This post is a tribute to my daughter, Erika, who turned 22 this week and will graduate from college in June. Writing this made me realize, yet again, how grateful I am for her life.
Moving from one to two
Having a second child requires more organization.
You need to have someone lined up to stay with your first when the birthing begins…even if it’s in the middle of the night. You need to remember to keep in contact with the person who is watching your child and keep them updated on what is happening. Finally, you need to figure out how to introduce the first child to the idea that he or she is no longer the center of the world.
Luckily, my mom was there to watch our oldest, Justin, so, when Caroline's contractions really picked up, we headed up to the hospital without any concerns about Child #1.
This time we were checked into the recently built Maternity Center at Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula. Whereas Justin’s birth had been in a rather nondescript room with white walls, no windows and a hospital bed, Erika got to have a fancy room with top-of-the-line shiny equipment, fine art on the walls and a view of a garden out the window.
This was perhaps an appropriate way to bring a baby girl into the world, especially one who would grow to have a strong artistic sense.
Of course, I suppose what the room is like doesn’t matter too much for the woman who has the work of pushing a child into the world, but it was definitely a much better environment to recover in after the baby was born.
Caroline had to walk a bit before labor got started like she did with Justin, but Erika required fewer hours than Justin did to show her face. We were immediately in love. She had elegant, long fingers and toes and a sweet face. (And she still does!)
We had a little scare. Right after birth, she had to be hooked up to monitors for an irregular heartbeat, but soon the problem resolved.
Struck by the way holding my baby daughter melted my heart
Girls are different from boys. Even from the beginning.
Justin as a baby was always looking around, wanted to walk before he could even crawl well and began uttering words and complete sentences before he turned a year old.
Erika contemplated the world. Since Caroline had some painful mastitis from breastfeeding, I often got the task of bottle feeding Erika with expressed milk. I had done a little of this with Justin, but he often rejected the bottle. He would squirm and guzzle and become distracted when I tried to bottle feed him. Erika, on the other hand, would snuggle in and stare deep into my eyes when I fed her. Her sparkling eyes expressed so much.
“I love you, Daddy. I love being with you here. Thank you for this lovely milk.”
I felt myself falling into her eyes and falling more and more in love with this little one. There is something dads feel for our daughters we don’t feel for sons. It’s hard to describe, but we can get rather loopy with daughters.
I used to love to read books to her. She fit into the crook of my arm as we read Brown Bear, Brown Bear, The Hungry Little Caterpillar, and I’ll Love You Forever, then snuggled onto my lap as we moved on to Owl Moon, The Rainbow Fish, and When you Give a Moose a Muffin.
Finally, she sat by my side correcting me if I left out a word as we made our way through the forests of Narnia and Middle Earth, the dark corners of Hogwarts, or the tesseract of Wrinkle in Time.
Books became a connection point with my girl as she learned from me in sophomore English class to love the Brontës, Austen and Shakespeare. In fact, even when she was looking at colleges, we spent the car time listening to Great Expectations by Dickens and discussing our impressions.
In many ways, we are kindred spirits. We catch onto things quickly. We like to think before we act. We like to be on time. We like to travel and know people from other cultures and beliefs. We want to know God in a real way, not clouded by religious jargon or dead traditions.
I will always love this little girl who is no longer little. It all started with looking in her quiet eyes while she drank her milk.
If you're a father of a daughter and son (or more), how do you feel differently towards each?