my coworkers even threw me a shower, which was crazy to me considering I’d only been there two months! Among a bevy of gifts and a delicious lunch, they presented with the following:
But in the end, his dresser was fully stocked with freshly laundered clothes, his car seat ready for his inaugural ride home, and he had a vast supply of newborn-sized Pampers and washcloths awaiting his arrival in his nursery — it wasn’t too hard to insert him into our lives and start developing a routine.
But his journey wasn’t an easy one.
The Road to Fatherhood
You never quite know how your birth story’s going to play out. You’ll have an idea from the things you read, hear and see (especially with other parents constantly spilling unsolicited advice in your ear), but until you go through it, nothing’s a sure bet.
Sarah and I never expected to induce DoomzToo, but that’s the way it went down.
Originally due in November 29, some minor complications had doctors urging induction sooner than later, leading to a hospital visit the afternoon of Saturday, November 9th to start the process.
It already seems like ages ago when they told her she could induce right away on Tuesday afternoon, Sarah pushing it back so we’d have a little time to collect ourselves before taking the plunge. But soon enough, it was Saturday night and time to start the show!
It’s almost the complete opposite of what you see in the movies. We didn’t bolt down the block, running reds to birth baby Palmer in the hospital. We didn’t kick in the doors in the emergency ward screaming for a doctor. No fainting, no fighting, no cursing — we simply went to the hospital and waited.
If you haven’t been to a hospital lately, waiting is a large part of what you’ll be doing. While they told us to hit the hospital on Saturday at 1, it wasn’t until well after 4 that they administered the Cervidil needed to start Sarah’s induction. Then you wait an hour while it works its way into the cervix. That you come back six hours later to see if you need a second application. Then you wait another hour while that second serving takes effect. Then you go home at 12:30 to sleep, but not for very long or very well (or in Sarah’s case, not at all because Cervidil can cause some serious cramping), since the doctors wanted us back at 7 in the morning to start the real work.
And that’s what began what may have been the longest 15 hours of Sarah’s life.
It’s Called Labour for a Reason?
If the doctor ever tells you to arrive at 7 AM, they’re lying to you. Doctors are very busy people with a number of patients to see, so don’t be surprised if you’re waiting in triage for a few hours until you get to your birthing room. Once there, they put Sarah on an oxytocin drip — the birth-facilitating hormone – to get her on her way to having a baby!
For the next 5 hours, we played cards, took naps and ate food (we packed lunch for me, while Sarah stuck to a hospital-supplied liquid diet), but with the progress next to none, the doctors decided to intervene.
I might not be an expert on the female reproductive system, but what I can tell you is this — in the hours after the doctor broke her water, I saw Sarah transform from her usual composed self to a woman possessed, hell-bent on getting this baby out of her womb! It wasn’t until they got an epidural in her (45 minutes and 8 different failed insertion points later…) that she was able to get some rest and stop chanting “It’s not so bad. It’s not so bad. You can do this.”
To everyone’s surprise, Sarah was ready to start pushing at 7:30, way ahead of schedule, and 2 1/2 hours and a vacuum extraction later brought DoomzToo into the world, healthy (if not happy – who’d want to leave the womb for this?) Some might’ve been doubtful, but I was there for the entire delivery, all the way to seeing the baby come out and meet us (goo and gunk and all). It was a crazy experience — since it was a slow day in the birthing ward, we had 4 nurses, a doctor, a resident and a paediatrician all present for the delivery, doling out praise and encouragement to Sarah at a time I was sure she could really use it.
What’s Fatherhood Like?
This is both the million-dollar question and the question you’re asked a million times in a number of variations.
People without kids look on with rapt curiosity, wondering how your life’s changed with a baby calling the shots; people with them expect horror stories; ashen faces from parents who’ve forgone sleep in favour of regular feeding schedules and the shrill cries of babies testing out their lungs; the complaints from those who’ve given up what they had left of their free time and income to raise a new generation that could do better than they did.
Granted, pregnancy will mess you up. Obviously for moms-to-be, who’ll have to change the way they do things while protecting a little life inside of them, but also for the expecting fathers, who will see their lives in a whole new light filled with new responsibilities and expectations from the world around them. In what feels like an overnight transition, men transform from nominal characters with babies on the way to fathers, now fully responsible to help raise little being that can’t do it on their own!
When I first found out about Sarah’s pregnancy, I was definitely in a different place. I was scrambling, trying to finish a list of things I’d convinced myself I could never do again once I was a father. A baby marked the end of my roads and the start of one I wasn’t altogether ready for.
But the months passed, and I stopped lamenting all the freedoms I was losing by having a kid, instead smiling at all the new adventures ahead because I was having a kid.
Of course, there’s a lot you give up — your time is no longer your own as a little one’s demands become your top priority, making you fit your hobbies and interests into whatever pockets of time are left over. Your life is turned upside-down, and even little things like silence no longer hold the same meaning — it transforms from tranquility to a deafening question of whether your new child is still breathing.
But you live, you learn, and you accept.
And when you can do that — that’s when you’ve become a father.
I’m Not Dead, I’m Just a Dad.
It’s only two weeks later and I’ve already learned a lot. The best way to put him to bed. What it sounds like when he’s going to cry. How to change diapers and give baths without horrible freak outs. Baby paraphernalia that seemed like a good idea, but ultimately proved otherwise. All this is a mere glimpse of what lies ahead, but I don’t regret it.
I’ve always said that there was more than the life I was living. More than social media, more than swag, more than free trips, booze, food or VIP invites. While this is only the beginning of the longest chapter in The Book of Casey yet, I see it every time I look in my child’s face — I can do this. Everything I’ve learned, done and experienced was only for my sake for a bit. Ultimately, though, all that will mould and shape this little guy through my efforts. I can either create the greatest Palmer of them all — or perhaps I’ll fall short and rend him another statistic.
But it’s on me. The choices I make, the actions they take — maybe not tomorrow, maybe not for decades — but I’ll see what effect they have in the generation ahead.
And that legacy is something worth putting my soul into.
So how’s fatherhood? It’s good — while I’m clearly just the guy who changes diapers, sings ridiculous lullabies, gives sink baths and bundles him up for bed, I have my role and I play it. It might be hard to see now, but I will impact my child’s life, a notion that some fathers perhaps forget all too easily.
It’s not perfect all the time, but if I were to shy away simply because of that, there’s not much in life I’d do at all if I applied the same logic to the rest of it.
Parenthood isn’t for everyone, and it seems daunting at first, but like everything, it takes practice. You’re never going to do everything right — in fact, you may have some colossal screw-ups — but a life without learning is a life not lived.
So here’s to the rest of my life. Here’s to seeing this little man grow and change as the years fly by. To not forgetting who I was before, always remembering to bridge the gap between Casey the Man and Casey the Dad. Here’s to raising someone who can do all the things I could not, and lives the best life that he possibly can with all the things I can give him.
Here’s to you, DoomzToo. May your life be an amazing one.