On March 1st, 2001, our tulip magnolia bloomed. Because we’d only moved into our house the previous summer, my wife Tina and I hadn’t seen it like this before. Tina was very pregnant with our first child who was due at any moment. As we sat admiring the glorious pink flowers from our patio, she grabbed her massive stomach and said, “It’s time.” This was it. The moment all first-time fathers prepare for. Only, somehow, all sense of reason escaped me. I remember feeling like I was running in quicksand as I went inside the house to gather up all the things we needed to take to the hospital. Suddenly, I went into the attic and started rustling around. For no reason. “JIM LET’S GO!” Tina yelled from the kitchen. Why am I in the attic?, I recall asking myself. At that point I escaped the quicksand and swept my wife into the car and raced the two miles across town to the hospital where we’d taken Lamas classes for a couple of months. During the drive, I honked my horn and flashed my lights – even with no one in front of me. I was about to become a Dad. Until March 1, 2001, I didn’t really even like children. But at some point in the next few hours I was about to have one of my own. We elected not to know the gender.
I pulled into the front of the hospital honking my horn and yelling for the orderlies, “WE’VE GOT A BABY HERE!” They rushed over and put Tina in a wheelchair while I parked the car in some tryptic maze that I ended up getting lost in for fifteen minutes. By the time I found her, she was resting comfortably in a private room. I was sweating. She was beautiful.
A few hours later, I watched my wife pull our first child from from her own body. I didn’t faint. It was a girl. She was born with her eyes open. I cut the cord. The wave of peace that swept over me at that moment has never occurred since. Not even with the birth of our second daughter.
A few days later, the drive back from the hospital was the antithesis of the drive there. It seemed to take an hour to traverse the quiet neighborhood streets that I tore through with flashing lights and blaring horn a few days before. Things had changed. There was a new life in my life. A helpless little child swaddled in blankets in the backseat of our new minivan.
Eleven years. The blink of an eye. Now our beautiful baby girl is in the last phase of her own childhood – and on the verge of major changes. It’s bittersweet. It’s beautiful. And it breaks my heart. Over the past eleven years I’ve learned one thing – that I love being a father. I believe, without question, that being a father is the reason I was put on this earth. But it’s not because I’m a natural at it or that I’m some kind of super hero. In fact, I fail every day at it. And I’m pretty sure I learn more from my children than they do from me. But the love that has expanded my heart as a result of having children is something I could have never experienced on my own.
As for Agatha Rose, she’s the happiest child I’ve ever known. She loves being a kid. She’s a great athlete and student. She’s respectful of others. She’s kind, but has a fire about her. I’m so proud of her that I can’t really express it. Not yet. Maybe not ever. Instead, I just wanted to share this day with the world. My baby girl is eleven. She changed my life and makes me a better man.
Happy birthday, Agatha Rose. May the wind always be at your back. Even when it’s not.