Notes from a Hundred-hour Dad

Posted: March 27, 2012 in Who we are
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From Laura: I promised that I would post something as soon as we had news about my literary, or literal baby. For those of you not on Facebook, forgive us for taking a few days to announce that the baby is finally here! Gabriel Sagada Davis was born on Saturday, March 17 at 8:07 a.m.
After a hard night of labor, we learned that our child was every bit as stubborn as his parents: he was trying to come out sideways, and as a result his heart rate was dropping to dangerously low levels. While a C-section wasn’t what we’d planned, we are intensely grateful for modern medicine; if this had happened 100 years ago, Gabe and I probably both wouldn’t be here now. He came out perfect (except for an oblong head and bruised face, which have since healed) and healthy, and even on the tired nights, we’re delighted to realize how much fun we’re having with him in our world.

“Gabriel” means “mighty man of God,” a blessing we have had for this little boy for many months. Sagada is the name of a gorgeous mountain town in the Filipino rice terraces, and one of the most beautiful places we’ve ever been. We want this child to grow up understanding that he was not just made in the Philippines, but that our year there readied us for parenthood. We hope he will love that country as much as we do, and look forward to taking him back there someday.

As for the literary baby, after getting some feedback from agents and other readers, I revised, revised again, and revised again to complete draft #7–what I hope will be a final draft (at least for now)–just days before Gabriel was born. Three literary agents have asked for it in the past three weeks, so now I get to pray and wait.

From Nate: when we were in the Philippines, the story we often heard was that women turned to prostitution because they had no other options, and would do anything to support their child. Now that I have one of my own, I can understand their actions as I never could before. 

Notes from a Hundred-hour Dad
It’s been four days since the rest of my life began, 100 hours that will forever stand out from the previous 300,000 I’ve lived. In the huge realm of fatherhood, I’ve earned just a spit-up of knowledge—but here it is:

To be a dad is to feel unworthy of the title. Unfitting of the shoes. Unsure of the task.

It’s fumbling and funneling formula to your child in the dark through a finger-taped tube.
Coming to terms with non-word neo-cuteisms like “boppy” and “onesie.”
It’s posting the same pictures your pre-dad self found vapid.

To be a dad is to live life in the margins, have but a single hand to yourself, pause writing for burping. To be a dad is to hold the tuna sandwich in the right hand and the baby in the left.

It’s accepting that life is going to happen to your kid no matter how tight you hug him.
Putting oneself second—or third—despite one’s first inclinations.
It’s a blankie burrito that keeps coming unwrapped.

To be a dad is to feel soul-stretching affection and deity-doubting anguish in the span of an evening. To wonder what on this wretched planet will stop the crying that jars the joists of your being. To be a dad is to understand why babies get shaken.

It’s dreading that your child will be weighed in the hospital scales, and found wanting.
Worrying—or not—being separated by tenths of a degree.
It’s praying for pink skin, yellow pee, and green poop.

To be a dad is to have discussed all the topics, bought all the books, asked all the relatives, hit all the web sites, stockpiled all the stuff, downloaded all the apps, heard all the advice, joined all the groups—and still not know if you’re doing it right.

It’s being forced at bottlepoint to dig deep within—and not knowing what you’ll find.
Wandering an unfamiliar land wearing a backpack of neglected-family guilt.
It’s heritage and hope made squalling, squirming flesh.

To be a dad is to stand at the corner of universal and personal, to find your needle in the haystack of seven billion straws, to have numbers tattooed on your soul. It is to have six pounds, fourteen ounces be not an amount on a scale, but be love encapsulated, medicine’s gift, dark tiny eyes looking up.

It’s watching the unfolding of the mother in your wife—and holding onto the lover in her too. It’s remembering that sexy lasts longer than stretch marks.
Snapping from sleep at a single squeak, a single snuffle, a single ragged breath.
It’s wrenching your reluctant body clock into Baby Nonstandard Time.

To be a dad is to take love-at-first-cry economics. To grasp that cars, houses, jobs and kidneys are coins in the cushions compared to the miniature human in the bassinet. To think you’d do anything, and mean it.

It’s being half of something wonderful, sidestepping karma, seeing the divine wearing a diaper.
The shaking-hands panic of being trusted with something so valuable.
It’s sobbing a blessing over your son and hoping it will stick.

To be a dad is to strum a primal string, to stub one’s toe upon Rage boxed up in the basement, to think Woe to Him Who So Much as Pulls a Hair from My Child’s Fragile, Still-forming Head. To be a dad is to glimpse the killer within.

To be a dad and an employee is to wonder if they notice your ragged edges.
To be a dad and an artist is to face the inferiority of your every other creation.
To be a dad and a husband is to juggle two balls, and hope they’re rubber, not glass.

To be a dad is to be shoved into being the Here where the buck stops. Being Provider, Proclaimer, Protector. And ruing and regretting when you can’t, aren’t, or didn’t.

It’s knowing you’ll screw up perfection, and not knowing how bad.
Having your heart burst out your tear ducts.
It’s seeing that love is too meager a word.

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Comments
  1. Kenny says:

    DA and I are so happy for you two. Nate and Laura, we have some sense of your joy for your little one, as we have six children – and it never gets old or boring. Every life is so precious.

    With having 5 daughters, when I see the girls on the streets in the Philippines, I always think of my own girls and for the grace of God, that would be their plight as well. God bless you three, and thanks for speaking out for those who cannot.

    Our love to you.

    Kenny and DA Sacht

    • FreeIsaVerb says:

      Thanks for reading Kenny! We have just a small sense of the great adventure we’ve embarked upon, but we’re not as worried as we might be because so many friends and family have been so encouraging and supportive. We pray regularly for your work with Wipe Every Tear, and thank God for your hearts for the women.

  2. M says:

    Naiyak ako! Gabriel Sagada is blessed with wonderful, loving parents.

  3. Anne says:

    Y’all are just amazing writers! Congratulations on beautiful Gabriel! I love the flow, the meaning and the purpose of his name. You are already wonderful parents, and he is a blessed boy to be born to the two of you! Welcome sweet Gabriel! Lots of Love to your Family!!

  4. David Diepenbrock says:

    Nicely put! Feel free to drop me a line if you find yourself needing one more person’s opinion on something. I’m sure you, like every other parent, gets more than enough unsolicited advice (and criticisms).

  5. Stephen George says:

    Beautifully rendered, Nate. As a dad of young boys myself, I hear echoes of my own heart in your words. It’s a wonder you had time to write this — but I’m so glad you did.

  6. Jennifer says:

    Wow. I remember a question you asked on Facebook a month or two ago: “Are we ready for parenthood?” Funny how that question seems so misplaced now.

  7. Love to you both, well make that three now. 🙂 I am so moved by Nate’s writing. And thanks for the update on the literary baby, too, Laura! May the Lord Bless and Keep you three dear hearts.

    • FreeIsaVerb says:

      Thanks Sarah! I didn’t make the finals for the essay contest that prompted this piece, but it’s great to know that my words touched friends and family. We appreciate you reading.

  8. Bart Garrett says:

    I really beautiful and touching tribute! Thanks for sharing this with us!

    • FreeIsaVerb says:

      Thanks Bart! I got a little misty-eyed at the end of church the other day, when you said the Numbers blessing to us; that’s the one I’ve been saying over Gabe every night, and which unleashed such a torrent of emotion that first night of his life.

  9. Pris Gossman says:

    Sarah forwarded your blog to us, knowing that we would find it meaningful. I’ve always regretted just missing meeting you two when we visited Manila last year, and now that I’ve read your blog I regret it even more. What a beautiful post! And so touching. Thank you for reminding me of those overwhelming emotions of new parenthood. You brought coursing tears to my eyes! Many rich blessings on the journey that you are beginning. And remember- it may take 20 years to get Gabriel to the Philippines but you’ll be glad you did. 🙂

  10. CG Olsen says:

    This is a great post guys– so glad for the both of you, and hope I will be able to see you sometime soon.

  11. Sarah says:

    Absolutely beautiful….

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