Last year on Father’s Day, I had a small but distinct baby bump. I was 23 weeks pregnant, and Peter’s kicks were becoming stronger. Soon, he would assume the footling breech presentation that he maintained until delivery. If I had been followed by a perinatologist, a measurement of my cervical length would have probably indicated that I was not likely to carry my baby to term. However, since I was not closely monitored by my obstetrician, Son and I remained blissfully unaware that we would become parents in four short weeks.
Son and I went shopping for a mailbox at Lowe’s on Father’s Day last year. One of the representatives at Lowe’s congratulated Son and wished him a happy Father’s Day. I appreciated the sentiment, happy to be visibly pregnant. However, I thought it was a bit premature to wish Son a happy Father’s Day; his experience as a father was limited to observing his unborn baby on an ultrasound and brainstorming names. After enduring a trimester of morning sickness, it might make sense to wish a pregnant woman a happy Mother’s Day, but the work of fatherhood doesn’t really start until after the baby is born.
Now, 12 months later, Son has more than earned the right to a happy Father’s Day.
Just before my water broke on July 13th, I closed my eyes and kept them sealed shut through all the drama that ensued. Even though Son was not present for Peter’s delivery, he saw Peter before I did. He saw Peter’s foot sticking out of my womb before I was taken to the operating room; he watched as the NICU team bagged Peter after birth – our baby’s tiny chest rising and falling, one eye slowly opening to look upon the world for the first time. Son christened Peter when the neonatologist asked us whether our son had a name.
Son is an even-tempered individual. He is slow to anger, and I’ve never seen him cry. But he was scared during Peter’s first weeks, too scared to tell his family that Peter had arrived already. Too scared to change Peter’s diaper. Almost too scared to hold his baby boy. He held Peter for the first time when Peter was 7 days old. Peter’s alarms went off a lot while Son was holding Peter on July 20th, so it was a few weeks before I could tempt Son to hold Peter again.
Son has always been very protective of Peter, careful to keep him warm, clean, safe, healthy. He often takes care of Peter at night, waking to feed him while I continue to sleep. He is better at putting Peter to bed than I am because he has more patience than I have. He is better at remembering to give Peter his vitamins than I am. He changes diapers, helps me bathe Peter, and shares bites of his dinner with our greedy son. Peter’s face lights up when Son gets home from work. Peter loves to watch as Dad works in the yard or around the house. Son often calls Peter a mama’s boy, but Peter adores his dad, too.
Some people say that a newborn baby’s first cry is the most beautiful sound. I’m skeptical that it could be more beautiful than the sound of Peter laughing as his father makes funny faces.
Happy Father’s Day, Son! You’ve become a fantastic dad over the past eleven months, more caring and patient than I could have imagined last year.