30 Years in the Making6
Have you ever had something happen to you or an event occur in your life that made you think, “God has been preparing me for this”? Sometimes we have things happen to us that we cannot mentally or physically be prepared for but somehow we manage to get through it. Those of you that know me know that seven months ago my life was changed forever - my wife gave birth to our first child, Mamie Claire Patridge. Having children is something that I have always wanted and thought about. As anyone with children knows, there is a difference in listening to others and reading books on parenting and actually parenting. Although I have only been a parent a few short months, I feel that I have adjusted and adapted well. I truly believe that this quick adjustment can only be contributed to the fact that God has spent the last twenty-nine years grooming me to be a little girl’s Dad. I would like to share a few ways God prepared me for this amazing task.
As many of you may know, I grew up the youngest of three children. You guessed it - I have two older sisters who are very opinionated when it comes to their thoughts on me. We grew up in the country, so there were many days when having someone to play with meant playing dress up or playing with Barbies. I will take this time to admit that I did willingly let my sisters dress me as a girl. Those were some dark days, but on the bright side I can fix Mamie’s hair. Being the smallest child had its privileges. My mom drove a Buick, so I always got to sit in the middle of the back seat. Road trips, going to church, or going to school, there I was, sandwiched between two girls who did not want me to get close to them. The three of us also got to share a two sink bathroom. Just imagine two teenage girls trying to get ready for school. Now add me jockeying for position at either sink just to brush my teeth. I learned a lot about patience and how to negotiate in that bathroom. As if I didn’t have enough female attention at home, I was the only boy in my kindergarten class. It is fair to say the majority of my life I have been surrounded by women. This is not always a bad thing. Through all the fights, the tears and the drama, my sisters have taught me everything I know about how to delicately handle girls. (For the record, I know very little.)
The two people who have prepared me the most to be a parent are my own parents. My mother is simply the best. Without using words, she could put the fear of God in me or give me the warmest look and let me know everything was going to be ok. Mom was always there for us. She was at every sporting event. For the ones that she knew we were not going to see any playing time, she was still there watching us sit that bench. When none of the dads volunteered to be the Boy Scout leader, there mom was stepping in and taking charge. (Yes my mother was my Boy Scout leader.) She has taught me that loving and raising a family often means dying to yourself and putting others’ wants and needs first. My dad continues to be the biggest influence in my life. He has taught me so much. (Sorry dad for what I say next.) He has shown me that it is ok for a man to cry and it is ok to have a soft side. Don’t get me wrong, this is the same man that would fight the Devil himself if it meant taking one ounce of pain away from one of his kids. He told me once, after getting mad at me for something I did wrong, “you will never know how much I love you until you hold one of your own kids in your arms.”
March 2, 2015, I learned for the first time what true love felt like. The day started at six a.m. with a nurse prepping my wife to induce labor. Mamie was a day late and we were ready to meet her. After hours of sitting and waiting, the time had finally come for her delivery. Or so we thought. Two hours later Mamie still had no intentions of being born. The doctors decided it would be best to have an emergency C-section. Just so it is known, I am a nervous wreck at this point. I do not like hospitals and hate seeing others in pain. While in the operating room, the doctor is talking to me about pictures and names and if I am willing to cut the cord. I thought everything was great, but it wasn’t. When Mamie was born she swallowed a large amount a fluid. She never cried. The room quickly changed from a happy joking place to serious mode. I knew something was wrong. I stood and watched as the nurses tried to get my baby to breathe. She was turning a darker shade of purple every second. I could not do anything. I was helpless. Through the tears and the gasps of air, I did my best to pray, “Lord please don’t let my baby die”. After what seemed like hours, the nurses were able to clear her airway so she could breathe on her own. Seeing the purple turn to pink and hearing her cry was the highlight of my life. Mamie had to spend almost three days in the NICU to regulate her breathing. Once we were able to pick her up, I thought of what my dad had told me many years before. In that moment, I was changed forever. I was officially a dad. Being a dad to a little girl has been awesome.
If someone would have asked me a year ago what I had done to prepare myself to be a father, I would have answered, “Nothing,” and that would have been the truth. I didn’t do anything, but God had spent many years and used many people to mold me and shape me into the dad I am. I know I am going to mess up, but hopefully God will continue to place people in my life who will show me what it looks like to not only be a father but a daddy to a beautiful little girl.