When I found out I was going to be a father…no, strike that. When I found out I was going to be a daddy, I was ready to jump right in and do ALL the things!That was until I realized that there wasn’t much for me TO do. I went to the first appointment and watched in amazement at the sheer number of doo-dads and gifts they lavished on my wife. Each thing she pulled from the amazing bag of swag was aimed at helping her be the best mother possible. So, it was with no lack of disappointment that I walked out almost empty-handed. I say almost because they did throw me a token book about being a dad. It wasn’t anything to write home about. In fact, it sort of sucked. Not that the information contained therein was lacking, mind you. It’s just that the book was so dry and boring. It was the Melba Toast of parenting books. And, it left me feeling ill-equipped to be a dad.
So, I did the only thing I could do. I went shopping. I didn’t go perusing the self-help aisles at the local bookstore. (You know, because they totally existed back then!) Nope, after purchasing a stuffed animal, I decided to get a book. A children’s book. I remember my wife looking at me like I was crazy. What were we going to do with a book when I wouldn’t be able to read it to the baby for several more months.
I don’t know then what possessed me to put my foot down and demand we get the book. I don’t know now, for that matter. I just remember it being of supreme importance to me. We got home and set the book and stuffed duck on the shelf and waited. Then, one day I got the wild idea that I’d read the book to the baby while it was in mommy’s tummy! So, I read the book. Then, I read it again. And again. Every night before going to sleep, I would read to my wife’s tummy. And I never felt more foolish in my life. But I kept doing it.
I read every night until the day we found out we lost the baby. Then, that night, with tears pouring down my cheeks I read that book one last time. My wife was crying when I finished and she said I’d never read it better.
And Like a Phoenix We Rose
Fast forward three months. We decided to try again. She got pregnant almost immediately, and I started reading that same book the day we found out. It was Kitten’s First Full Moon. I read that book till I was sick of it. So, we went out and bought some other ones to supplement reading time. Near the end of the pregnancy, my wife got put on hospitalized bed rest, for fear of preterm labor. I was lucky enough to work from the hospital most days. I ran back and forth from the house to the hospital taking care of the animals, and my job, then spending every free minute with my wife and unborn son.
And every single night, I read Kitten’s First Full Moon. I looked back and there were only two nights that our Little Man didn’t get a bedtime story. In fact, before my wife got put on bed rest, we took a vacation to the beach (turned out to be our last child-free vacation) and I forgot the books. So, I recited the story from memory, and wrote two more stories while we were there.
The day of Little Man’s arrival came. Even though we’d had a couple of scares, and then the bed rest ordeal, there was no preterm labor. In fact, my wife had to be induced, and then go through an emergency C-Section because he wouldn’t come out of there. So, there we were, the three of us, in the operating room. I sat by my wife’s head behind the curtain that blocked the view of her being flayed open before me. I could feel them tugging and jerking her body trying to wrest him from her. I could smell cooked flesh in the air from the electric scalpel they used to make the incision. Then, he was free. Little Man came into the world mad as hell and let us all know about it.
I know what you’re thinking.
“But, how did that book make you a better daddy?”
They called me over to cut the umbilical cord. Little Man was kicking and screaming. The nurse was telling me what I needed to do to cut the cord, and I waved her off. I stuck my head down and said, “Hey buddy, what’s the matter? It’s nice to finally meet you.”
He stopped crying and turned his head to me. He stared at me for several long seconds, then stopped kicking. He watched silently as I cut the cord, then swaddled him. The cranky old nurse, who had been gruffly trying to educate me on what I needed to do, just stared at us. She finally spoke up and said, “I’ve been doing this for 25 years, and I’ve never seen that happen. Ever.”
I looked up and her eyes were wide and misty. She just shook her head slowly then said, “You don’t need me to tell you what to do. You’ve got this.”
While my wife was getting stapled up, my son and I paced in our room waiting for her to return. He never cried. He nuzzled into my neck and made soft cooing sounds. I was talking to my mom on the phone and she was at a loss for words. She finally said, “Scotty, he already knows you.”
And that’s when I knew, that reading to my son each and every night while he was in utero, had made me a better dad. I thought back to that swag bag my wife and I got when she was first pregnant. Out of all the things in that bag, one book was designated for me, so that I could be a better daddy. And all I could think was, “They put the wrong book in the bag.”
So, if you happen to be an OB-GYN and you’re reading this, how about you toss a copy of Kitten’s First Full Moon in the gift bag so dad can get a head start on getting to know his kids?
This post is part of a blog hop going on over at Books Make a Difference! Go and see how books have made differences in several parents’ lives.