I lay in bed with Gracelyn this morning as Shonnie went downstairs to feed the kitties and make coffee. We’d slept in after a fun and full day celebrating Thanksgiving with Billy, Adrian and their families. And as I watched Gracelyn serenely sleep, an occasional smile or frown would flicker across her face, then in an instant she’d return to tranquility. For a few moments I was able to let go of the previous day’s events and today’s to-do list, and feel my profound connection with my little baby girl along with my gratitude for her presence in my life.
A lot of folks have asked how fatherhood is, a few with the implied but unspoken “at your age.” My response is that Gracelyn is a loving, loveable, happy, expressive, curious, resilient baby girl who I love with all my heart and who frequently helps me get in touch with who I really am and why I’m here. And while it hasn’t all been a bed or roses, all in all having Gracelyn as a member of our family has been a joyful and extraordinary experience.
And, yes, there have been challenges during Gracelyn’s 11+ week tenure with us. Early on, one morning around 4:00 a.m. I was walking around with Gracelyn in the baby sling, hoping that she’d fall asleep for the night, wondering if this was what life was going to be like from now on. But her tendency to be wide awake at night passed, and now we’ve settled into a bedtime ritual in which all three of us (and usually a couple of kitties) get into bed together, we read to Gracelyn, Gracelyn nurses then falls asleep, and Shonnie and I read for a while or listen to a recorded book together with earphones. Gracelyn wakes a couple of times each night to nurse, then nods off again, so sleep deprivation is not an issue.
Shonnie says that raising Gracelyn is the best thing she’s ever done, and the two of them are clearly connected at a deep and primal level. Shonnie is generous, loving, patient, focused, light-hearted, intuitive and attentive with Gracelyn. And Gracelyn trusts her mom implicitly and revels in her companionship, smiling broadly and making pre-verbal sounds when they’re together. It’s marvelous to watch and be a part of. And, yes, Gracelyn shows her affection for me too and in similar ways, but there’s no denying the primacy of the mother-daughter bond.
Gracelyn’s presence has also served to strengthen and revitalize my relationship with Shonnie, a benefit that was unexpected. I’m not sure I can even verbalize my feelings and exactly how this came about. I can say this: If I can show Gracelyn unconditional love, unreserved patience, no expectations as to how she should be, then why I can’t I do with this with Shonnie as well? In fact, of course, I can. And I am doing my best to do so.
Once again, we find ourselves overwhelmed by the support of our community. Over the past few months, almost 200 friends and family members have contributed in a material way to our family in honor of Gracelyn’s arrival—from baby clothes and other baby gear, to rocking chairs, to massages for Shonnie, to meals for us in the weeks after Gracelyn was born. We hardly had to prepare a dinner ourselves during the first month after we came home from the hospital. Furthermore, the outpouring of loving thoughts, prayers and good wishes in person, on Facebook, as blog comments, via email and through the US Postal Service has been remarkable and gratifying as well. Shonnie and I are deeply touched by this generosity and reawakened to the importance of community. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you. We are blessed by your presence in our lives.