We live our lives following a direction that hopefully was largely decided by us. Our paths are winding and meandering, changing directions frequently as we make decisions and flow with the outcomes and consequential circumstances. However, there are some decisions that lead to events being extreme pivotal moments in ones journey. Moments that are significant enough to cause an individual to redefine their purpose and direction. Moments, like the death of a loved one, a divorce, a large move, career change, or having a child, can all cause an individual to re-evaluate the path they are traveling and redefine their identity. Although this list is not exhaustive, it gives us an idea of what types of moments can cause these significant changes. They will not always be pivotal but hold the potential to drastically impact our lives. Some things can be reverted and somewhat changed back, like a move or a divorce, but others, like the death of a loved one or the birth of a child can not be undone. Whether you like it or not, these moments will affect your life negatively or positively. This of course is dependent upon how you view them, react to them, and learn from them; but to undo them, is biologically impossible.
March 18 was one of these pivotal moments in my life. At 5:40am my wife and I welcomed into the world the birth of our daughter. I have had less than a handful of pivotal moments in my life, but this has been the largest one thus far. The date has always been a significant one for me as it is my wife’s birthday. It has always been celebrated somewhat recouping from the night before because it follows St.Patricks Day, and my wife likes to take in the festivities that surround it. This year was quite different as we did not go out for St. Pats because my wife was almost 9 months pregnant, and there was this looming pandemic chatter that we should exercise caution when leaving the house. We decided to stay home and have dinner with her parents the next night, celebrating her birthday quietly. It is a good thing we did, as my wife started having contractions the evening of St. Patricks Day, sending us to the hospital shortly after midnight to have our baby delivered, sharing the same birthday as her mom.
“We never know the love of a parent until we become parents ourselves.”Henry Ward Beecher
Madex Faye Ostlund entered our world that morning weighing 5lbs 10ounces. She was quite tiny, but was not supposed to be born until April 6th. However, she decided to surprise her mother and I by showing up for her mom’s birthday, and celebrating it with her. In hindsight, it was also good to have her born before all the closures resulting from the Covid-19 Pandemic began. I promised myself that I would not talk about the pandemic in this blog, but will say it made our stay and experience at the hospital less than desirable. It is hard to describe my feelings that morning when I first held Madex. She was so warm, hot actually, similar to taking a casserole out of the oven. I am exaggerating of course, but I do remember her being intensely warm. She barely fussed, and was quite content just being held or cuddled. I love holding her, and I love cuddling her. I will miss these dearly when she stops giving them to me, and I try to steal as many as I can. The quote above could not be more true. I have heard many times from friends and relatives the love and amazement that you experience when becoming a parent, and although I believed them, I never really understood this type of love. I compared it to the loves that I have experienced, and thought it would be similar to this – it is not. The love you feel for your child is undoubtedly different than the love you have for a parent, a spouse, or a friend. Maybe it is because you immediately become a protector, a guardian, and know that without hesitation you would take a bullet for your baby. There is no doubt in my mind that I would endure whatever it took, and fight to my dying breath, if it meant saving my child. This is the love I feel and have for you Madex. I want you to know this and never forget or doubt it. Know that you and I will not always see eye to eye, and that you will test my patience throughout life, but my love for you will only continue to grow. Sometimes you may doubt my love because I will not agree with you or have to discipline you, but I assure you that I do this out of love.
Our baby is now 7 weeks old and I wanted to write about what I have learned so far as a new father. I want to look back one day, read this and remember the little moments that forever changed my life. I also want Madex to have the opportunity to read what her father’s thoughts were, and how he felt about becoming a father. So here they are.
As I sit here typing with one hand, holding Madex with the other, it is difficult to say anything bad about her, or having a baby. She is so darn cute and precious that it is easy to forget her shrilling screams in the middle of the night, or her explosive poops that cover her from head to toe. This I am not exaggerating; a baby can poop so ferociously that shrapnel goes in all directions. I imagine it would be similar to blowing up a balloon, covering it with chocolate pudding and popping it. Her scream will rival any of the best horror movies you have ever witnessed, but I am okay with this and call them her vocal exercises. All this is nothing compared to the sleep deprivation one experiences. Every parent will warn you about this, and if you are like me, you say something stupid like, “I don’t need a lot of sleep, I function on 4 or 5 hours as it is.” Well I am sorry, the sleep deprivation one experiences when having a child is another level. My recommendation to all those people who are planning to have a child is that they train sleep deprivation like a Navy Seal, going days with only one or two hours max of undisturbed sleep. This may give you an idea of what it will be like with a newborn, and perhaps give you a little preparation and edge when he or she arrives.
The saving grace about this deprivation, I am told, is that it does not last long. Apparently soon, our baby will begin to sleep for long stretches of time, allowing us to catch up on some sleep or get some other things done. I am doubtful and very skeptic. It is of my belief that I will not sleep much again for the next 17 years. I can remember thinking that a baby sleeps for about 15 to 19 hours a day, and I would sleep when she sleeps, and get some things completed during the other times. This is the dumbest thing anyone could ever say. I get very little done, and give my wife a lot of credit for getting anything done during the days I am at work. I crawl out of bed at 4:45am to exercise for one hour, and have managed to sustain this for the 7 weeks Madex has been here. This is incredibly difficult to do and I am sure many of you are asking, why the hell would I do that? All I can is that this is the one hour I take for myself, and it is more important than sleep for me. It is the one thing that I can control in a life that is otherwise pretty chaotic right now. Of course, I can only do this because my wonderful wife is there to feed Madex during this time as she will wake up between 4:30am and 6:00am. I try to return the favor in the evening after I get home from work, allowing my wife to bath or take some time for herself. I can not stress how important this is, and you should always find a friend, family, spouse or sibling to allow you this brief break while raising a child. It is important for you and your child. Having a child is the most selfless love you will ever show. Every second of every day is devoted to this little human and unless you deliberately take that break, you will likely not get it. Organization rarely happens, routine is difficult to establish, your to do list you might as well burn, your sex life halts, and your socializing diminishes. All this, is just a few of the sacrifices you will encounter when having a child. Why would anyone do this?
The feeling you get when you hold the little miracle you made can not be compared to anything I have yet to experience. I have had so many wonderful moments and experiences in my life that I love to share and talk about, but honestly can not find one memory that encompasses the feeling I get when I hold Madex. There are so many beautiful moments throughout our lives, but I can only imagine the moments that are going to come from raising you Madex. My heart just fills with joy when I hold you, and this week you began showing your smile to me, which makes me melt.
A baby fills a place in your heart you never knew was empty.
Now I want to be clear that I am not saying that this feeling is better than anything I have ever experienced. I am only saying that it is very different and can not be compared to past experiences. I chose the quote above because I feel travel also does this, maybe just in a slightly different way. If you have never traveled, you never know if you are missing anything or how wonderful it is. It is only during your travel that you realize what you were missing and want to do more. This however, creates a new problem; you can never erase your experience once you have experienced it. Therefor, you are left craving more travel, as it is with me now, craving more time with Madex.
To the world you may be one person, but to one person you may be the world.
You are the world to me Madex and I will crave time with you. I will want even more time with you when I am older, but will likely get less. You will not mean to do this, but your life will get busy and your responsibilities will grow. I will cherish this time with you now, and maybe one day I will be able to share with you your own experience as a parent. For now, I know how important it is for me to be the role model you need. I know how large an influence I will have on you, and that the way I lead my life will have a direct impact upon how you lead yours. My personality will shape yours, and in return, yours will shape me. A wonderful friend gifted me a brilliant book when Madex was born, and he creased a single page in it. It will probably be some of the most valued advice given to me as a new father.
Take part in her life now. Don’t wait until she’s fifteen to try to develop a relationship.
I love you to the moon and back Madex Faye. I will be by your side whenever you need me, and until my time on earth is over. Never forget my love for you. I promise to work a lifetime to ensure that you will never forget. You are, and will forever be the daughter I always dreamed about. Stay true to your character, as it is your destiny. When my life is over, all that matters is that I did my best in raising you to be a wonderful, beautiful person. I will be there for all your firsts; proud, happy, sad and radiating with selfless love ready and willing to move in the direction you need me to go. This is what you gave me when you entered this world and came to call me your Dad. I love you.