COLUMNS

SHE CALLS ME ‘DADADADA’

Thanks to Chloe, I couldn’t be happier on my first Father’s Day as a dad

MICHAEL SNIDER June 20 2005
COLUMNS

SHE CALLS ME ‘DADADADA’

Thanks to Chloe, I couldn’t be happier on my first Father’s Day as a dad

MICHAEL SNIDER June 20 2005

SHE CALLS ME ‘DADADADA’

Over to You

MICHAEL SNIDER

Thanks to Chloe, I couldn’t be happier on my first Father’s Day as a dad

I WAS HOLDING my wife’s hand, both of us hidden behind a blue curtain erected just below her chest, while the medical staff calmly talked their way through a C-section delivery. The doctor told Tammy she was going to feel “a little tugging,” but that was a bit of an understatement. My wife, who’d earned a reprieve from an ungodly 30 hours of labour with a shot of morphine, started sliding on the table like someone was yanking on her feet.

And then we heard a wail, loud and full. It filled the room and my head and my face got

so hot I couldn’t focus. Tammy kept telling me to go see if the baby was okay, but I was paralyzed. The nurse cleaned Chloe up, walked around the curtain and put her in my arms while my wife craned her neck on the table. Tammy called her name and Chloe open her eyes and looked up at me. It was the most glorious moment of my life.

We’d had a terrible time getting pregnant. Five years we tried, through emotional highs and lows, cocktails of drugs (we’d refer to injection time as “happy hour”), and invasive insemination procedures.

Five years. And then it just happened during a lull in the treatments. Chloe Blaire, a.k.a. Boo Bear (or The Spawn on particularly cranky days), will be 11 months old by Father’s Day. Believe me when I tell you she’s the most beautiful baby you’ve ever seen—blue eyes as big and as round as marbles and cheeks that could each hold at least one fair-sized walnut.

And she’s going to have a sister soon. Yes, the couple who figured it would take another five years went and got pregnant again after just five months. My wife, an elementary school teacher, cut short her maternity leave and went back to work to log enough hours by the end of June to qualify for Employment Insurance in September, when No. 2 is due. With no desire to plop Chloe in daycare, I arranged to stay home until school’s out. I’ve been filling the roll of Mr. Mom for three months now, and my one epiphany? I have no idea how my wife kept the house running so damn efficiently.

When you think about fatherhood before actually joining the club, you imagine it in short bursts, like snapshots in an album. Dad throwing baby in the air; Dad wrinkling his nose changing diapers; Dad tearing through the house with laughing baby on his shoulders. You don’t foresee the most significant aspect—the fact that it’s constant. After breakfast and an hour-long circuit through the park, it’s back home for nap time. The kitchen is usually a mess, so I clean it. Then Chloe’s awake, needs a change,

then lunch, then a little carefully supervised playtime, then maybe a trip to the grocery store, then another change and an afternoon nap. Mom’s home soon, gotta vacuum, or mow the lawn or start the laundry. What’ll we eat for dinner?

Look, I knew what I was getting into, just not what I was getting into. And as all you mothers out there stifle gales of laughter, let me come right out and say it: It’s not easy being a mom.

I mean, who knew that just fastening a barrette in a 10-month-old’s hair would be like a game of pin the tail on the meanest

bronco in the pen? And the sleeping! I must have asked every parent in the mall, “Is yours sleeping through the night?” Chloe joins us in bed around midnight and snuggles between us. I’ve woken up a few times with a pudgy, warm hand patting my face like a blind person searching for a mental image. I crack one eyelid and focus on her cherubic face three inches away, soother working mechanically, and try to cajole her into lying down. She responds by gripping my bottom lip and trying to stretch it over the bedpost. “Okay, I’m up!”

The truth is, the simple act of becoming a dad, whether stay-at-home or otherwise, is transformative. I no longer drive at warp speed down the highway. I take responsibility (most days) for what needs to be done around the house. I glare menacingly at any teenage boy who crosses my path, despite the fact Chloe’s still 20 years away from being allowed to date. Okay, 19. And when she reverts to being “The Spawn,” I temper my desire to put her on the curb by remembering the delivery room.

The payoff, of course, is spending the days with my sweet baby. I’ve watched her learn to crawl and I’ve heard her utter her first words (dadadada—that’s a word, right?) She’s her father’s pride and joy, my heart crawling around on the floor. It’s hard to admit in today’s society, where status and career occupy such importance, but being a father defines me. My happiest time of the day is giving her a bottle. Her eyelids gradually flutter closed and her breathing deepens. I look down on her with more love than I ever imagined and whisper that I think she’s spectacular, that I love her and that I’ll give her everything in the world.

Yes, the third Sunday in june belongs to dads. But for me, every day is father’s day. f?H

Michael Snider is a researcher-reporter for Maclean’s. To comment: overtoyou@macleans.ca