Just one year ago last week I became a father. Clara Cherie, named after maternal and paternal grandmothers, arrived safely at about 7:00 a.m. on November 21st. I admit that I didn't know quite what to expect. My main concerns, of course, were that she would be healthy and strong. But, with her father's genes on board I was also a bit worried that she could be an ugly baby! Well, she was healthy and strong, and she was also beautiful from the first second she was born.
To me Clara is a miracle. You mights say that I'm over-reacting or prone to hyperbole, but to me she is another testament in my life of the wonderful kindness of a loving Father. She has been a great blessing for Tania and I.
I have several memories from this first year with Clara that I would like to share. I will never forget when she was born. It was pretty amazing to witness that process and to meet her for the first time. There have been a few occasions in my life where an experience was totally new, yet somehow at the same time quite familiar. So it was with the arrival of Clara. Up until she was born she was only an image in my imagination, but strangely it was as if I knew her all along. My emotional threshold in that moment was overwhelmed, I must admit, and I was choked up as the doctor asked if I wanted to cut the cord, which I did.
The first week after Clara was born was also Thanksgiving. Between the holiday and the days off from work for her birth, we had a whole week together as a family without the interruptions of work and other obligations. I remember one particular day during that week when we brought Clara into the living room and I played the guitar as we sang together. A peaceful, happy spirit filled the room. I remember thinking and feeling at that moment that this is what it is all about!
Giving Clara a name and a blessing through the priesthood was also a special experience. I feel like the Spirit really guided us in naming Clara. I also felt special direction in pronouncing the blessings and promises reserved for this little girl. That was another day when the Spirit was close and emotions were very near the surface.
The first few weeks after Clara was born were a bit difficult at night, much more so for Tania than for me. I tried to help as much as I could, though that was limited because I wasn't the food source. One night very early on I was helping Tania change a diaper. The diaper was off and Clara was lying on my side of the bed. She apparently saw that as an opportune time to relieve some pressure. The projectile excretions were too fast and too extensive to be contained! The result was poop everywhere and a quick changing of clothes and sheets. As long as we are talking about her penchant for dramatic bowel movements, I should also mention that Clara enjoyed that activity during Elder's Quorum for several weeks at one point, much to the embarrassment of her father.
Clara is a very tenacious little baby. She has always been very social, though she has been more clingy to mom lately. Once she warms up she loves interacting and playing with adults and kids. She is also very strong-willed. I am confident that this trait will be a foundation for her to be stalwart and faithful in a difficult world. We have also started to see a very sensitive side to Clara. She will often begin to cry if you laugh at her for doing something silly or if another kid is crying in front of her.
All of the milestones have been fun to watch - smiling, cooing and babbling, rolling over, crawling, learning words and signs, playing games, recognizing people, and singing. I swear that kid's smile and laugh could warm the coldest heart in the world. There are few things better than holding her in my arms and rocking her to sleep, which sadly she has now almost entirely outgrown. For awhile there, as I would rock her she would sing, "Aih, aih, aih, aih, aih." Often as we hold her in our arms she will reach out and touch our faces.
Clara has loved bath time and playing in water since the beginning. She enjoys books and stories, singing primary songs, and clapping to 'The Price is Right'. She insists on climbing the stairs even though she has not yet mastered coming down. She has a sweet tooth to rival her daddy's, even loved root beer in the womb! She is very active, fights sleep at nearly all sleep times (I keep telling her that one day she will find sleep to be glorious!), and she is jabbering and signing more and more all the time.
Admittedly, I don't know much about being a parent yet. Even professional training cannot totally prepare you for the responsibility of appropriately raising a little human being. If I think about that too deeply I get a little overwhelmed. At times the job feels a bit powerless. You cannot force or control, you can't always take away pain, and you can't be sure you're getting it right. Yet, despite that, it brings a lot of happiness, and fun, and optimism. I want so much to do good for Clara. One thing is for sure, I've got plenty of love for her. I used to think that people were exaggerating when they would say, "You can't know the love of a parent for a child until you are one." Now I know what they mean. Just one look at those big brown eyes and puffy cheeks and I soften. When days at work are particularly long or difficult it helps to look at my pictures of Tania and Clara on my desk. Those pictures remind me why I'm doing what I'm doing. They inspire me to persist in gratitude.
I love my Clara. I'm so grateful to be her dad. I pray that God will make me equal to the task of what she deserves. I also pray that we will have many more birthdays with a healthy and happy daughter!