“On top of the world! You ever feel like you could do anything?”
Twenty years before I would have my first child, Talib Kweli rapped those words about his children in 2002 over a sample of triumphant horns on his song “Joy.”
For two decades, this song made me tear up, hearing Kweli’s love for his children, even though I had none of my own. But today, just weeks after my daughter was born, it makes me cry for a new set of reasons.
I always loved this song, but before my daughter was born I could only appreciate it by putting myself in Kweli’s shoes. Now, I get to relate by reliving what I felt.
“You know the hospitals are all trying to get paid, no question
“Here come the doctor’s with their drugs, trying to do a C-section
“But my baby stayed strong, in labor for yay long
“Eight-pound baby boy to carry my name on!”
I always thought Kweli sounded paranoid in his description of hospitals, but my wife was offered narcotics countless times, so I guess Kweli nailed it. What stands out most here is the pride he felt about his partner’s strength in delivery. Men aren’t really involved in the delivery process — it’s between mother, baby and the professionals. But we do get to be our family’s biggest cheerleader.
Seeing the physical and emotional toll delivery caused on my wife inspired a profound respect for her. And baby had quite the experience herself — being born cannot be easy! They were both amazing.
“Since the birth of my son it’s been about way more than rhyme,” Kweli said, and I agree. Life took on a whole new meaning after my daughter was born.
My wife and I were already a loving family, but it’s deeper now. So much is different. First, I’m proud of her for even the most insignificant things: “Ohhh, big yawn!”
Baby has even changed my perception of bad drivers. Driving with her in the back, I go as slow as good sense and decency will allow. I don’t know why other people were driving under the speed limit, or stopping at intersections that don’t have stop signs or red lights, or other annoying habits like that, but if it has anything to do with a parental instinct to protect their family, then I get it. I take back all the bad things I said about you!
My family is what I think about 95% of the time, displacing long-standing favorites like food and sports. I had to leave town for the day for work and missed them terribly. My wife consoled me with fresh baby pics throughout the day, and while they were all basically the same (at this age she just lies there), they were all so different too.
I can’t believe this is my life. As I wrote in a recent column, I never planned on getting married and I certainly never wanted kids — both driven by selfishness and fear.
But the timeline went something like this: Around Christmas my girlfriend became pregnant, a few months later my girlfriend became my wife and then a month ago our baby was born.
I had plenty of reasons not to get married. Plenty of unmarried couples successfully raise kids. I could have taken a more cautious approach and seen how this family thing went before fully committing. Or I could have not risked it at all and pushed for an abortion (it certainly crossed my mind, though I’m not proud to admit it).
But the case for marriage was strong too. Children can succeed in spite of their upbringings, and they can go down a dark path even with the best parenting. But statistically speaking, “children raised by married parents typically do better in life on almost every available economic and social measure,” as Brookings Institute scholars wrote in 2014.
As Christians, getting married seemed like the right thing to do — even if getting pregnant out of wedlock was not. My then-girlfriend also seemed like she’d make a good partner and though I had never met baby, every parent I knew seemed to adore their kids.
So we got married, had a baby and haven’t looked back, though at times I am plagued with doubt and fear — fear of dropping her, fear of not getting along when she’s older, fear of not being able to provide for her and on and on.
I’m told that’s all part of being a parent. All I can do is try my best and hope she turns out alright.
She joins me in my morning prayers, or at least she sleeps on me while I pray. She hears me ask God to help me grow as a father and husband, and for baby to grow up caring about others and develop a sense of right and wrong.
I hope that she is strong, like her mother. She’s starting off well. Her second week of life was spent with COVID-19, which was a real drag for her, but she persevered.
As I write this, she is lying on my chest, passed out from eating (truly her father’s daughter!), breathing like a bulldog from the remnant of COVID, her foot occasionally stretching out across my keyboard typing errant letters. In other words: She is adorable.
It’s a wild ride. This whole parenting thing is excruciating at times (WHY WON’T SHE STOP CRYING?), but as Kweli said, “every day (she) brings joy to my world.”
To anyone who is in a similar position as I was 10 or so months ago, all I can say is that I don’t regret having a family one bit.
Follow Matt on Twitter @FlemingWords