Father’s Day

When I was 14, I needed to get a passport for a youth group mission trip to Mexico. Normally the passport process isn’t too big a deal, but it ended up being a decent stressor for my parents. You see, in order for a 14 year old minor to get a passport, you need a birth certificate. Well my mom, knowing that I was an enterprising, if sometimes naïve, 14 year old brat (never her word), knew that I would most certainly notice a name on the paperwork under biological father that I hadn’t seen before. So after much worry and fret on Mom’s part, I sat down with her and my dad and they told me something I had kinda known for a long time. Whether it was kids in elementary school asking why I had a different last name than my mom (I have her maiden name) or kids in middle school asking why my dad was 5’9″ and I looked like a hairless teenage Sasquatch, I had kinda always known that he wasn’t my biological father. However, I had always known he was my dad. 

I got to spend my first Father’s Day with the most gorgeous two women. I lounged around, ate waffles, watched a movie, and read my new badass cookbook (Meathead: the Science of Great Barbecue and Grilling). I even took a hammock nap with Claire and Roo in the 80 degree Lubbock sunshine (thanks Bear Butt Hammocks). Despite my ludicrously busy schedule (lol), I somehow found time to peruse all the awesome social media posts for Father’s Day and also got to FaceTime my parents a bit as well. Somewhere between the hashtags, maple syrup and bovine muscle diagrams, I found myself reflecting on the past four-ish months of my own fatherhood journey. From the instant I saw Roosevelt’s face my world was completely changed. Since then, I have barely missed a giggle or squirm from this little ball of fun and I can’t imagine that my life even existed before Jan 30th, 2017. I had a fantastic Father’s Day with the two women who gave me that name. 

My view from the hammock yesterday afternoon. 

I was reminded today that my own Dad wasn’t around me when I was 4 months old. He missed his first Father’s Day because he and my mom were only acquaintances then. Instead he had to jump in feet first to fatherhood a little before my first birthday. He has loved me with a fierce passion and care ever since. He opened his heart to my mom and me 25 years ago when it was just the two of us, and I can’t imagine our life without him in it. My dad taught me how to stand back up when I fell down, how to work through the pain and bullshit of life and still come home and clean up the dishes in the sink, and he taught me how to love other people through the hardest times. He is not a perfect man, but he is very much a perfect dad. 

A few weeks after Rosie was born, my dad told me he felt like his work with me was through. He said that he was so proud that I now had my own baby girl and knew that I was ready to be a father on my own. I still called him last week cause our plumbing was clogged. Somehow I doubt that his work will ever truly end. 

When I was 18, a close friend of our family coordinated an adoption for my dad and me. We signed papers and got to appear in front of the Judge. I was declared legally the son of Charles Wilson Martin IV. I didn’t always legally belong to him, but I do now. There’s even a new birth certificate. It has his name on it. 

Charles Wilson Martin III (Gramps), Me, Roo, and Charles Wilson Martin IV (Dad/Grandy) on Rosie’s first trip to Abilene in March. 

Just wanted to say a special thank you to all of the fathers out there raising children who haven’t always belonged to you but do now, and thanks to all of the moms who have to be both roles when there is no one else. 

I also wanted to thank all of my other “fathers” for their love and lessons over the years. Bill, Bob, Butch, Duane, Stephen, Kenny, Kade, Dennis and countless other coaches, teachers, mentors and friends along the way as well. Love to you all. 

This post is not at all about biological fathers and is strictly meant as a tribute to my dad. Since my adoption I have gotten to meet my biological father and have appreciated him and his family. We are infrequently in touch, but not because of animosity or any reason other than being busy and living far apart. I honestly hope we have more opportunities to build a relationship. He is a great Dad to his two girls. I was blessed to grow up without the disruption of regularly splitting time between parents, and the arrangement worked well for our family in ways that it can’t with others. I think that in some instances and circumstances, giving space is the better option.


Our Firth Story 

Two weeks before Rosie showed up, Claire and I sat in the OB’s office and cried. It was one of those scared shitless cries where the tears are just the manifestation of self pity that comes when a great plan falls apart. We were 37 weeks, and yet apparently, today was the day we were gonna have a baby. At least we thought. 

You see when a woman is pregnant, their bodies can start doing some strange things. You probably know about the big stuff, like eating jars of pickles and midnight cheeseburger runs. (Claire had both of those, but her biggest and weirdest craving was Root Beer. Claire loathed Root Beer before pregnancy. I mean absolutely detested even the slightest hint of sarsaparilla. Once, a couple years ago, she made me leave the room and brush my teeth because I had imbibed in a Barq’s when the establishment didn’t serve Dr. Pepper. Despite this hatred, Claire could not get enough Root Beer during pregnancy. It was her poison of choice for the whole nine months. We were buying craft bottles for home flight tastings and planning trips to festivals for the stuff. Strange.) Other weird things are less widely discussed but are actually a much bigger deal than just increased sugary drink intake. These include Gestational Hypertension and Gestational Diabetes. For reasons I won’t dive into because I’d do a piss poor job of adequately explaining them, some healthy young pregnant women develop high blood pressure and high blood sugar during their pregnancy which can really strain their bodies and their babies. Throughout prenatal care, they are constantly running blood work, glucose tolerance tests, and taking blood pressure. Unfortunately, at that fateful 37 week appointment, Claire’s BP, which hovered around 110/70 before pregnancy, was 153/110. High enough that our OB told us to go to the hospital for an induction that day. Now don’t get me wrong, we discussed our options, but at the end of it, induction was the correct medical decision with the data we had. We were practically full term with a healthy baby. Everyday you hold on to a hypertensive pregnancy, the risk for major complications for both mom and baby goes up. The literature says go, so we trusted our OB (who is incredible btw. More on her in part 2), and we went. 

Now back to the tears. In the heat of that moment, with the world flipped upside down, the one thing that I was most concerned about was cupcakes. (I know. I know. In that moment, with the birth of my first child imminent, I was crying about CUPCAKES?!?) Let me try to explain. You see, for months we had been planning out how the birth would go. We wanted to naturally progress into labor at home where we would spend the next few hours with massages, watching carefully curated tv shows and absolutely, most importantly, we were going to make Rosie some birthday, funfetti cupcakes before heading to the hospital when we were closer to delivery. In a speed run induction, like what we were thrown into, there was barely time for us to grab Chick-fil-A, much less bake a batch of cupcakes. I was devastated. (Quick aside, there should always be time for the glory that is Chick-fil-A, except on Sundays of course.) Claire was worried about more important things, like the fact that an induction almost always comes with an epidural (something she wanted to avoid) and inductions can easily take 24-48 hours, especially for a woman who was showing very little progress at the time (Claire was 1 cm dilated and 75% effaced).

The next hour after we left the Obstetricians, before we made it to the hospital, was a dramatic one. We had to call our parents (who live in Abilene and Plano, which are, respectively, 2.5 and 5 hours away from Lubbock) so they could make arrangements to leave and get here. Obviously our little surprise induction had to happen on the first day of a new semester so I emailed my professors about missing the first day of class (which also meant missing a quiz. I had studied my ass off for that quiz. So add that to my list of worries, cupcakes and quizzes. I got like a 108 on the quiz when I was able to retake it the next day. Shout out to Dr. W and Dr. S for being super chill about letting me make that up!). We were in separate vehicles so Claire headed home to get some last minute things packed while I ran to that temple of fried chicken heaven for the only thing that that could adequately allow me to eat my emotions that day, a spicy sandwich, waffle fries and the elixir that is Chick-fil-A sauce. In the time it took me to get home with the bag of happiness and a couple Arnold Palmers, Claire had taken a shower, shaved her legs, fixed her hair and had both bags packed and waiting for me to load in the car. Girl takes an hour to do half that in the morning, but with a baby coming she was ready in 15 minutes. 

The drive to the hospital was uneventful, Claire works at the school where I attend, and it’s all the same building, so we each make that drive multiple times a day. Parking was a different matter. We finally found a spot just on the other side of the Mexican border and loaded ourselves down for the hike into Labor and Delivery, me with all 15 bags, and Claire with her CFA cup. The hospital was expecting us, so we went right back to a great ground floor room with a view of the glorious Lubbock landscape (aka a parking lot) and settled in for what we expected to be a long haul. Four hours later we were walking out and headed home. 

You see, they started taking Claire’s BP as soon as we got there and they were getting some interesting readings. The initial read was slightly elevated from normal (130/86), but every 15 minutes it gradually slid down into normal healthy levels till it stabilized at about 110/70. Now of course she had to get stabbed 3 times to get an IV started, and we had to answer all 12,537 admission questions, but with a BP that nice, the rush toward induction was mitigated. Our OB gave us the out to hold off and try and wait for a natural labor, and we took it gladly. Meeting little Rosie would have to wait at least a little longer. We walked out of the hospital and did the only logical thing to do… Taco Tuesday. 

The next two weeks would be full of attempts to coax that baby out the natural way. We tried every wives tale or myth we have ever heard, and some things we made up ourselves. Spicy food, 10 mile walks, yoga, dancing, EPO, and… well you get the picture. At one point, I looked into a Native American shaman who had a high success rate, but since pregnant ladies shouldn’t travel, the logistics just weren’t there. Big bonus of all this, we went for buffalo wings, something I usually must reserve for Super Bowl Sunday or dudes nights. Having lived in New Jersey/NYC area, Wingstop is the only place even close to legit in West Texas. Claire got mango habanero. Not to be outdone, I got atomic. We both spent the evening rotating through our only bathroom. Still no baby. 

Eventually we gave in and did induce at 39 weeks. Our Faux-duction (and steep bill for that hospital admittance to have our blood pressure taken for 4 hours) bought our little one about 13 extra days in the oven. #worthit The really good parts were still to come, so I will pick up here in part 2 of this post, and we will jump right into the action packed world of actually pushing a watermelon sized parasite out of a human body. Fun!

This facility has proudly worked: 0 DAYS without a poop incident

It’s incredible to me how fatherhood seems to run at multiple speeds. Most days are like the treadmill. The pace is constant and tiring, the world outside takes on this ethereal quality and your days revolve around a constant knowledge that the baby is going to eat again within the next 3 hours. You try not to watch the clock but it’s hard to break out of the rhythm of feeding, playing and changing long enough to make dinner, much less feel normal again. Things stay cute and predictable.

Other moments are different.

In these other times, it’s like the treadmill stops but your legs keep churning and before you know it you are in a new place. Desperately, you try to piece back together just how you got there. You grasp hold of every moment as if they are drifting off like red dirt in the Lubbock wind. By the end, all that’s left of what got you here are tiny instants. Flashes of smiles and strawberry blonde hair and deep blue eyes that drown you and poopy diapers and small belly buttons and tiny hugs that hurt because the love you feel crushes every inch of you. There really is nothing like it.

Roosevelt was born 12 days ago. Today she lays in my lap, facing me, as I polish off a pina colada Bahama Buck’s sno cone. Even though it’s early February, it’s 92° outside. Welcome to Texas. She has her eyes wide open and stares at me, lingering awkwardly, keeping eye contact for too long as only babies can do. Her eyes seem to drive through my skull. They are the deepest ocean blue, just like her mom’s. It’s evident, evolutionarily speaking, why our children look so much like us. By finding your own features and your partner’s features on your child’s face, you are guaranteed to be attracted to your children. It’s is the external manifestation of that primal, unconditional love that adds another layer of attachment between a parent and their children. It is in this moment, as I question the nature of genetic traits while dumping semi-frozen liquid sugar down my throat, that my gorgeous, perfect, darling daughter, stares me down with those ocean eyes, scrunches up her face and proceeds to shit all over me. The world speeds up.

I try hard to hold every detail of that next hour. Claire takes Rosie from me and rushes her to the nursery changing table while I half-limbo my 6’5″ frame down the hall, trying hard too keep all the poo on my pants and not the carpet. I’ll assume that some of you readers don’t have children and have never really dealt with baby poop. Breast fed babies have very distinct poop. It’s like mustardy green slime mixed with curdled milk. Babies can project the stuff like cannon fire at Pickett’s Charge.  Remember in season 4 of Game of Thrones when the Mountain, Sir Gregor Clegane, fights the Red Viper, Oberyn Martell, of Dorne and at the end where (SPOILERS, although it’s been 3 years so also like, get over it) the Mountain crushes his head with his bare hands and blood and brains spray every where? Gross right? Well my 7 pound daughter was apparently trying to do the poopy cosplay of that scene. The force of that defecation blew through the seal her diaper makes with her leg, through the gap between the snaps of her onesie and all over my pants. It was great… terrible, but great. I digress.

I somehow manage to remove the nuclear holocaust that is my clothes as I hear Claire call from the nursery “Oh my goodness, her cord finally fell off!” A very exciting moment when the dried stump of remaining umbilical cord falls off her perfect new belly button. This also means that Rosie can have her first real bath. Apparently the poop gods smiled favorably upon us today, because the idea of sponge bathing that child clean was about as appealing as me hand-washing my pants. Together, we strip her down and pull out approximately 500 bath time accessories from random cubbyholes, of which you really need three, a tub, a sponge and a cup. But hey, first time parents need all the cool useless things to fill baby registries with and there was no telling me that that the scrubber-ducky 5000 wasn’t a completely necessary addition to our home.

Bath time was amazing. She loved it. Eyes wide and curious, she sank into a sink full of warm water and we gave her the spa treatment of her young life. She loves to be pampered, I’m shocked. It was a whirlpool of shampoo and coos, but then it was over and there were cute towels with elephants and new diapers and hairbrushes and then it was just her staring up from my arms as we walked outside in the fading light of the warm Texas sun. From poop-splosion to towels took 30 or 40 minutes and yet it’s hard to be sure it happened at all. It’s funny how fatherhood runs at different speeds.