Today’s parenting guest blogger is Justin Masterson. You may recall that his twin brother, Matt, was previously a guest blogger, despite the fact he does not have a soul. Justin and his wife Stacy are recent parents who were also kind enough to loan us their DVD of The Happiest Baby on the Block. Our baby and their baby will soon square off in an infant battle royale to determine which one is truly the happier baby. Check your pay-per-view listings.
Justin is also fond of using big words that we had to look up in the dictionary. We hope you enjoy.
Being a father to a newborn is a little like falling deeply in love with a puddle.
Wait, let me go back.
I was told in the scant days between the beginning of the adoption agreement and the birth of our daughter that “it may take a while to get to know her,” and “don’t feel badly if you don’t love her right away.” I was warned that among birthing couples, the father often spends his early weeks trying his best to do the right things while all the while wondering when the little screaming spud would turn into an actual person, and secretly dreaming of the day that spud would move out of the house and give him his wife back. Texts for adoptive fathers told me this feeling can be even more compounded by the fact that I would not have nine months to get used to the idea of having a child, nor to forge bonds mitotically with my partner’s growing belly. So I prepared. I prepared to dutifully go about the tasks of fathering until my child could grow a personality and I could teach her to play crazy-eights or draw or love jazz. I listened to the advice of men much smarter and more experienced than I, and I’m glad I did … perhaps, as a bad review of a decent movie sets low expectations, it’s what built the foundation for a truly shocking daily reality:
…I love spending time with our infant daughter.
From the moment I met her, ruddy and shaking in the industrial light of the delivery room, I wanted to be close to her. From the first time her pencil lips quivered in the chill outside the womb and her hands clasped at the air in search of a familiar skin, I wanted to hold her to my chest and whisper comforts into her paper-thin ears. As she inhaled her first impossibly deep breath, I wanted nothing more than to hear her exhale in a cry with everything she had, so that I could come to her, offering consolation that felt in the moment like the most meaningful thing I would ever do.
Everybody told me about the work of being a father to a newborn, and they were right. It meant inverted hours, calm in chaos and thousands of unfamiliar duties performed by unskilled hands. What they didn’t get across … what they couldn’t possibly get across … was the profound narcissistic romance of it … the unmatched experience of reflective significance in it. Before she could focus her eyes on my face, I could begin to see myself in them in a way I had never seen myself before … as a father, as a masculine bearer of a sacred responsibility that I, uniquely, could shoulder. Before she could turn her head to my voice, I had heard a call to become a singular kind of guide and protector for a wholly innocent new creation.
The advice of my friends and my books was right: it took me a while to get to know my new daughter. I am still meeting her; every day getting little glimpses into her personality, her temperament, her humor, and her loving. But what shocked me is that it did not take any time at all to get to know her father; he had been waiting for his moment for years, his chance to animate what he always knew he could be. All it took was this warm, tiny puddle, aqueous and undulating, for him to see it.