Hello, and welcome to another stupid year! Or another amazing year – it’s really yet to be determined what kind of year it’s going to be. But it definitely promises to be an interesting year, for me at least, because I’m going to become a father. This is officially the last month of my life that I will not be a father, unless of course my son decides to screw up all of our plans by showing up early. I wouldn’t put it past him, either; he’s been kicking my wife awake at night and giving her wicked heartburn, so I’m pretty confident that he’s going to be a handful. I suppose I shouldn’t expect anything different, though; I also kick my wife awake at night sometimes whenever she snores too loud or I’m running away from monsters or something, so my son probably has it in his blood.
Those of you who have seen me present may remember me saying that I think becoming a parent changes us more profoundly than any other decision we ever make it life. I definitely believe that. But somewhat surprisingly, I still can’t properly imagine exactly what those changes are going to be. My whole life I’ve been able to use past experiences to make an educated guess about what a particular future experience might look like, but here I’m totally lost – and when I ask parents what I should be doing to prepare myself mentally for what’s about happen, they mostly just laugh at me and say, “Don’t worry, you’ll figure it out. Absolutely nothing you’ve ever done has prepared you even slightly for what’s about to happen, but I’m sure it’ll be fine.”
That’s a crappy thing to say, I think, and it’s even crappier that it seems to be completely true. Never in my life have I felt quite as unprepared for an upcoming change as I do right now, weeks away from becoming a dad. So this month I want to share with you what I’m experiencing right now and hope that it will be useful to you whenever you find yourself faced with a potential change that makes you feel vulnerable and unprepared.
It’s OK To Be Really, Really Scared
There is nothing wrong with being afraid of big changes. I had a mild panic attack during a hospital-run class about breastfeeding recently, which is doubly shameful considering my breastfeeding duties will be, um, minimal. A friend of mine talked about his white-knuckled drive home from the hospital with his newborn (a drive that lasted 6 minutes and involved speeds of maybe 35 miles an hour), and another told me he almost fainted when the nurses told him to watch his newborn son unsupervised. Fear is a normal response to the unknown, and while we can often do things to mitigate it, we aren’t likely to ever fully eliminate it. So as long as your fear is not completely crippling or paralyzing, then don’t beat yourself up too much if you’re a little (or a lot) nervous about what’s coming your way.
In The End, You Will Be OK
At least that’s what everyone keeps telling me. I’m worried that I’ll suffocate my child when we do stomach time, or accidentally rip his leg off when I go to change his diaper. I’m afraid he’ll be too warm when he sleeps, or too cold, or that I won’t love him enough, and I could go on and on and on until I would sound like a bona fide madman – and every parent I talk to just smiles and says that I’ll end up figuring it all out, just like the billions of parents before me have. They’d better be right, because if not then I’m going to find every parent in the world and say very mean things to them. But there’s a comfort in knowing that a whole lot of people have been there before me. And that tends to be true of every major change that we face. Other people have gotten divorced, transferred to a new department or city, quit a stable career to start their own business, and coped with the loss of loved ones. There are others who know what you’re going through, and when they promise that you’ll make it safely to the other side, it’s nice to know that they kinda sorta know what they’re talking about.
So that’s it. I hope that helps you deal with whatever massive changes you might be facing right now. As for myself, I’d like to tell you that I’m going to spend my last kid-free days partying and staying up until 2am. But mostly I’m painting walls and researching insurance options. If actual parenthood is somehow more boring than pre-parenthood, I seriously don’t know if I’ll survive.