Updated: Jan 17
"We need to talk."
Molly has delivered this line many times, each instance dripping with that trademark tension and ambiguity women have laced into their communication since the dawn of time.
It initiates "fight or flight" in us knuckle-dragging males. Personally, I default to a scramble that I'm convinced my wife feeds off of, inhaling the vapors of my fear and confusion like some kind of emotional vampire.
In the midst of taking a (frantic) mental inventory of the past few days, the usual suspects crop up:
"Is today's date on the calendar significant and should I have purchased a gift?"
"Did I force the trash down into the can one too many times?"
"I bet she found the stash of M&Ms and Dr. Pepper in my truck."
All of these (and several other possibilities) passed the sanity check back in May when those infamous words graced my iPhone screen.
Don't get me wrong, I was still fully convinced my life was in jeopardy, and it didn't help things that I was "caught" hanging out at my buddy's when the text came through.
Sidebar for the uninitiated: an unhappy wife is like a campfire that has to be gently cared for and gradually extinguished to prevent spreading or excessive smoke inhalation. "Chillin' with the boys" is the equivalent of sticking your head in the fire while wearing a gasoline-soaked fedora.
On my way home, I called expecting to leave a voicemail. To my surprise, Molly picked up on the first ring.
"I don't want to talk about it until you get here. I want to see your face."
Butt clenched in fear: check.
Mentally prepared to sleep in my truck: also check.
Our conversation continued, and through a combination of strategic groveling and my wife's inability to keep a secret, she let the cat out of the bag:
Naturally, this news elicited an equally intense emotional response from me, and if I'm tee-totally honest with you, my gut-churn was not much different than the last one.
There was no cinema-quality moment of bliss, no overjoyed father SO overcome with happiness that he pulls over just to compose himself. There were indeed tears...just not the kind that Hollywood sells.
At the risk of appearing remarkably human, let me be transparent. I did not want another child.
Ezra was rapidly approaching the end of the diaper era. Mason was starting school. I was coping better with the stress of my job through therapy and new medication. We were plugged into church. Our friend circle was tightening in the best way.
Life was good and getting better. But this child? This child complicated things.
So, while my sweet wife giddily relayed this news, her childhood dreams of a "big" family slowly coming into focus, my heart sank.
And I hate to even admit it because kids are incredible. Being a dad is incredible. Seeing a tiny miracle with God's thumbprint so clearly etched into their existence - there is absolutely nothing like it. There are people I love who ache in the absence of a child they so desperately desire and deserve.
Even so, I struggled with feelings of anger and sorrow, mourning the loss of my best-laid plans and machinations of comfort. I struggled with accepting our situation.
The timing was not ideal.
This was completely unexpected.
I prayed that my heart would change, that the ever-growing tower of fear inside me would topple over and stop blocking the sun. I prayed I could share in my wife's excitement, and that somehow, my logistical, fact-based, calculator brain could embrace a third child.
Slowly, a response manifested. And when I say slowly...I mean, it was painfully, excruciatingly slow. Patience is something I've just never had time to learn.
As the months passed and my funk dissipated, it felt almost like I'd been suffering from a rogue variant of dyslexia, and my problem statements - yes, I leverage business principles in my personal life - rewrote themselves.
The timing was not ideal for me.
This was completely unexpected by me.
It should come as no surprise that the more I trust Jesus to guide my life, the more control I relinquish. Don't hear what I'm not saying - the fears don't simply go away. There are still anxious days and restless nights. I am still a textbook Type-A, neurotic mess.
But as I'm reminded often, being a parent is bigger than me:
"Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you."
Jeremiah uses a big word there: consecrated. It means "declared sacred."
How often do we really think of our kids as sacred? How different would we raise them if we treated them as sacred? (P.S. don't tell my boys this, it will TOTALLY go to their heads...)
The last 7 months...heck, the last 6 years of fatherhood have taught me sacrifice, selflessness, and deepened my ability to love. I've learned that there's no wrong way to feel about things, but growing through those feelings is critical. I've learned to embrace the chaos knowing how beautifully unexpected this life can be.
As beautifully unexpected as adding a little one, our first little girl to the family.