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From Father to Father

Through my father’s influence I have been training my whole life for my own surprising fatherhood

Ah, Father’s Day, our annual sojourn into celebrating dear ol’ Dad.

            When I ask my father what he wants for this celebratory occasion, I usually get a you can’t afford it — until my pestering leads to an exacerbated “Fine, an Amazon gift card.” Bingo.

            My father is a simple man. He likes his guitar, power tools and eggs for breakfast. Most of all he is humble. He is not one for elaborate displays of congratulatory behavior. To him, Father’s Day is just another day, not one to be self-indulgent.

            He never spoke of being a good man or what makes a great dad; he just did it. To this day, I have a fine example of fatherhood in my own father, but I never thought I would be one myself. I’m a photojournalist; I do not have time for kids.

            Late last September, as we departed on a camping trip in the north woods of Maine, my wife told me that she thought she was pregnant.

            Gulp. Really? I mean … I know we just began speaking of starting a family, but already? No way could I be a father. Or so I thought.

            On our return, a little lima-bean-looking thing on the sonogram confirmed that she was indeed pregnant. At the sight of it, I felt like I was going to cry. Yet I was not sad, and I didn’t even feel scared — though that would come soon enough. What I felt was love. This is not hyperbole; I felt an immense feeling of love.

            We were told the expected due date was May 24.

            My wife and I decided to be surprised by the baby’s gender; we waited until Christmas to tell our families we were expecting. The first week of April we planned to take a baby-moon to New Orleans to go see WrestleMania 34. (Did I mention my wife is awesome?) My father took me to all the professional wrestling events when I was a child, and the pastime has never left. A few days before our departure, my wife’s ob-gyn checked her over and assured us it was safe to fly.

            New Orleans is great. It is colorful, musical and full of good food. The locals are very nice, too. As it would soon turn out, we would meet quite a few of them.

            Fast forward to 1:30am Monday, April 9. Wrestlemania had ended two hours before I heard my wife’s voice come from the bathroom of our Airbnb. “I think my water broke.”

            Wait … what? My heart speeded up, and my throat became parched. What do you mean, “water broke?” Was it a glass bottle or plastic? Should I get a mop?

            The paramedics were very cool guys (one was from Silver Spring) who drove us a little farther out to what they said was the best baby hospital in New Orleans.

            I will spare you all the details in the hospital over the next 12 hours, the scariest and most stressful of my life. I have no recollection of time at that point. Some of the statements I heard were:

            The baby is only 33 weeks, and the lungs will not be developed …

            We need to prolong the labor until the baby reaches 34 weeks …

            Your wife is dilating fast so we need to try to prolong the labor for 24 hours to get her another dose of antibiotics and steroids to develop the lungs …

            She’s dilated much more …

            The baby is a breech …

            We need to do an emergency C-section.

            My wife, who is much stronger than I am, was ready. I faked it. Not long ago I was cheering on The Undertaker and Triple H at the Superdome. Now I was sitting next to my wife as she is being operated on.

            At 2:06pm, I heard the sweetest cry I ever heard.           “Congratulations,” said a nurse, “you’re the parents of a beautiful baby girl.”

            And there she was, our sweet baby, who cried and cried and cried.

            Wait? I thought the lungs ­shouldn’t be developed. But here she was, crying on her own with fully developed lungs. She never needed supplemental oxygen.

            The next couple weeks in the NICU had their share of ups and downs. Being 1,200 miles from home didn’t help.

            Soon after the baby was born, my parents arrived in New Orleans. For the next five days, I slept at my wife’s side. When she was discharged at week’s end, I had given no thought to where we would stay.

            Dad, as he always has, sensed my stress. Before he flew back to Baltimore, he extended his hotel stay.

            “It’s now yours,” he said. “I need my daughter-in-law comfortable and you well rested for your family.”

            After many weeks, I am finally home with my lovely wife and daughter. I am now a proud member of the Dad club. I’m a novice and, in full disclosure, not sure what I am doing. But hey, I’m changing diapers and giving her baths. I got this!

            Though I did not know it at the time, through my father’s influence I have been getting trained my whole life on the mentality that makes a great dad. Selflessness, dedication and humility are but some of the qualities. I know I have a long but exciting road ahead of me, but he has given me an encyclopedia of memories.

            Happy Father’s Day, Dad. I’m getting you more than an Amazon gift card this year.

 

Authors Note: Thank you to the wonderful staff of Touro Hospital and the Best Western St. Charles Inn in New Orleans, Louisiana. We promise to bring Liliana back to her hometown.