I survived. Or, to be more exact — we survived.
Not only did I the first year of being a father, more impressively, Jean Louise survived her first year of being my kid.
It was a year ago today, January 3, 2016 at 10:57 in the morning that Dr. Illeck delivered Jean Louise Bernice Taylor at Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach onto our planet. That’s her on the right, about a minute or two after being born. Yeah, she looks as bewildered about the whole thing as I felt. Just less than ten minutes before it was just my wife Katie and I (and a nurse hovering around). And then there were three. “We” had decided not to know the sex of the child until he/she was born. So when Dr. Illeck announced “She’s not a diabetic baby,” my wife and I were both, “She?” That’s how we found out we were now parents of a healthy and tiny baby girl. (Note: My wife had gestational diabetes during her pregnancy, so there was concern that the baby might be a bit of excessive birth weight.)
Compared to horror stories that I’ve heard from other more experienced parents, Katie and I got rather lucky the first time around. In fact, we used to brag how our newborn would sleep through the night — some six maybe even eight hours. Well, that didn’t last the whole year. We’ve had our share of sleepless nights, but still not as many as I had feared. It turns out that Jean Louise is a rather happy baby. And for that, we are grateful. And, I hope I’m not cursing ourselves here, but there hasn’t been much along the lines of colds, earaches, or other such infant illnesses either. No nightmare stories of projectile vomit or ever-flowing other bodily liquids.
There was the one time that she did an acrobatic airborne twist on me while I was changing her diaper that resulted in a horrific scream and her unwillingness to use her left arm. A panicky dad rushed her to the pediatrician who informed me that it was likely Nursemaid’s Elbow. Well, we got x-rays anyway (which Jean Louise handled like a trooper and better than her father) which turned out negative of any fractures. The next day she was fine and she was no longer favoring her left arm. Scary nonetheless. There have been a couple of other bumps and such, but so far so good.
What Jean Louise has brought into my life — besides happiness, joy, love, and all of the other mushy feelings that go along with being a parent — is a sense of purpose. Without getting too sentimental and philosophical, it’s as if my daughter’s “beingness” is what my “beingness” is all about. Don’t get me wrong. I’m still a nerd that’s into Star Trek, Star Wars, comic books, roleplaying games, and movies with lasers, explosions, monsters, and/or boobs. And, it’s likely that my kid will be influenced by my nerdiness as well. (Except for the boobs part.)
You see… Whether she knows it or not, Jean Louise is my new best friend. My one true BFF. That doesn’t mean any of my other best friends have been knocked down a notch. (I still love you Ron, Clay, and my beloved wife Katie.) There is now a new person that I’m excited to share and experience life with. I’m excited to see her smile first thing in the morning when I get her out of her crib. I’m excited to see her clap with joy when Elmo’s World comes on the the television. I’m excited to hear her squeal when she sees our dogs playing with one another. I’m excited to see her excitement when I read that damn board book about the lighthouse — AGAIN! I’m even excited to see her eagerness to use a straw to drink from.
And if I was excited about being a dad before Jean Louise was born, now that she’s been around for 365 days of my life, I’m even more excited now. This kid has a definite personality, and luckily it’s one I really really dig.
Oh. The name Jean Louise? Well, my mother-in-law’s middle name is Jean, and my mother’s middle name is Louise. That, and it’s also the name of one of the greatest young female characters in American literature — Jean Louise Finch, a.k.a. Scout, from Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. We couldn’t name her Scout — that’s the name of my mom’s dog.