My journey was slightly different than most twenty-somethings that find out they're going to be a Dad. The first time I "found-out" I was going to be a Dad didn't start with an announcement, a cigar, or a pregnancy test. The first time I discovered this was when my wife and I announced we were going to be married. You see, there was already a smart, beautiful 8-year old in my wife's life that I had started to hang-out with while we were dating. This included a year of Christmas Presents, school activities, dinners out for 3 (not 2). When the decision to get married was finalized in May, I knew that I'd be a Father instantly. It was part of the deal, and I was happy to take it on.
With most men, they get their instant "realization" of Fatherhood when their wife announces "I'm pregnant!" for the first time. It's at this moment, in true Hollywood fashion, that most guys instantly flash ahead the next 40 years and in a moment of time (birthdays, dirty diapers, smashed peaches all over the face in a high chair, baseball games, graduations, etc). In my case, I got the first glimpse of life as a father a few months' earlier.
I had brought Raygen to a business meeting at night the previous December. There were speakers, schedules, and all other sorts of items to keep me occupied while Raygen and a friend drew on a whiteboard in a separate office. As the meeting came to a close, someone from the office approached me and said, "Steve, your daughter is hungry." My daughter? What? Is THAT What I have now??
At this time, Natalia and I were not engaged to be married. In fact, I'm not sure we were quite to the point of considering that. And yet, MY DAUGHTER is hungry? What did this mean? Up until this point, all 26 years of my life had been focused on feeding ME! I always bought dinner for 1, or sometimes 2 if I was dating. But a daughter!?!? How could this happen.
I'll never forgot that maiden voyage to McDonalds, child in tow, ordering not one, but TWO MEALS. GASP! Was this going to cost more than $10??!?!? I had never spent that much at a McDonalds before. (Thankfully, Happy Meals were only $3.49 at the time, avoiding the $10-barrier).
This was my pregnancy test moment, minus the blue-strip. As I reached for that bag, and took out an extra 4-piece chicken nuggets that WASN'T MINE, I realized the reality of Fatherhood suddenly was upon me. I had to begin to plan for, not only a household of two, but a household of three, or more. All in a span of 30 minutes at a McDonalds. Amazing how life can hit you.
Fast forward a little more than a year. March the following year, I'm on the verge of leaving a job I couldn't stand. I knew that I'd be out of work for a time to land on my feet somewhere else. Natalia and I are married, Raygen was three months from turning 9. I still have my whole life ahead of me, right? After all, Natalia had provided-for and cared-for Raygen for the first 8+ years of her life, so adding another income would only make things better, correct?
Well, well, well, on the Eve of my pending job-sizing I was prepared to go through, my wife has me come in the bathroom. She looks up at me and says, "Hey Hon, you know how I've been zapped of energy recently? And I almost felt so sick that I didn't go to work today? I think I know why." I was curious, but increasingly nervous. My first glance WASN'T at my wife, but rather at the garbage can. And there I saw it. A PACKAGE! UNWRAPPED! Oh no, what was this? Was it . . . It was.
She had the white stick in hand. It had the blue stripe. Oh dear! What am I into now?? About to leave my current job, but the career search just got a little bit more real now. There was a deadline to it. All of this flashed before my eyes before she could utter the words, "It's positive."
To be sure, Natalia always thought to go to the clinic to double-check, which was booked for the next morning. At the appointment, the doctor confirmed our findings. Hals Baby #1 was on the way. Raygen was going to be a Big Sister. I was going to be a newborn-Dad for the first time. How did this happen!??? Wait, don't answer that. This is a family blog.
The ensuing months taught me a lot, and prepared me for becoming a Father as best they could. You start to accumulate baby outfits, furniture, diaper bags, and more diaper bags, and even more diaper bags. Your kitchen cabinets all of a sudden have baby bottles in them. Whaaaaaa? Yeah, that happened.
But the moment of truth happened right around 8:04 pm on a Thursday night in October. After 16 hours of labor after my wife's water broke, Amaya Faye came into this world. I saw her and instantly fell in love. The nurses cleaned her off for a second, swaddled-her and handed her to Momma, who had instantly forgotten she had just been through one of the most painful processes known to man. She was so smitten, so love-struck by this little peanut that she couldn't wait to hold in her arms. I too, as a Dad, was struck by this cutie-pie. After giving her the first bath and first diaper, I just held her. And held her. And held her. This changed everything (again!)
A few years later in 2010, I would drive out to New York to my best friend's wedding and return home the day after Father's Day. Awaiting me was a card from my family. Amaya was now 3 1/2 years old, Raygen was 12 and we had been married almost 5 years. The Father's Day gifts rolled in, a homemade card from Amaya, a clever quip from Raygen, and then the big, sappy, "Thank you for being the best Father/Husband/Man of God" card from Natalia. But this one had an appendix to it.
Each turn of the card said, "I love you Dad." The first was signed by Raygen. The second flip of the page was signed by Amaya, and the third was signed "All my Love" from Natalia. But there was a 4th page. And in it was a picture. Of a pregnancy test with a finger pointing to a stripe. The last page of the card was titled, "Happy Father's Day from your new favorite laptop. Arriving Feb 2011."
Oh wow. That just happened. And so it all begins. While it hit me this time, it wasn't the Hiroshima/Nagasaki impact of the first two. I really felt a little more prepared this time for what lay ahead. Plus, I was on the other side of 30 this time, so I was a little more grown-up, right?
Amazingly, the thought that dominated the whole 7+ months was, "Are we going to be welcoming another girl, or will a boy join the fold?" Natalia and I kept feeling that this little chunky monkey was going to be a boy. And in the afternoon of January 22, Elisha Steven came forth. Beautiful, strong, a fighter from birth.
And that is how the Hals quiver came forth, from a Father's perspective anyways. How blessed am I from above with these amazing children. What a responsibility. What an awesome task to raise, love and guide them, not only as children, but into their young-adult and even adult lives. What a feeling. How did this all happen?
Wait, don't answer that. This is a family blog.