My youngest son's second birthday was last week.
Like his older brother, our youngest child was born prematurely. Both boys arrived roughly seven weeks before their due dates; our youngest after a traumatic pregnancy that involved bed rest and the anxious counting of weeks as we hoped that our son would at least wait until week thirty before demanding to be born.
We have never returned and thanked the many doctors who helped us. Way leads to way, and once the kid is home, you enter into this entirely alternate reality where whole months pass before you even notice.
It is the nurses, though, who deserve praise and awe. These women cared for us and they cared for our sons in the NICU while we rested and waited to take our boys home. They taught us how to feed, change and bathe our children. These women were simply amazing, and they do these amazing things for dozens of people every day who rarely, if ever, remember to thank them. So, thank you.
I know becoming a parent has transformed me, but I often find it difficult to describe how. The one story that illustrates the change goes like this:
After my first son was born, and my wife and I were spending our days and part of our nights at the NICU, I was exiting our two-door Honda (a two-door Honda we can no longer own, thanks to the logistics of baby-seats) in the hospital parking garage. Beside our car was a Ford F150, and the young man trying to turn over the engine was maybe in his early twenties. Turned out that like me, he was a new father, and unlike me, he was trying to take his wife and new baby home. If only he could get his truck to start.
So together we shoved the Ford into the through-way of the parking structure, then I backed out the Honda--effectively blocking parking garage traffic in both directions--and we jumped his battery while people honked and yelled and made for a very unpleasant few minutes.
After we were done, I had to direct traffic until we could get the truck clear, and the young man could drive down to where his wife and baby were waiting.
Before my son was born, I would never have done anything like this. The logistics alone would have had me pretending I hadn't heard the oscillating starter. I was doubly surprised at myself. One, for getting involved in a situation that was only going to be a mess. Second, for not even thinking about it. I just acted. I acted, not because I'm some heroic person, but because it was the right thing to do and it needed to be done. For the betterment of everyone. (Save, perhaps, for the folks who were stuck in the backed up traffic, but well, you can't win without someone losing, right?)
Anyway, to me, that's how parenthood changes a person. You act for the benefit of others because you are part of a community, and you'd better do your damned share. The doctors who helped our sons, they showed me that I need other people. The nurses who worked with my wife and me while we saw our boys through their births and NICU stays, they taught me what it means to be a human being.
And the boys, well, the boys are teaching me all kinds of things every moment.