With twin girls arriving in just a few short weeks, I find myself thinking the same thing over and over: This is finally happening. I really am going to be a father.
My wife and I tried to conceive a child for five long years. Early on, we talked about kids all the time. We discussed the parenting styles our friends and family use. We played around with names. We dreamt of the family we would soon be raising.
It didn’t work out that way.
What we got instead: Year after year of waiting, disappointment and heartache. Eventually, we stopped talking about children, struggling to cope with our grief at being unable to conceive. My wife tried to dull her pain by loving the babies of friends and family. If there was a little one in the room, she was sure to be holding it. I was the opposite. I avoided children. I even refused to hold my infant nieces and nephews. It hurt too much to be so close to a child who wasn’t my own.
All these years later and with my babies due so soon, do I still feel those same extremes?
Now, on the brink of fatherhood, I find myself thinking back to those early days of trying, those days before I knew what a long road lay ahead. I remember feeling both intensely excited and paralyzed with fear, often within a few minutes of each other. All these years later and with my babies due so soon, do I still feel those same extremes?
No, I don’t.
There’s no doubt I still want to be a father, but the years of trying and failing eroded a lot of my early excitement. I think I became used to disappointment as a way to cope with the crippling grief. Now, after years of getting my hopes up, I just can’t seem to get as excited as I once did.
But I also don’t feel as terrified. I’m older now, more mature. I’ve seen more good and bad, and I’ve gotten better at patiently waiting for and taking in stride the inevitable trials of life. I don’t live in fear like I used to.
I’m like a veteran athlete reacting to a game. After a win, an experienced athlete will usually respond with pleasant humility. After a loss, the veteran responds with stoic acceptance and hope for a better performance next time. It’s just one game in a long career, after all, and while that may contain some exciting highs and lows, it will mostly live somewhere in the middle.
So as I picture my two beautiful girls, I’m not thinking of a best- or a worst-case scenario. I’m thinking of the life we’ll share. A bright-eyed smile. A wail of pain. A petulant tantrum. A gentle hug. I look ahead and see my life filled with these and a thousand other snippets of both good and bad. I accept it all. Even if I can’t know what exactly will happen, I am ready, I am patient and, most of all, I am happy.