How to Prepare for the Unpreparable: On Becoming a Dad
I have been struggling to try and organize the thoughts and feelings that have been floating through my head since I found out we were having a baby. It has been, to be completely honest, a slow process of realization that this is actually happening. I haven’t fully processed my feelings nor did I know whether I wanted to share what I was feeling. Of course, in terms of sharing with others—both on- and off-line—both Katie and I were not sure whether we even wanted to share at all. For us this experience is deeply personal and deeply connective to us as a couple; we were uncertain as to whether we wanted to let others into that personal space. But as we were talking more and more we decided that we could, and that we wanted to, share the thoughts and experiences as they came to us.
The major feeling I have had is how in the world do you prepare for an experience that you really cannot prepare for? Most of the new, different, challenging, and painful experiences of my life up until now have been variations and shades of what has come before:
Getting my PhD
Teaching for the first time
Running a 50k
At the time each of these events brought new and unexpected changes to my life, but all seem to afford some level of heads-up, of being ready, of knowing what was coming around the bend. There was no feeling of having the ground drop out from underneath you and knowing that no amount of advice or anecdotal evidence could really prepare you for what was about to happen.
But that is exactly what this is like, and, in realizing this I am simultaneously experiencing an untold amount of fear, excitement, and elation. I am so excited but also scared at the idea of being a dad, and yet I truly want to have every single experience that is to come. A terrible analogy came to me the other day.
I remember being in an aid station during my 50k, probably about half way through the race, standing under a tent looking out at the trail disappearing into the woods. Rain was pouring down and I was soaked. My feet hurt. My legs ached. Thoughts of failure and inadequacy hit me. But I knew that everything before that point, all the hours of hard work and the experiences and knowledge I gained had all led me to that spot at that aid station. Whether I felt ready to go on I knew that I could do it; I knew that “sometimes you just have to do things”……so I stepped out into the rain, put one foot in front of the other and headed back into the woods.
That is where I am now. I have no idea what sorts of experiences I will have in the coming days, months or years, but one thing is for sure: whatever will be will be; you take each day as it comes, and I am exhilarated about everything that is going to happen to me, to Katie, to us, to our family, to our lives.