In pre-celebration of Father’s Day this Sunday, I’m sharing this excerpt from my book “Dad Up!” which is now available in book, e-book and audio book form (for those who would like me to read it to them).
This Sunday, I’ll release another excerpt from the book, exclusively for subscribers to “The Pattersonian”. Hope you’ll enjoy and don’t forget to do a little something special for your dad this Sunday. Like allowing him time to cheer on the Montreal Canadiens in their ongoing quest for the Stanley Cup.
Happy 2 days before Father’s Day!
While Nancy was getting her much-needed rest, I also had the opportunity to have Scarlett go skin on skin against my chest. We had read in one of the parenting books that this helped create a bond between father and baby, and the nurses at the hospital encouraged it—provided it took place in our room and didn’t result in me walk- ing shirtless through the halls. So while Nancy slept, I reclined in the hospital chair (not technically a recliner) and held baby Scarlett firmly to my bosom (you might think dads don’t have bosoms, but . . . well, I do) while she slept contentedly. That’s when I realized that the feeling of your baby’s skin resting on your own is the greatest feeling in the world, bar none. I can hear you pet owners saying, “I don’t know—it’s pretty great when little Patches puts her paws on my face and then settles down on my lap.” And I’m not taking that away from you. But when mini-you rests on you with her tiny hands opening and closing for the first time, smacking her lips, oblivious to the fact that the smacking sound is coming from her, it’s more than mind-blowing — it’s heart-growing. Seriously, I felt what the Grinch did when he heard the Whos down in Whoville singing even after he had stolen all their Christmas presents (which is, admittedly, an arsehole move). My heart grew two sizes in that moment. Had I stolen a bunch of animated characters’ Christmas presents, I would have for sure returned them right then.
From that moment on, my priorities in life officially shifted. My number-one job was to keep this little one safe and be the best dad I could be. Once she had grown up, I figured I could resume my quest to be a Major League Baseball relief pitcher. (All the practice of carrying the baby around would mean I’d probably have one arm in good shape. Which is all you really need.)
Of course, for a baby resting on a dad, the feeling of comfort and serenity is not mutual. The baby can no more control who or what she is resting on than a baseball can control where it’s thrown. To the baby, you are just one in a long line of resting places or sources of heat—or most importantly, sources of food. Which is why Scarlett, upon waking on my bare chest that first time (I had fallen asleep in solidarity with mom), was immediately and rightly outraged.
She woke up nestled in the mat of my chest hair and knew that she needed food immediately then let out a scream that can best be described as a mixture of a lioness’s roar and a runaway train trying to screech to a stop.
That was the first time I almost dropped her.
Not out of carelessness but out of sheer terror.
Because on your first day as a dad—or more specifically, your first nap as a dad—you may fall asleep wondering if it was all just a dream.
Is it possible that the preceding couple of days were just your subconscious warning you of what it might be like? Waking up with an infant is not a gradual process. It’s the textbook definition of a rude awakening. The scream wakes you up like a blast of cold water from a fire hose, which is dangerous when the source of that fire hose is lying on your chest.
So it was that with Scarlett’s scream, I shot out of the chair like a cannonball. But my new-found parental instinct, which is sort of like Spiderman’s spidey senses, meant that I held on to Scarlett’s head even while my own was still processing what was going on. The end result was that I somehow went from reclining in a deep sleep to standing fully awake in .001 seconds with Scarlett still on my chest. As a matter of fact, she was attached. To my nipple. The poor kid had found the right attachment for a snack, but on the wrong parent. And that’s when the REAL outrage began.
I can’t say for sure what was going through baby Scarlett’s mind when she first bit down on my nipple, hoping for mother’s milk but instead inducing a middle-aged man’s shriek to harmonize with her infant’s cry (imagine a duet between Barry White and Barry Gibb). I imagine the level of disappointment was what I would have felt if I’d dreamed of being in bed with a beautiful woman in sexy lingerie and woke up to find myself beside a naked Gary Busey.
And that’s how Scarlett and I woke up an entire wing at St. Joseph’s Health Centre that first night. She was screaming, I was screaming, Nancy woke up and she was screaming. A nurse came rushing in, and in panic mode, I pried Scarlett from my nipple and handed her off like a quarterback giving his star running back the ball for a goal line rush. The nurse calmly took the screaming football over to Nancy, and within seconds, Scarlett had latched on to one of her mother’s nipples and the two began to bond in the way that only a mother and baby can. Meanwhile, I put my shirt on, rubbed my chest and said to the nurse, “Thanks. She . . . um, she bit my nipple.”
The nurse nodded calmly, turned to Nancy, and said, without a hint of humour, “Good luck. You’re going to need it.”