My father once said to me something that always stuck with me, and now that I have my daughter I understand it better…
“When you are single, your biggest fears are ‘What terrible things can happen to me?’ When you are married, your biggest fears are ‘What terrible things can happen to my wife?’… But when you have kids your biggest fears are ‘What terrible things can happen to my child?’ and the last one will be scarier than anything you can imagine.”
When my daughter was born premature, and her health and survival was not a given I realized what terrified felt like. I had been scared before and I had been worried a million times, but nothing like the night she was born as I was trying to understand and process what was going on around me. We had been to the doctors just a few days before and everything was normal, my wife was healthy, and she had followed the “rules” of a pregnancy to the letter of the law. Everything was normal, until it wasn’t.
So, as things went completely awry and I sat in that hospital hallway begging for scraps of information, I was helpless and useless. I couldn’t do anything for anyone. I couldn’t help my wife, I couldn’t help my newborn daughter… I wasn’t even allowed in the room during the emergency surgery, because I would just be in the way. It’s a rock bottom of emotion, and I hope I never come close to it again.
Now for the positive part of this. As my daughter got stronger, and we got further away from the scary beginning I started to realize some of the more abstract effects her beginning brought to my life. I realized the little things in life weren’t bothering me as much. I didn’t get as agitated by day to day annoyances like I used to, and in the event that I was upset about a minor thing, I could get over it much quicker.
I know this isn’t just in my own head, because my wife and some close friends have noticed it as well. It just takes a whole lot to get me real upset these days. The core reason is this… I’ve seen the worst thing that can happen to me. So the bottom line is this, if my daughter and my wife are ok, then in the end I will be ok. Most other problems are relatively fleeting, and I try not to get bogged down in them anymore.
I’m far from perfect, and I still get agitated at foolish things. That’s human nature, but my daughter’s beginning has helped ground me a lot. The nice part is that getting over the negatives in life faster has left me with way more time to focus on the positives. It’s made me a happier person overall, and that’s one more thing I have to thank my daughter for.