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Wife and son, August 16, 2003. (Donald Earl Collins).

Wife and son, latter at two weeks and change old, August 16, 2003. (Donald Earl Collins).

This week eleven years ago is when I first learned from my wife that she was pregnant with our one and only child, our son Noah. It was a high that took a few months of post-natal sleep deprivation to come down from, not to mention a fight to keep my job and move on from it courtesy of AED in ’03 and early ’04. But learning that I was soon to become a father didn’t just bring joy and euphoria. It came with baggage and the fear that my baggage would be a handicap to me as a father and to my gestating son.

Luckily I had a bit of time to prepare for becoming a father. I figured out that my wife was pregnant a few weeks before she did. It was on Thanksgiving Day ’02, and I was whisking a cream sauce to go with some chocolate torte dessert I was making. I asked my wife to watch over the cream and to make sure that it didn’t boil over when I went to the bathroom. Sure enough, the sauce was boiling over when I came back. I said sarcastically, “Thanks for messing up the cream!,” which led to my wife going to the bathroom, crying. You have to understand, my wife rarely cries, and never cries over my brand of New York-esque sarcasm. So when she said, “I’m sorry,” I said, “It’s okay, honey,” followed by, “Why are you literally crying over boiling cream? Are you sure you’re not pregnant?”

From that moment until my wife had given herself an EPT test three weeks later, I’d already started the process of psychological preparation. We’d barely begun trying to have a kid. We talked about it in July ’02, changed our diets in August and September, and I started taking herbal supplements by the end of September. Two months of actual trying in total. Really? That’s all it took?

All I knew was that fatherhood would bring back so many memories, some good, most of them bad and ugly. About my father Jimme and his alcoholism and homophobia as directed at me, my ex-stepfather’s physical and psychological abuse, about having to serve in my father-like role with my younger siblings and with Darren. By the time I’d reached grad student, some eleven years earlier, I wasn’t sure if I’d ever fall in love or get married, much less become a father. I mean, who would want to be with me, have little Donalds and Donnas running around that had about half of my features and traits? I wasn’t sure if I’d ever want that.

Fast-forward through grad school at Pitt and Carnegie Mellon, through four and half years of dating and two years of marriage. I was in a different place, not much different, but different enough to be much more sure about what I wanted. As I said to my wife, “There are four days out of the week where I’m sure about having a kid, two where I don’t want a child, and one where I simply don’t know.”

That was still good enough for my wife. And she’s the reason I could be firmly committed to fatherhood. I don’t think that I would’ve become a father otherwise. Have I made mistakes over the past ten years and five months with Noah? Of course! I once left him in a carrier on our table when he was five months over, and it flipped over end-over-end, scaring the crap out of him (literally!). I’ve yelled at him when I shouldn’t have, and I’ve cursed out at least one hundred too many bad DC area drivers with him in the back seat of our Honda Element over the years.

But despite all of the ups and downs in my life, career(s) and even marriage, one of the handful of things I’m sure about is having become a father to my son a good eight and a half months before he was born. I still check on him nearly every night to watch him sleep (and breath).