When it comes to fathers, mine’s tops.
Growing up, my father constantly reminded me that I was smart, talented, and full of potential. The sky was my limit. I could be anything I wanted to be, and don’t let anybody tell me different.
Now that I’ve grown and started a family of my own, that reminder hasn’t gone away. He’s always there, checking in, encouraging me to push just a little bit farther. Telling me how proud I make him, and making sure that I know, when it comes to parenting, I’m doing something right.
Suffice it to say my husband had some big shoes to fill when he stepped into the role of “daddy.”
The day of Lottie’s birth, as I lay on my back, knees in the air, pushing as hard as a woman on an epidural with no concept of muscle control can push, the doctor announced I was crowning. My hubby looked down and declared, “Oh, hey. She looks like a potato. Neat.”
And as my husband wheeled my hormonal, exhausted, overwhelmed self to recovery, I became less and less pleased with the nurses referring to my daughter as “Tater Tot.” Because what else do you call a baby potato?
We all process big changes in different ways, and this was clearly Hubby’s way of handling that first moment, that first glimpse of his child unfortunately protruding from his wife. But let’s be honest. We all have one labor room dad rant that we’ll hold onto for the rest of eternity, and I’d decided this was going to be mine. The story I would bring up, time and time again, when friends and family ask about our delivery. Or Lottie asks about the day she was born. Or a boyfriend comes home for the first time and you need a story that’s just bad enough to be embarrassing parent material, but not so bad that your child never speaks to you again.
The funny thing is, even the best dads say stupid things in delivery. When my mother was in labor with my oldest brother and crying from the pain, my father, the best possible father, asked her why. “It hurts,” she said. And my father, in all his doctor-wisdom, replied in the most reassuring way he knew how. “It’s supposed to.”
I mean, it’s true, I suppose. Labor is supposed to hurt. Incredible dad, stupid answer.
The first day of my child’s life, I couldn’t get out of bed. Turns out, my epidural took well. Like, really well. And it was a good twelve hours before I could feel my feet, let alone move them. By the time I was mobile again, I was so overwhelmed and overwrought and just over that I could hardly function, let alone care for a child.
Day shift, night shift, for the three days that we were in the hospital, Hubby took them all.
I remember waking up somewhere around 4:00am that first night to see Hubby bent over the bassinet, cursing under his breath, attempting to perfect the baby burrito. By morning, he was the swaddle master, patiently guiding me through the steps, and then discreetly redoing my sub-par attempts when Lottie would bust free not ten minutes later.
On day two, when Lottie refused to feed and I couldn’t bring myself to use the bottle the nurses brought me, Hubby patiently took baby and bottle and coaxed our daughter into eating.
When we returned to everyday life, Hubby quickly became Lottie’s “evening guy,” taking over completely the minute he arrived home from work. He recognized that, while I love being Lottie’s full-time mom, by the end of the day, I just really need an hour or two where no one is touching me or crying at me. My husband sees that, and he never asks me to give more than I’ve got.
In my husband, I have found such a supportive, loving partner, but what matters most to me is the love he has for our daughter. He is never too tired, too spent, too over to love her just a little bit more. And Lottie knows. With every fiber of her being, she knows. You can see it in her eyes when Hubby walks through the door, grin splitting her cheeks, giggling and shrieking. Daddy’s girl, lifting her arms, ready to love him home.