I found these words in a journal I was writing in almost three years ago, before J-Man was born. What it would be like for the me-of-then and the me-of-now to meet given everything that has happened! And what would the me-of-then think of how many layers of meaning there were to his words that he couldn’t possibly have known about then?
These entries are excerpts from those journals and are addressed to our son. (Don’t worry, this isn’t going to go over the whole 40 weeks!)
(written a few days after Mary got her positive pregnancy test)
It was only a week ago that we found out that you were going to become a part of our life. We have been stunned most of the time ever since. Becoming a parent for the first time, especially when you are over 30 like us, is hard to comprehend. For me, it’s the sense that I won’t be a good father and that I won’t be all you need me to be. Maybe by the time you read this, I will have proved more to you than that.
There’s always the fear at the beginning that things will not go according to plan. It happens to a lot of people. We tried very hard to prepare the way for you to come into the world and have wished so hard that it would come true. As I often do, it’s also a time for a lot of anxiety wondering whether something will go wrong. Writing my thoughts down here perhaps is a way to make it seem more real, but mostly as an expression of faith that I know now that you will come safely into the world and into our lives.
(when Mary was about seven weeks)
Next week comes the first exciting doctor’s visit. Using some Doppler ultrasound device I don’t remotely understand, we should be able to see your heart beat for the first time. At eight weeks, such a thing astonishes me, especially because the pictures in the book say you probably look like a very tiny, wriggly, alien-shaped entity attached to an oversized head. I’ll still think you look great regardless of the pictures.
Sometimes during this process of waiting, I wish I could dump everything I know through your cord and into your head. Not book knowledge really, but experience and hopefully some wisdom. I imagine, though, that there are a lot of things we’ll just have to learn together. I’ll apologize in advance if I’m overprotective or obsessive about helping you learn how to be and live in the world. It can oftentimes be a scary place. I know you’ll figure it out though.
(after the first ultrasound at eight weeks)
In the first eight weeks, you know that you are going to be parents and feel excited about it, but it’s still so hard to believe you are actually coming. Seeing and hearing your heartbeat brought it all home in this one overwhelming moment. Someday when you are in the same place, you will know what it feels like.
We will always remember this day because your heart lit up in front of us for the first time and our love for you was so strong that in that moment I could not imagine being able to love you more; but I know I will. It has been that way with your mom. On our wedding day, I looked into her eyes and knew all the way down to the very core of my soul that I loved her far beyond any love I had ever felt. I could not imagine loving her more than I did then, but it happened anyway. The great thing about love is that there is room for everybody, and it never has to know any limits.
(about nine weeks – right after our Snow Storm From Hell that year, and strangely symbolic of things to come)
Someday someone may mention this storm to you and you can tell them this story about how I left one part of town at 1:00 PM and didn’t get home until 9:00, over what should have been a 20-minute drive. I feel a strange sense of accomplishment for beating the odds and getting home. Maybe the moral of story for you is, use common sense but stick with it and work your way out of whatever is in front of you. Determination mixed with some good common sense is a valuable gift to have.
(after the 11-week ultrasound – don’t worry, last entry)
To see you today with a very identifiable head and face, your torso, and little arms and legs was amazing. How far you have come in only three weeks!
You were pumping those little legs like you were trying to run around in there. Your heart is strong and you are starting to stretch your legs out to come into this great big world. Keep doing your dance. Grow strong.
[Back to the present day – Three weeks is still a long time in your world even now. And how I love to see you dance.]
If you’ll humor me a bit longer, this is a little poem I wrote about what it feels like for me to watch J-man grow up so much each day. I wrote it well over a year ago, but it still fits me. It expressed both my joy for all the memories I have of him when he was really little, and the grief that comes when you box up your child’s baby stuff. You have to admit to yourself that they’re growing up. It all goes by so quickly.
As I read this poem now, I think how much of my fear of not being a good dad has been boxed away now, too. Experience is a great teacher, but my son may be the best teacher of all. When I wrote it, I never imagined we’d be where we are now. I’ve realized how many of my old ways and habits that brought a lot of negativity and fear have gone away either because I put them away intentionally or because they seemed to have worn out on their own.
That doesn’t remotely mean I’m all ‘with it’ now. What a joke that would be. It just means that this is a good sign I’m learning something – something I never would have learned without being the father of this wonderful little boy. You are the best Father’s Day gift I could ever hope for.
Outgrowing I put new griefs into boxes reminding myself to store them somewhere away from the old. There’s the little, white onesie with the tiny, yellow ducks, the sleeper with I Love Daddy on it, the little footie socks you wore last winter, the blue hat with the doggie ears that you refused to keep on, the red and white-striped jumper you wore your first time at the beach, the soft, cream-white sleeper you wore in the hospital against your jaundiced skin. It was the only newborn outfit you ever wore; we had to stuff you into it for pictures. You’ve outgrown these blankets that swaddled you while I plowed furrows in the carpet during your walking naps. They go in with the hooded towels, especially the one with the teddy bear head that covered your long, wet, hobbit hair. You’d pull the hood over your face waiting expectantly for us to find you; we always would. Someday I hope you get to pack away memories like this. I guess I should put away too my fear of being a bumbling father. We’ve done well together so far. I tell myself, it’s OK to outgrow things.
Thanks for reading.