At 50, most of my friends had already watched their children graduate high school and even graduate college. The late night rituals of walking through the hallways in near darkness and not stumbling -- they had made that trip so many times that every step was second nature -- so they could feed and calm a crying baby, while trying not to wake their partner were over. And the drastic task of changing a dirty diaper by the light of their cellphone, that is over also. All my friends are now enjoying their lives in a way they could only imagine.
At 51, I thought I had escaped fatherhood; I had dodged a few close calls along the way though. After those close calls I made sure that I didn't have any unplanned children until after I was married and settled down . . . that was the right thing to do. Wasn't it?
My life wasn't like most. By the time I was in high school I had nearly seen half the world and I saw the other half just after graduation. I didn't get married or graduate college until my late 40s. And I didn't become a father until I was in my 50s. My life was backwards. I should have been married, graduated college, and had a child by the time I was 30 or so and I should have been traveling the world (or at least planning it) by the time I was in my 50s.
One day, my wife said she had a surprise for me. I wondered what it could be. Concert tickets? A weekend to myself? A big screen TV? Not even close. Her surprise was that she was pregnant, or as she put it, "we were pregnant." I didn't know what to say. I was speechless. I was dumbfounded. I was caught off guard. This was unexpected. She said the home pregnancy kit tested positive. I told her not to be too sure, those "things" were known to be wrong (whilst having my fingers crossed). I wouldn't believe it until a doctor told her so. A week later, a doctor told her so . . . she was officially pregnant.
The pregnancy went unexpectedly well seeing how she was in her 40s and I was in my 50s. Not much to talk about ... no morning sickness, no strange cravings, no drastic mood swings. Being an expectant father, I found myself watching parents who were with their children. I started to watch how parents interacted with their children. After all, I never had a child and I needed to learn somewhere. I watched how the grownups spoke to their children. I watched how they disciplined their children in public. I even observed how the children were dressed and groomed. You could say I was acting a little creepy if you didn't know my circumstances.
I thought I was acting natural though because I had never been around children before. I had no idea what to do. I had never changed a diaper or dressed a child. I had never had to entertain a child. I had never fed a baby or even burped one. I was 51 . . . what did I know about children!
I hoped all my observations paid off because the baby decided she was finally ready to enter the world. Everything was just right and the midwives agreed that it was time. I was with my wife the whole way since, after all, we were both pregnant. I suited up into a set of scrubs and stood next to my wife the whole time, holding her hand and reassuring her everything was okay.
After she was laid out on the table, they put a make-shift curtain up between "us and them." On one side of the "wall" was just me and my wife and occasionally the anesthesiologist would drop by to make sure my wife couldn't feel any pain. But on the other side was a team of professionals hard at work: nurses and midwives and a future midwife standing on the sidelines observing.
The baby came out kicking and ready to take on the world. The curtain was dropped and the midwife held her up, like an actress taking the stage; the baby still had the umbilical cord attached and a little blood: Straight from the womb. She had her arms and legs stretched out much like a kitten does when you hold it by the gruff, her mouth was open -- reminiscent of a nest full of newly hatched birds. The curtain went back up so the doctors could finish and clean the baby before giving her to us.
My life had now changed; nothing has been the same since.