From Chicken Soup for the Father & Daughter Soul

The Dad He Planned to Be

Michael was shocked when we watched a videotape of a baby’s birth during childbirth classes. But I, like several classmates, got teary-eyed as the tiny miracle entered the world. Passing a box of tissues around the room, the instructor turned on the lights. My twenty-nine-year-old husband leaned over to me. “What have we done?” he whispered, his face pale with horror.

After seeing that tape, Michael was adamant about not viewing the birth of our baby. He conceded to coach breathing exercises during labor, but when it came time for the actual delivery, he envisioned himself seated in a chair at the head of the bed holding my hand.

“Delivery is the touchdown,” joked our birthing coach. “You wouldn’t sit through four quarters of the Super Bowl then go to the fridge if the score was tied, your team had the ball on the two-yard line and there was less than a minute left in the game, would you?”

Throughout my pregnancy, Michael was the “go-to guy.” During the first and second trimesters, I felt too tired to do anything but work and sleep, so he did the grocery shopping, errands and household chores. Weekly, he read me excerpts about how both mother and fetus were changing. “Your body is growing precious cargo,” he’d reassure me. “It’s taking all your energy to make our baby.”

When my back hurt, he rubbed it. When my feet ached, he massaged them. The first time we felt the baby move, he cupped his hands around his mouth and shouted at my bulging belly, “Hi, little girl. I’m your daddy!”

But incongruent as it seemed, Michael wanted to sit in the stands rather than be on the field during the actual birth. “In fact, I don’t want to look at the baby until she’s properly cleaned,” he emphasized. “And changing a diaper is out of the question. I’ll vomit.” From my husband’s comments and behavior, I knew he would love our child, but the hands-on care of the baby would be my job.

Finally, I was in labor—for twenty-three hours—and Michael was by my side the entire time. He coached my breathing and held my arm as we walked halls. When the time came for me to give birth, Michael walked over to the dry-erase board in the hospital room and wrote: “Happy Birthday, Micah.” He then took his seat near the head of the bed and prepared to watch the labor-and-delivery team perform their magic.

A few minutes later, one of the nurses called to him, “Dad, we need your help with pushing.” White-faced, Michael stood. A nurse positioned him at the edge of the bed, shoved my foot into his stomach and wrapped his hands around my shin. “There, now,” she said enthusiastically. “This will give you a perfect view of the birth.” Michael smiled weakly. I thought he might faint.

A few minutes later, Michael shouted excitedly, “I see black hair!” Our daughter, Micah, was born, and the doctor immediately handed the gooey baby to my husband. “Isn’t she beautiful?” he gasped, cradling her tiny body in his strong arms. Tears of happiness pooled in his eyes. I began crying as well, not only because our baby was here, but because of the tender joy in my husband’s face.

When the nurse wanted to put Micah under warming lights, he said, “Honey, I don’t want to leave you, but I should go with the baby to make sure she’s all right.”

“Hey, there, little girl,” I heard him coo from across the room. “It’s okay. Daddy’s here.”

Moments later, our families came. Michael proudly displayed our newborn, even before she was bathed.

That night, a nurse took Micah to administer some tests, saying she’d be back with the baby in an hour. “Let me put on my shoes. I’ll go with you,” hollered my husband from the foldout couch.

“I’ll change her diaper before you go,” I said.

“No, Honey, you rest,” said Michael. “I need to practice changing her.”

I tried to look nonchalant as he gently lifted Micah’s legs and fumbled to get the diaper around her six-pound body, but inside, I was amazed. He’s a hands-on dad, after all, I thought.

Micah is now eighteen months old and the pride of her daddy’s heart. She’s baptized him in bodily fluids and blessed him with giggles. Michael’s shared in the good (when Da Da was her first word), the bad (when, as a newborn, she had jaundice and had to be strapped to a light table for seventy-two hours) and the ugly (when six-month-old Micah caught a virus and vomited in Daddy’s face) aspects of parenthood.

Michael admits there’s a big discrepancy between the way he planned to be a father and the dad he’s become. But daughters do that to daddies.

Stephanie Welcher Thompson

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