On October 19, 2017, my life changed forever. After nearly five years of trying, my wife and I were blessed with twin girls.
Kathryn and Elizabeth are almost 6 months old now, and I’ve had the opportunity to think about how fatherhood has changed the way I live, think and feel. One of the many highlights: Many of the fears I had about becoming a father turned out to be totally baseless.
For example, I was worried I would hold the babies wrong. I’d heard plenty of stern advice about supporting heads on fragile necks, and had been terrified by more than one horror story of dropping a child. But within 15 minutes of being a father, I overcame that fear. While we were still in the delivery room, a nurse promptly handed me Kathryn.
“Here,” she said with gentle efficiency. “Hold her like this.” I did. The nurse nodded her satisfaction and turned to help with Elizabeth. And that was it. Within hours, I was walking around our hospital room, holding my daughter like a pro. Within a week, I was holding both girls at the same time. Take that, naysayers.
Babies, I’ve learned in the past six months, are good at telling you when something is wrong. Unfortunately, they’re not great at telling you what they need.
Every time one of the girls cries, I find myself checking off a mental checklist of possible problems and solutions. Sometimes, nothing on that list works. That’s when I get creative.
Before my daughters, I’d do things like browse YouTube, watch TV or play video games, not because I was having fun, but because it was something to do to fill up the time.
Changing positions, singing songs, watching videos, comfort feedings, a different toy — the experimentation process continues until either Baby is satisfied or Daddy has to tap out and let Mommy take over. I used to think that the latter option was a sign of weakness, but it’s just the reality of parenthood. Nobody — no matter how well-intentioned or tough — can go indefinitely.
So how, exactly, does it feel to be a father? I recently tried to describe it to another new father. I didn’t want to sound trite or melodramatic, I said, if only because I tire of hearing all of the humblebragging of overwrought parents. Instead, I summed up my feelings this way: These days, rather than say that I used to have a lot of free time and now, as a parent, I don’t have any, I prefer to say that before the twins came, I had a lot of empty time.
Before my daughters, I’d do things like browse YouTube, watch TV or play video games, not because I was having fun, but because it was something to do to fill up the time. Now, those empty spaces are gone, filled with squeals of laughter and chattering conversations about toes and fingers and trying to see how long each girl can sit up on her own without falling over.
I like to think that while I’m still me, I’m also a newer, more nurturing version of me. I still love the things I loved before, and now I get to share them — slowly, over time — with two precious little people who mean all the world to me.
Fatherhood did more than change my life. It filled it up.