My wife and I were always baffled as to why anyone would possibly want to have a kid; to bring someone into a scary world just give up their sleep and sanity; and then having to constantly fear for that child's safety and wellbeing... it didn't add up. Looking back though, it made perfect sense. We had a crash course in caretaking in the months leading up to my mom's passing, and can't imagine saying no to the opportunity to do it all over again. That said, I should probably mention that I'm going to be a dad!
I've shared the news with friends, but now that we're into the third trimester I'm happy to finally go public. I'm going to be a daddy blogger! I can't wait to do everything with the little guy; cook, draw, garden, play music, laugh, play soccer or whatever else he happens to be into at the time. Thanks to the little stinker my garden has gone neglected and I've even almost forgotten all about the fact that my book Plant By Numbers comes out on March 1st! (It's available for pre-order... wink, wink!) So far he's had his little way of stealing the show.
Since our little boy's due date is April 17th, not far from the day that my mother passed away on April 30th, 2012, it's hard not to wince with each wonderful memory and recall all of the lessons she's taught me. She spent her whole life teaching me to be a loving husband and father with every opportunity, but oddly enough, it was the last few months of my mother's life that taught me the most about being a parent.
|My mom, innocently childlike in the thick of it.|
We experienced heartbreaking things in those months caring for my mom but will always look back upon them fondly, grateful that we had the chance to experience every emergency room and every broken smile. Like parenthood, caring for my mother caught us completely off guard. When we arrived to screams (see here for the whole story), our instincts took over and I ran to my mother's side while my wife called the ambulance.
The pain and confusion was such that she could barely even comprehend my words, so I cradled her head and stroked the wispy hair left over from the chemo while I comforted her with soothing words and prayers. I even sang a few of her favorite worship songs, even though I was convinced she would soon be dead. It was a nightmarish experience, but I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world. It was moments like those that strangely made me feel like I could handle the task of caring for another human being, helpless as an infant.
My wife also proved herself to be an excellent parent during those times, tending to my mom's every need and explaining simple things to her again and again... and again. The delirium had done away with her short term memory, so conversing with my chatterbox of a delirious mom was a lot like answering the innocent - yet aggravating questions of a child who has just learned enough to get her into trouble.
Jennifer would then spend thirty minutes helping my mother order her hospital food before calling them back to make a new and improved order after my mom remembered that the doctors had her on a different diet. Or that she didn't like their chicken soup. Once the food arrived, my wife would spend another thirty minutes getting my talkative mom to focus on her lunch, which had been lovingly cut into small pieces... sometimes we even had to spoon feed her.
By the time Jennifer finished dealing with other distractions such as nurse visits, new questions from my mom, woundcare, organizing paperwork, taking notes, tackling bills and so on, my mother would realize that she didn't really feel like eating anyways. By the time my mom was encouraged to finally eat her lunch, it was usually time to order her dinner.
One time she even had to put her foot down and say "lights out" because my mom and I were chatting late into the night! It was strange seeing my wife act as a compassionate and assertive mother figure, (to my own mother no less!) but watching her gracefully tackle each obstacle under pressure was nothing short of remarkable. I have the utmost confidence in her abilities as a mother.
A wise old man once told me that becoming a dad would be the best thing to ever happen to me. He also told me that I wouldn't get any sleep, my life would be turned upside down and that there was nothing I could ever do to prepare for the changes headed my way. After hearing similar endorsements (?) for fatherhood from my friends Dave Townsend and Christopher Tidrick, I remember thinking that the world is such a scary place, so who are we to drag a baby kicking and screaming - especially after losing my mother to Lupus?
As my mom deteriorated at the mere age of 50, we practically raised a child in reverse. We changed her diapers (the steroid bloat made it difficult for ostomy bags to stay attached), helped her struggle to walk, and explained to her concepts both mundane and profound. Worst of all, we had to see her suffer.
And here we are, bringing someone else into the world against our better judgement. Coworkers, friends and acquaintances who have heard the news about our baby boy ask "are you excited?", and I think to myself "of course I'm excited!" I'm terrified, thrilled and strangely in love with this little boy who I can only feel through the enthusiastic kicks and wiggles from my wife's belly, and he's been consuming my every thought. I can't wait to show him our wonderful world and learn all about the kid he'll become. I will cradle him and soothe him as he cries, calmly cradling his wispy head of hair while I sing him a song.
A couple of weeks ago I had the strangest dream; of a curled up baby bunny on the forest floor, kicking in his light sleep while the forest animals watch with loving admiration, anticipating the day that he would awaken to brighten their lives. I immediately started drawing this scene to decorate my son's nursery and have even started on a story to tell him when he's too afraid to sleep. Watching over the bunny in particular is a wise owl to represent my mother and watch over her grandson like a guardian angel.