happiness

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Have I mentioned how much I love being Sophie’s stay-at-home dad?

I won’t lie, I was a little freaked out going in. Leah likes to tell people that I’ve had more experience with babies than she has, but my younger siblings are all in their 20s now — that was a long time ago. I wasn’t sure how I was going to be able to get any work done. But honestly, Sophie’s a peach (and a Bean). She sleeps, she wakes up, she eats, we play, repeat. Today, we actually had some sun, for the first time in I don’t know how long, so she and I went for a little walk.

Driving back from the hospital the night she was born, I realized that everything I’d ever worried about in my entire life was totally meaningless next to what had just happened. Just a mosquito’s hiccup in the wind. Everybody tells you how your life changes the instant your child is born; it’s one of those things (for me, anyway) that you hear so often it doesn’t really register anymore. But it’s absolutely true.

It seemed like we waited forever for Sophie to be born, and I realize now that the whole time, I was certain on some level that there was no way this could all work out. I mean, making babies is pretty simple and lots of fun. But I guess — if you’re me, anyway — as soon as you want one, it seems like you’re going to need an endless list of things to happen perfectly, exactly right just to have a happy birth. (And then the real worrying begins, right?)

I didn’t realize I was holding my breath after Sophie came out, but I was. And hearing her cry for the first time unleashed the sweetest flood of relief I think I’ve ever felt. There’s nothing like hearing that first cry. And then to hold her — to look at this living thing that’s really, holy crap, a part of you — well, wow.

I felt a tremendous amount of guilt at first. I mean, this is just an embarrassment of riches, too much for anyone to be blessed with, right? My wife, my family, my friends, my health, our baby. I spent some time waiting for the other shoe to drop — feeling like the unbelievably stupid way I’ve lived my life, combined with this unbelievable good fortune, was going to tilt the balance of the universe so far out of whack that the only way to fix the situation would be for the forces of the cosmos to pull some kind of “yoink” on the proud new parents.

And that’s another thing: Having a child has enabled me to, for the first time, really understand why people believe in God and religion. Not only is it comforting to believe in a being great enough to dwarf your immense new responsibilities, but it’s impossible not to look in your child’s eyes and want to believe in divinity. Some kind of universal plan for life. The idea that, if you get your ducks in a row, you can help shield your family from the bad stuff — or, barring that, the idea that things will be better in the next life, or the afterlife, or whatever.

Like I said: It changes you. Instantly.

I don’t feel guilty anymore, just incredibly fortunate. I couldn’t have imagined a better baby, and I can’t believe I get to stay home with her for awhile. Not many fathers get to spend this kind of time getting to know their child.

I’ve been a lot of things so far in my life, but nothing compares to fatherhood. She is both my main concern and my greatest joy. And it just keeps getting better.

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