How To Make a Father

There may come a time that you might wake up in the middle of the night and say to yourself—I think I would like to be a father.

You will roll over excitedly and peer at your sleeping wife, her brow furrowed in dreams and drool puddling from her open lips.  You will think, ‘should I wake her now and inform her of this revelation?’

Then you will remember the last time you woke her up, for a different revelation (the one about wanting to learn to unicycle) and you will rub your arm instinctively where the bruises were from that experience.

You will decide it can wait until morning.


In the beginning, it will be a secret.  You will see your wife flash her crooked smile and watch her cross and uncross her legs at a dinner party and think, I’m going to make a baby with her tonight.  You will have to leave the room to distract yourself from this notion, lest other party goers see evidence of your thoughts.

There will be deals between parts of you and parts of her that are unspoken and unrealized—
Sperm: ‘Hello egg, you can run but you can’t hide.”
Egg: ‘Bring it slowpokes’
Sperm: We’ve been training, we are–each of us– now  the Michael Phelps of fertilization.’

You will come home from work one day and see her crying on the stairs, her head in her hands.  You will steel yourself against the disappointment and rub her hair, you will tell her “It’s okay, we will try again next month” and  be surprised when you sound much more cheerful than you feel.

But then you will see her slowly lift her head and flash a crooked smile at you with blotchy eyes. She will just nod her head slowly up and down. And then in circles, yes, yes, yes.

And then you both will cry, at the collision of what is starting and ending all at once.

Of what is unseen and yet, right there with you, on the stairs in early evening.

The secret is out.

You will buy books, you will build cribs, you will doubt yourself.

You will gain 10 pounds of sympathy weight.  You will use words like “lactation consultant” and “onesie” at happy hour with male coworkers.  You will look around your house and see nothing but danger lurking in every plant, every sharp edged table, every choking hazard.

You will wonder if your nighttime revelation, like the unicycle experiment, was a smart choice. You will wonder if you will know what to do.
You will fear, in a grip of terror, that your destiny is already predetermined.

You will see your wife’s thick belly rising and falling in her sleep and consider, irrationally, running away.

But you will stay.
You know nothing, you aren’t prepared,
but you will stay.

You will drive your wife to the hospital in the middle of the night, frantic and excited.  You will drive both of you home, exhausted, dejected. Not yet.

You will drive your wife to the hospital, suspicious and hopeful. You will call your parents and hers.  It’s time.

You took classes and had a plan.
But no one told you what you really needed to know.

There will be blood.  There will be a finger-less clenching at your heart so fierce that you will be glad that you are in the hospital, should you need a cardiologist or a transplant.
There will be irrational guilt and selfish musing—This looks painful, I did this to her.  I’m glad it’s not me.

There will be screaming and tears.  And then, brightness, as you wonder, confusedly, if God himself had opened a window to Heaven.  And you were an atheist. And you were a cynic.

But you are not sure of anything anymore when the walls shake with a cry that you have never heard and yet always known.
They will thrust a warmish, small thing into your arms and you will look at a baby that appeared from nowhere and look back at the nurse, shaking your head.
You will say, “I don’t know how to hold him” but she will smile and just pat your shoulder.

But you are holding him.
This is not like the unicycle, there is no trick, no special skill involved. You can’t fall. You just know. You look at your wife and she gives you a tired, crooked smile.

I’m doing this, I’m really kind of good at it. You want to scream out loud to her with relief and pride.

You are holding him, this pink skinned child you made out of unseen matter.

But when you realize that, really it is he that is holding you, it is done.

You are made. You are a father, then.

You are, inexplicably, amazingly more…. than anything you have ever been.

How do you know you’re a daddy?  Find out here:


Leave a Reply