When I came across this picture several years ago, I literally teared up. To me, this photograph, which I'm pretty sure Paul's wife Linda took, personifies what a dad is. And there is a huge difference between being a 'dad' and a 'father', which I'll explain in a minute.
I've never been in the excruciating position of having to give up my parental rights to my child(ren). The fact that I am a woman who was never even supposed to be able to have children and I have been blessed with four (what do doctors know? lol) put a lot of this subject into perspective for me.
My father gave up his parental rights. Later on in life when I was ready to hear his side, I found out that he didn't really want this to happen, he just felt it was best for everyone involved at the time. It turned out to be the best decision because I may have lost a father, but I gained three pretty awesome 'dads-in-lieu', which is more than a lot of other kids have gotten in similar situations. I had my grandfather, my Bonus Dad and my uncle (who was more like a big brother than a dad figure, but still a powerful male figure for me nonetheless).
That being said, this is how I have grown to feel about things. Any man can be a father. It only takes one sperm and an egg ready to go in order to create a life. But a DAD is there. He raises you, protects you, supports you, guides you, advises you, gives you the kick in the butt you need when you need it and tells you he loves you, even when you don't believe it or want to hear it. He is there, unconditionally, through the good, bad and ugly.
If you are someone fortunate enough to have both a father and a dad in the same man, consider yourself truly blessed. I don't in any way regret how I was raised because I was still loved, was taught morals, values, strength, self-respect and was encouraged to be all that I was meant to be, even when I didn't think I could.
So, for today's sample, I am sharing a short story I wrote many years ago dedicated to those dads-to-be out there who aren't quite sure they have the prerequisites for the job. All I'll say is angels show up just when you need them to guide you when you feel you've lost your way.
What made me think I could do this? David thought.
David slouched down in an oversized leather armchair. His right hand held his heavy head up, while his left arm hung limply over the armrest. His bloodshot eyes were slightly swollen under his wire-rimmed glasses. His clothes were wrinkled and his skin itched as he hadn’t showered or changed his clothes in two days. All of that, with two days of beard growth on his face, made him look more like a hobo than a man about to be a father for the first time. But all he had to do to find some comfort was to walk down the sterile halls of the hospital to find other hobo-looking men with the same tired, blank stare.
Only six years earlier, he shared a four-bedroom house with three other bachelors. His only concerns were having enough cigarettes in his pocket, enough beer in the fridge and being able to function at work the next day no matter what he did to himself the night before.
Ah, those were the days.
He wondered at what point he’d shifted from drinking with the boys and being carefree, to knowing enough about the female anatomy to turn him off sex for the rest of his life. Six years ago, he hadn’t even known what dilation was, never mind having to witness it first-hand.
The snap of a latex glove startled him away from his thoughts.
“It shouldn’t be too much longer, David,” a round, overly-friendly nurse announced. “We’re in the home stretch now. Get some rest. You’ll need it!”
The nurse shut the door, which closed off the light from the hallway. He looked over at his fiancée, Lily.
Being a loyal fiancee was the easy part. He’d been there for her through everything since she first saw the two blue lines in the pregnancy test window. He was there when doctor told her she had a high chance of losing the baby in the first three months. He comforted her through the unexplained bleeding that put her in the hospital several times. He accompanied her to all the tests, the endless ultrasounds and the removal of a polyp from her cervix (the culprit that had caused the bleeding). But, somehow, this was totally different.
Him? A father?
A familiar panic grew in him that made him want to bolt from the room screaming. It made several appearances over the last nine months, and it took everything within him to fight it. He grabbed the arms of his chair and tried slowing down his racing heart. Then he looked back over at Lily’s silhouette.
Tubes were going in and out of her. She had an IV for nutrition, medicine to dilate her cervix, something going into her back for killing pain, something to remove wastes and another machine checked her blood pressure every ten minutes. She looked so peaceful, despite the poking, prodding and beeping of invasive machines. It was hard to believe in that moment that she’d been through so much hell over the last nine months. She stirred a little, letting out a heavy sigh as her belly shifted and bopped.
Why did he have so many doubts when she seemed so strong and smiled every day, even when she was unsure of what would happen?
A young ambulance attendant came into the room to check Lily’s vitals. The young man nodded in David’s direction, and David slowly nodded back.
“Uhm…no offense,” David said. “But what are you doing here? Where’s the nurse?”
“They’re letting me get experience with births so I can be more useful when I’m called in for these situations,” the attendant said. “I’ve witnessed three other women give birth tonight. It’s quite a rush seeing a new life come into the world. Especially when everything turns out well and Mom and baby are healthy.”
Before David had the chance to ask the young man why he was sharing all that with him, the attendant continued. “I lost my wife when we were trying to have children, but before we conceived,” he looked downy. “We never got the chance to make our miracle. After she died, I decided to help bring life into the world. Maybe I’ll even get to meet the lucky baby who got my wife’s soul.”
“What?” David asked.
“When a person dies,” the attendant explained, “their soul is reborn into the baby born right afterwards. I know that sounds a bit ‘out there’, but I’ve seen enough miracles to know it could be possible. Everything will be fine, David. Trust me.”
The attendant left the room, then…silence. The only light in the room peeked out from a small cupboard containing supplies for the nurses. It made an eerie glow over his fiancée’s belly. David shuddered and closed his eyes.
The attendant’s words echoed in his sleepy head.
“We never got a chance to make our miracle.”
“I decided to help bring life into the world.”
“Especially when everything turns out okay and Mom and baby are healthy.”
That was really what it was all about, wasn’t it? They were blessed with a miracle, they overcame all the hurdles put in front of them, Lily was going to be fine and their baby was healthy.
David must have finally fallen asleep because the next thing he knew, the room was filled with florescent light and a nurse helped the doctor lift up Lily’s legs. “Get ready, Dad,” the doctor said with a grin. “It’s time to bring your daughter into the world!”
For the first time, the word Dad didn’t frighten him in the least.
A half hour later, a nurse gently placed a tiny, screaming girl in David’s nervous arms. As he looked down lovingly on his treasure, his eyes filled with tears. The little girl squeezed his finger, and sighed.
“Hello, new soul,” David whispered. “I’m your Daddy. Hey! Where’s that attendant guy? I’d like to show him our miracle. He was a big help.”
The nurse looked confused. “What attendant?”
“There was an attendant here who came in just after the last nurse checked on Lily. He said he was working around this floor to get experience in births and stuff.”
The nurse frowned. “We don’t usually have attendants up here as they are needed more down in emergency. We did have a lovely young man who used to come up once in a while on his breaks or off days to ask questions. He seemed very passionate about being able to assist in birthing emergencies. Sadly, he died a couple of months ago due to complications from injuries he'd gotten in a terrible car accident. Too bad, too. He'd have made a wonderful assistant in some way.”
David opened his mouth to respond, but simply nodded. As the nurse went back to attend to his fiancee, a sudden thought made his heart skip a beat.
How did that guy know my name? I didn’t tell him…
His baby girl fussed, and he drew her closer to his chest. Then he smiled, and looked up.
Her soul is home.