When your child enters the world, she changes your life in intimate and infinite ways. At first you’re more tired than you’ve ever been. You become used to screams – of hunger? thirst? discomfort? exhaustion? screaming for the sake of screaming? – searing their ways through the walls and over a staticky baby monitor. You become an expert diaper changer, something you never saw yourself doing. You don’t even mind when pee and/or poop gets on your hands or shirt or face (ok, you do mind, but you’re too sleepy to get upset). You realize you should have saved your college tuition for the zillions of Pampers you’re going to buy. You discover you can sing “We Are The World” for 3 hours straight while rocking your baby in a chair. Come on…that’s got to be a world record! But those are the minuscule things, not the unreal life-altering things to come.
You begin to relive childhood through your baby’s eyes. You remember how exciting a stick can be. You gaze with wonder at the moon as she points to it. You do anything to see her smile, hear her laugh. You share your childhood loves with her and sit on the floor playing princesses and Star Wars. You read her books once read to you. You become more tolerant. You become more patient. You now have empathy for those parents on airplanes whose children won’t stop crying. You feel a pride you’ve never felt when she runs to a friend who’s fallen and asks if he’s ok. You are a parent and your life has switched in an almost metaphysical way for you’re now a teacher to a little one that needs help understanding time and causality.
I’ve experienced all of those life changes since your birth, but the most significant has to do with my depression, a disease I’ve had since childhood. When you have depression, it’s insanely difficult to see outside the bleak clouds of your own negative thoughts especially when you’re experiencing a trigger or an episode. Before you were born I too often gave up without a fight, but now I need to be more aware of the vibes I’m giving off, my facial expressions, my body language, my mood and my disease than ever before because I can’t let it affect you. I can’t let it hurt you. So I fight those negative thoughts every second of every day and sometimes I lose, but more often than before I win. Sometimes I can feel the anxiety and heaviness coming on, take one look at you and your smile, and battle my way through. I make the concerted effort to sit with you on the floor of our apartment and watch you draw and imagine. I pretend to be a beast or a shark and chase you around while you squeal in delight. Sometimes in the park I’m hurting so I break out the bubbles and watch you chase them, mouth wide open in excitement.
And sometimes you see it my eyes – the turmoil…the fear – and you come over and give me a hug and a kiss, tell me it’s going to be ok and I’m filled with such love and pride that that clichéd single tear slides down my cheek, my lips spread into a huge grin and I squeeze you tight and tickle you until you’re laughing so hard you feel your sides will burst. Before I would have been gone for hours, days mentally (and sometimes I still am), but I’m fighting harder than Muhammed Ali so I’m always there for you, so that you feel loved and safe.
I fought hard when I met your mom and throughout our marriage (as has she for she has the same disease), but not as hard as I do for you. It hurts to admit that in a way because I guess it’s admitting that I’ve relied on your mom for emotional support too much. I can’t rely on you for that. That’s not my job as your father. My job is to provide YOU with emotional support, to teach you and give you the tools to navigate this world while remaining a good, giving, loving, wise, beautiful, strong person. And so I fight the non-stop tornadoes and tidal waves of depression harder than I ever thought possible. That is how you changed my life in the most powerful and meaningful way and I vow to you that I won’t stop fighting.
So on this Father’s Day, I and many other dads are teaming up with Pampers. Pampers is honoring men whose lives changed upon the arrival of their child via a social media campaign called #ThanksBaby. In other words, Pampers is honoring dads like myself. So if you’re a dad, please tweet to #ThanksBaby and tell us how your life has changed since you’ve had your kid(s).
Thank you, Sienna. Thank you for making me fight so hard.
For more on this campaign, please watch this video:
And for more information about Pampers, please check out the following social media links: