First-time Fatherhood

Finding fulfillment in fatherhood.

Jack

The Regan boys, Jack David (in gray) and Sawyer Douglas.

Photo by Caleb Regan

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I entered fatherhood last week. I’m in awe of my wife and her mental and physical toughness, and it appears that all is well for the time being with our two healthy sons, Jack David and Sawyer Douglas. This is written for them, but hopefully it’s a reminder to all of us about perspective and thinking of others throughout the world.

To Jack and Sawyer: You are loved, and in the moments after the doctor delivered you, I felt a love that I have never known before. That’s the truth. I don’t get emotional often, but you two did it for me. Your birth was overwhelming. I went to Mass the following Sunday and sat in a pew among strangers, praying for your mom and both of you, and trying to figure out how I can feel that same love for God, and for those strangers, as I felt for you. I’m striving for that. What an awesome gift both of you are, to your mom and me. We’ve been waiting for you for a long time, and you’ve made us very happy.

When I think about fatherhood and all of the various things I need to teach you, I think of my example, your Grandpa Dave, and two virtues most important to him: faith and toughness.

I know you will be taught well about faith, and then one day it will be questioned and you’ll sort that out yourselves. But you should know that a lot of people have prayed for you, and have been doing so for quite some time. You two feel like a miracle to your mom and me, and testament to God’s presence, power, love.

A second virtue your grandpa valued was toughness, and to him mental toughness was paramount. Sure, some physical toughness is admirable, but mental toughness will take you far. Armed with faith and mental toughness, I think you’ll be all right.

In the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), where you are currently gaining strength and preparing for life at home, Mom and I eat lunch in a little break room for parents about every day. Next to the dining tables, small handwritten notes hang clipped to a cord, note cards shaped like Popsicles onto which parents have scribbled milestones met and words of encouragement to others.

“Joined the 2-pound club today!” “Finally off CPAP machine!” Inspirational messages along those lines.

Considering others’ perspectives can remind us of how lucky we are.

Just yesterday, a young mom emerged from a room, crying. Inconsolable. She was a wreck, and it left me to assume she’d just lost her baby.

If ever feeling sorry for yourself, think of the folks throughout the world who would trade their lot in life for yours in a heartbeat. Your Uncle Josh said to me one time, “There is no merit in feeling sorry for yourself.” That’s always stuck with me.

Lastly, I remember when I started working on this magazine about nine years ago, one of my main questions was whether Grit was an acronym, what did the title mean, and why was a rural lifestyle magazine called “Grit.”

Before driving to the job interview, I looked up “grit” in the dictionary: “firmness of mind or spirit; unyielding courage in the face of hardship or danger.”

Resilience, mental toughness, “grit” is a quality worth striving for and celebrating, even as we at times fall short. And that goes for life in the country, city, jungle, or desert — wherever you choose to go from here.

Until next time,
Caleb Regan