My Beloved Osito,
I always had dreams of my future and how my life would turn out. That future always included having the “perfect” family, like the Cosby Show, and being the fun, enthusiastic, and involved dad. But, no one ever explained to me the utter FEAR that comes with fatherhood. For me, the fear came in three distinct stages, the announcement, pregnancy and labor, and your introduction into the world. With the arrival of your brother, “Deuce”, I had to relive the fear that comes with stages one and two and now I have a double dose of fear for the third stage.
Stage 1: The Announcement – FEAR of being Unprepared
This is the beginning of fatherhood. For you, the announcement came one fall afternoon. As I was watching The U’s football game, Mami came in nervous and hesitant. After asking her to tell me what was wrong a few times, she handed me the pregnancy test and sheepishly said “I think I’m pregnant”. For Deuce, the announcement was the complete opposite, occurring one June evening. As we were sitting on the couch I noticed an inexplicable glow encompassing Mami who had just walked into the loft
from taking a shower. See, I knew that glow. I had seen it before. Add that, and the fact that in hindsight I noticed she had been getting tired earlier than usual I had the pleasure of telling her she was pregnant. Disclaimer: She completely brushed me off and life went on as usual until she took a test 2 weeks later that proved I was right.
Along with the shock and the joy of expectancy that comes with the announcement, the FEAR of being unprepared is not far behind. For me, I feared being unprepared financially, to an extent, but honestly my biggest fear was my maturity level. You hear stories (and they are true) of the financial burden that comes with having kids, and I knew we were not in a place where I felt comfortable to do more than just meet the needs of having a child. My plan was to be a D.I.N.K (Dual Income No Kids) for several years before children came into the plan. As a D.I.N.K, my goal was to be debt free, (95% of my debt comes from my school loans), followed by building wealth and then preparing for kids. However, things did not go as planned and while I still have the same goals, the schedule has shifted slightly. While managing this fear, I chose to change my lifestyle dramatically and with that my priorities changed. Since money always goes to your priorities first, things freed up in the budget. And while some things I enjoyed have been cut out, I honestly don’t miss them because I have us.
Maturity was a completely different battle that I couldn’t figure out with spreadsheets and formulas because it was completely mental. Prior to both of you, I would constantly have thoughts like “I am not really an adult”, “it feels like I left college yesterday” and “why is the cashier calling me sir, I can’t be more than 4 years older”. Following your births, those thoughts along with the fact that I’m now supposed to raise and be responsible for a helpless human being…you may understand my fear. While no switch has ever flipped that I am aware of, each day, I simply try my best, read what I can, listen to the doctors and do what we believe is best for you both. However, it has been beyond refreshing to realize that I can run around the house in my underwear with you in your diaper yelling and mimicking my every move at the age of 29 without fear of being judged (except by your Mami) because I’m “playing with my kids”.
Stage 2: Pregnancy and Labor – FEAR of Helplessness
This stage of fatherhood is very hands off and feeling helpless for 9 months is an indescribable FEAR. Between the 37th and 40th week of pregnancy, there was not much I could do directly for you, but by making Mami comfortable, I knew I was helping…I think. This phase was very difficult because while the reality of fatherhood becomes real upon hearing your heartbeat, seeing the ultrasounds, and watching Mami’s belly grow, there was nothing else I could do to make sure everything was going as planned. During the day, to help ease the fear and feel part of the process, I studied like I was trying to be valedictorian in our lamaze class subsequently acing all the quizzes. At doctor’s visits, I always had a list of questions and just tried to remind Mami of all the questions she had because “pregnancy brain” is real. However, at night was when FEAR would peak. Some nights were sleepless, but sleep or not, thoughts of all the things that could go wrong during pregnancy and labor crept into my mind.
Labor was more intense than the pregnancy, whether it lasted 3 days (you) or 3 hours (“Deuce”). Watching the sheer pain that Mami was in and only being able to offer ice chips or suggest a position change, gave me an overwhelming helpless feeling. And, as she pushed, I offered what felt like empty words of encouragement like “just a few more minutes” and “one more good push”. As I watched you guys come out, instantly, I counted limbs and appendages and wondered if the purple hue was normal. Specifically, during your birth Osito, your purple appearance had me speechless as the doctor guided you out and stated that the umbilical cord was around your neck. His calmness didn’t help ease my fears of the worst because I was sure you weren’t getting enough oxygen. It turns out, 1/3 of babies are born with the umbilical cord around their neck and some doctors don’t even mention it during the labor.
Stage 3: Introduction to the World – FEAR of the unknown.
The fear in this stage is difficult to categorize, so we will call it the FEAR of the unknown. I can’t count the number of times I check to see if you’re breathing by watching your chest rise and fall on the baby monitor or by blowing softly in your face while you’re in my arms to make sure you twitch. While part of my fear has to do with innate behaviors like will you choke on food because I don’t know how you learned to chew and swallow or complications like the risk of putting tubes in your ears, the biggest area of concern is how you will successfully navigate this harsh world and making sure I teach you everything I know to help you do it better than me. Reading and watching articles and videos on social media of kids getting bullied or an encounter with the police that goes tragically wrong, I find myself analyzing the situations like a case study. My hope is that I can learn something, anything that I can teach you both to ensure you always come home. What I have concluded to from my own experiences is that this fear is difficult to overcome, just being a father, but there is an added layer of complexity being a black dad raising his sons to be men. My fear is that I may miss something and the worst happens to you because of it.
As the cliché goes, I have a good understanding what my parents must have gone through raising me and your uncles and yet you’re not even old enough to leave the house, drive nor are you even ready for kindergarten for that matter. I also understand why my parents and grandparents spent so much time praying for us. Once “you’ve done everything you can” whether that be by making spreadsheets, reading and making up case studies, you have to turn it over to Jesus and know that “he is your help” and trust that “all things work out for the good of those that trust him”. While fear is a natural human response, I encourage you both to not let it control you and prevent you from living the life that was planned for you before you were a twinkle in my eye. Despite all of this, you guys bring me so much joy with just a simple smile and I will never let fear stop me from being the best father possible.
Love you to “Infinity…and Beyond”