I read the scares on the front page,
It says our comforts, they come with a price tag.
(They killed the cancer but discovered a new plague!)
They say just think of the children,
And imagine the world that we've willed them,
It's populated with weirdos to kill them
(and break their hearts).
"Young Fathers" - Typhoon
So for the better part of three weeks now, I have been a father.
They say that coming to grips with the fact that you're a parent takes longer for men than it does for women. Mothers, after all, were carrying this baby around for nine months before fathers hold her for the first time. I suppose it's true, but I assure you it was real for me within Lena's first moments of life.
After an arduous and eventually too stressful labor, Melissa gave birth by Caesarean. That meant that, after the doctors who cleaned her and swaddled her, I was the first terrified and sobbing parent to hold our daughter. I remember those first cries, I remember that precious weight, and I remember how much my arms ached when I finally laid her down after Melissa's procedure was over.
I don't think I'd ever clutched anything so tightly in all my life.
- - -
In these first couple weeks, I keep finding that I'm significantly more afraid of big, vague threats than anything real. I don't know if that's a sign of "not yet coming to grips," or what... but it's true.
I'm not worried I'll drop her (have I mentioned how tightly I hold her?)
I'm not worried she's not eating enough.
I'm worried she'll contract some should-be extinct disease because somehow it's legal to not get vaccinated in America in 2014.
I'm worried that the disappearance of that plane means there's an existential horror of Lovecraftian proportions lurking on the other side of the world.
But mostly I'm fixated on the way I want to raise her and the world I want her to live in. And I'm alternately hopeful, and paralyzed by fear.
It's bad enough that my daughter is going to live in the White Supremacist Capitalist Patriarchy of America. I have come to grips with that. America is what America is.
But I have fought, and wrestled, and prayed, and cried, and determined that I'm unable and unwilling to abandon my Christian faith, and--OH!--but what another level of baggage comes along with that.
I joked in the weeks immediately before her birth, when I found myself doing a new deep dive into theological thought, that I was channelling my nerves into determining what kind of faith community I could see myself being a part of so that I could then see if they had child care. If the World Vision debacle of this past week has shown me anything, it's that I'm more scared than ever to subject my precious daughter to the people who claim to represent her precious Savior. My disgust with American Evangelicalism and its Gospel of Empire has turned to despair.
I wonder if we'd be happier in Catholicism, or Pentecostalism, or--gee, I dunno--Judaism?
I find myself saddened by the thought that she might not be part of the once ubiquitous (to me) "Baby Dedication" ceremonies, but not so much so that I'm not still also scared of taking her somewhere where the participating congregation might pledge to participate in poisoning her with hatred toward her fellow man.
I'm being overly dramatic here.
But I'm also not.
Because have you seen my daughter? Have you seen her? Seriously. Have you? (If you don't know me IRL, likely not..., but) She is beautiful. She is perfect. She is--exactly as I prayed she'd be--healthy and happy and whole. With every day that I look at her, I feel more confident that we're going to solve poverty and global warming and maybe even war. I just know she'll live to see a world I cannot imagine and that's amazing because I'm really into science fiction, you guys, and I can imagine a world that is pretty awesome.
Lastly, I can't get over just how proud I am of my wife, Melissa. She has been strong when she has needed to be, and yet a sweet and loving mother. She is sleeping less and giving more than I ever could have imagined being required of her, and she's doing it all with a grace that I cannot fathom. The process of falling in love with our daughter has also been the process of falling in love with each other all over again. I'm in awe of her, and I hope she knows it. (But she should, because I keep telling her).
- - -
I hope you don't mind that this hasn't been the usual new dad story of platitudes and cliches, but I'm intentionally leaving in all that is raw and real.
This is scary, and not because I'm afraid of killing a kid but because I'm afraid of raising one. And it's amazing, and it's inspiring, and it's occasionally extremely and almost desperately hard.
And I wouldn't trade it for anything.