The delivery was made at 12:23 AM on December 23, 1991. It was 9 lbs. 8 oz. and 22 inches long. It was slimy and wet and placenta-covered and pink and red and squirmy. Her hair was black, her body fat and shapeless. It was, and even is today, one of the grossest things I have ever seen—the birth of my daughter. I believe in the responsibility of caring for my kids.
When the nurse, just back from lunch in the hospital cafeteria, handed me this child to hold while she took a sampling of blood, a torture which included the pricking of the small, pink foot, I felt the emotions of fatherhood ignite. The immediate emotion was fear, fear of dropping her. What father has not felt that fear while holding their newborn? The next emotion was OH MY GOD look at what I have helped to create—a living, breathing person that I would be responsible to take care of for an eternity. So there, in the small hospital nursery where a dozen or so other lives had just come into this world, the nurse still taking blood because blood counts were irregular, I made a pledge to this bundle of crying joy. No matter what we must endure in our lives together, I, your father, would be by your side through the dark as well as the light.
That bundle of joy is sixteen now. A few nights ago—sixteen years, nine days, twelve hours after I had held her in the hospital—she called me up to her bedroom to tell me she had broken up with her boyfriend. I sat on her bed surrounded by purple walls I had painted and watched as she cried, listened as she told the story of her break-up.
She has endured bumps and bruises and the divorce of her parents. She has endured winning and losing on the soccer field and on the volleyball court. She has lived the ups and downs of having a boyfriend. And all along the way, I have been by her side because I believe in my responsibility as a father.
I repeated this pledge on January 30, 2000 when another delivery was made. This one was 8lbs. 9 oz. and 20 inches long. This time I cut the umbilical cord. This time I was peed on. But no matter the circumstances, I believe that a father has the responsibility to care for the person he has brought into this world.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.