Things are going to be different

April 20 | Guest post by Jesse Bartke
Jesse with his kickass son, Miles
My wife and I have always lived a fairly uncomplicated life. We enjoy the simple things – walks in the woods with the dogs, long car rides and nice simple dinners made from scratch with local ingredients, over which we sit and talk about our days. We’ve worked to reduce the clutter in our lives so we can exist, and enjoy just being. When Ashby got pregnant we continued these routines, except with a bit more clutter slowly filling our closets and a few more naps interspersed. Over dinner we would envision what our life with a child would be like, the adventures we would enjoy, and whose traits he would be better off with. Then we’d plop down on the couch and watch part of a movie and go to bed. We would sleep, wake up to an alarm, go to work and start the process all over again. Everyone kept saying to us, “things are going to be different when you have a kid”. They always said it with a slightly evil smile, and went on to explain that we would never again have time to cook nice meals or sit and enjoy each other’s company or brush our teeth.

I always knew that those external things would change, I was ready for that. I was lucky enough to be in the rare club of expecting Dads who could already change an infant’s diaper faster than you can whistle Dixie while simultaneously reading “Good Night Moon” to a restless toddler. I knew we were being a bit naive in thinking that the transition wouldn’t be all that noticeable, but the land of naive is a wonderful place to live.

When we got home things sure were different, but it was more of a shift in routines kind of different than anything else. We still cook nice simple dinners from scratch with local ingredients – only now we trade off baby bouncing and veggie chopping duties. We still sit and enjoy those dinners together, usually while they’re still hot, with Miles bouncing on a knee or swinging beside the table. Although we take the dogs for fewer walks, take fewer car rides, and never have to worry about using an alarm, I wouldn’t say that life is all that different, on the surface. It’s just changed.

What I never put much thought into was the internal change that my son would bring. The warning that your emotional state will never have the same balance again is never tossed out as readily as the other “your life is gonna change”s that experienced parents like to throw your way – all the “oh you won’t have the time, energy, money, freedom, waistline to do this or that.” Now, don’t get me wrong, on some level I knew that I would have some kind of emotional response to bringing another being into my inner circle, but what I didn’t take into account was the ripple effect, how it would end up affecting every aspect of my life.

This ripple effect started very subtly, when Miles was born. From the first instant when the midwife handed him to Ashby, I reached around and he grabbed onto my finger, and I felt a rush of emotion that stayed. It was as if someone opened me up, poured in a large vat of fatherhood and then sealed me back up again. There was no doubt that something big had happened, and that stayed with me. Somehow, though, I still didn’t feel different – I felt suddenly right. It was something that made me feel more like me than I had ever felt before. I wondered if it was just the sleep deprivation or how quickly it all had changed, and I waited, a little nervously, for the “difference” to set in.

It wasn’t until this past weekend at 7:30 am riding alone in my car down I-95 that I realized how different things were. I was on my way to a rugby tournament, my main source of stress relief, after a particularly difficult week at work. Although rugby is something that has always brought me a great deal of joy and satisfaction, that morning the game was an afterthought. What I kept thinking about was how much I missed getting up with Miles at 6:00 on a Saturday morning and tip-toeing out of the bedroom so my wife could get a few extra hours of well deserved sleep; sneaking down to the kitchen, placing Miles in his swing facing out the window, putting on a Lyle Lovett record and then plopping down on the couch with a hot cup of coffee to watch my son swing, staring sleepily out the window and then turning to smile at me. I watch him rock back and forth and back and forth. Then once he is ready for a snack and a snooze we crawl back into bed with Mom and cuddle up. This is now my ideal weekend, far from a rugby match and loud post-game party. My favorite moments these days are a toothless smile, squeaks and coos, and naps with my son curled up on my chest. Now, when I find out that friends are expecting their first child, I look them right in the eye, smile and say, “things are going to be different when you have a kid.”

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  1. I never imagined how our daughter would change our lives, and so much for the better. I never knew how one being's happiness would become the center of my world. How much I would be willing to do to ensure it. I too used to have things that were my favored stress reliefs, now it's holding her.. No activity calms or comforts me as much as leaning down and taking a sniff of babyhead. I swear if they could bottle it, world peace would be right around the corner.

    Congrats on finding the joy and peace in parenthood that I have too. I do honestly feel for those parents that have a much harder time of it, but I thank my lucky stars that my experience has been such a delight.

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  2. You guys are such a sweet family.

    When we left the hospital with our first baby, it was so surreal to watch people go about their usual business. I felt like "Don't they know the most important thing in the world has happened? Think of how many of these people don't have any conception of this feeling and experience."

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    • My fondest memory (now..) at the time a little hair raising, was driving down the road for the first time with her in the car. Having my husband look at me and state, 'Everyone else on the road is a maniac.'

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  3. 32 weeks pregnant and now sobbing like a baby…that was beautiful, and everything we hope to have. Thank you for writing such a heartfelt piece on something other than the nightmare of 1am feedings and the end of my social life as I know it. Expectant first-time moms need more reading material like this, especially in the last trimester when everything becomes a not-too-distant reality.

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  4. *Sniff* Wow. I'm still in early pregnancy stages (probably explains the constant weepiness). Thank you for giving me a positive look at the changes that are coming. I'm already getting a little sick of the knowing eyebrow-waggling "Yoooouuu'llll seeeee…" in that evil voice. If I could wish for anything, its that my husband will be able to have the same kinds of simple Saturday mornings with our baby.

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    • The you'll see was something that started to really get annoying to Ashby and I, but then eventually it just got funny. It was almost like an initiation into some secret club- and the test is to see how you will respond to all of the horror stories. The thing is, maybe we are still in baby honeymoon mode, but the first things that come to my mind are all of the positives.

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  5. First, wipe the misty eyes. Alright, now I can type. That was so touching and sweet. It's so nice to hear a story of how fatherhood has touched someone so much. I don't have kids yet, and my partner is just warming up to the idea, but so many father's I know don't share that side of becoming a dad. It's nice to know. 🙂

  6. Wow. That was an amazing story, a story I've honestly never heard before. I hope that in the future, more men are willing to share thoughts similar to yours in such a clear manner.

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    • I agree and um my ovaries just exploded. AMAZING photo; sleep chubby babe sharing a tender moment with his loving father! LOVE it

  7. I know exactly what you mean about your ideal Saturday. I've always been okay with early mornings (7-8am was my usual) but my 7 month old has the internal alarm clock that goes off at 5 or 6. My husband will go get him from his crib, and sometimes they'll let me sleep a little more, but either way they always end up "sneaking" back into our room and attacking me with snuggles to wake me up. And then my babe gives me the biggest dopey grin and my heart melts a little. Somehow I never mind how early it is. So yes, things have changed. I wouldn't have it any other way.

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  8. I reeally enjoyed reading your story. We are planning children soon and its lovely to hear something nice fore a chacnge!

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  9. That just made me feel loads better about becoming a first time parent soon 🙂 THANK YOU!

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  10. This is beautifully written and very moving! Thank you for sharing – your son and partner are lucky to have such a self-aware man in their lives

  11. I would like to thank everyone for their kind words. It is mind boggling to think of how things were just a year ago before Miles entered into our lives, and how strange it is to go anywhere or do anything without him being a part of it now. In a fast paced world it is so fulfilling to just stop and enjoy each moment with him and my lovely wife. I could never go back to the way things were before.

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  12. I posted this as my gmail status so hopefully the father of my child will read it and not be so afraid. Thank you! <3

  13. That was beautiful. Just wait till he starts crawling and walking and talking. When he starts walking stable you can go on your walks in the woods. Babys love seeing new things.

    my fav part is when they start reaching for you. <3

  14. omg that totally just made me want my baby now!!! 🙂 3 more months and i get a sweet little boy of my own!! this story was beautiful and so warm!!!!

  15. I wish there were more posts like these. When all you hear about are the negatives of parenthood, from young-married-childless point of view… for me I started dreading the ideas of kids. Inexplicably, I want them… my perspectives have turned from… yeah… to viewing parenthood as something awful I'd have to endure if I wanted to have grown kids someday – and so I'd been reconsidering that gut desire to have children. This restored my faith that it could be a wonderful experience. Thank you.

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  16. I just cried buckets! I so wish my munchkin's daddy had this outlook 🙁 lucky miles and lucky family!

  17. 2 big thumbs up and happy tears, that was awesome! i think my "daddy" is going to be the same way 🙂 2 more weeks!!!!!!!

  18. Wow, this is super crazy moving. I've been so scared that having a baby will take over my life and turn it in to this crazy stressful thing…but your words show me that it will be 100% ok. Thank you!

  19. Although my son is not mine by birth, and though we did not bring him home until he was 4 months old, I went through the exact same range of emotions.

    I anticipated the anxiety, the emotion, the fear that would swell when bringing this tiny little person home with us that day. Suddenly we were responsible for his every need, for his very life. It didn't really hit me until several weeks later when family visited and accepted him as their own. They all smiled at me and said "things are different now, aren't they?" – and I felt just the same as any mom who went through 9 months of pregnancy and then childbirth could feel… I realized then how much I had changed.

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