Second Punch

Taking a punch hurts. It can catch you off guard. Knock the wind out of you. Gets you seeing stars. The first time you get punched can really hurt.
The second time you take a punch you’re maybe a little more ready for it. It still hurts but maybe you braced yourself a little more. The wind isn’t as knocked out of your sails. The stars don’t sparkle quite the way they did the first time. The point I’m trying to get to is kids can be a lot like taking a punch (if this doesn’t lock my nomination for Father of the Year, I don’t know what will).

The first kid is a punch to the head. You’re dazed. The stars are circling your eyes. You smell as bad as they do and you’re exhausted. It took you 6 months to figure out when a cry means they’re hungry and when it means they’re dirty. Its amazing, knowing how tiring, expensive, and time consuming that it can be, we still continue having babies.
And yet, July 19th, 2005 this is exactly what my wife and I did (let me clarify what we did, happened in November, the results of that doing came in July). Emma Jo came to us after forty minutes of pushing and to much less fanfare as her older sister did three years earlier (speaking as a 2nd born, this is an affliction affecting all 2nd borns, the excitement is never as palpable as it was with the 1st).  The usual suspects were of course there, grandmothers and grandfathers. Sibling, aunts and uncle, and cousins lined the room for the chance to see our new baby, but gone were the vuvuzelas, friends of friends, co-workers, and the janitor someone grabbed to have see the baby.

Like getting ready to take that second punch, we all were a little more ready the second time around. I didn’t stay in the hospital this time because we had a three year old at home who thankfully did not know how to do much more than turn on the television and not choke on Cheerios that I had to take care of (thank you Hannah). Alicia had Emma in the room with her at night instead of in the nursery. We aced the tests given to us by the nurses to prove our competence before taking her home (and I almost grabbed that damn pacifier this time too). And when we got her home, it was done quietly.

It was easier to wrangle in her little arms and legs while we gave her a bath (kids…surprisingly agile while in their little fold up tub). Diaper changing was easier (that is it was easier after I remembered how to do it…what can I say, it had been a while, I forgot). We picked up on the meaning to her cries sooner even though all were deafening. We had her in a crib within 2 months (and I had the distinct pleasure of ridding our room of that cursed vibrating bassinet). We were still exhausted and irritable but our smell didn’t quite reek of sour formula and dirty diapers like it did with Hannah. All the things three years before we had struggled to understand or figure out we had a better grasp on for that second punch, for our Emma.

That was 5, what seems like very short, years ago. Since that time, I have had the pleasure of watching my little girl grow up beyond anything I could have imagined. I’ve seen her blossom in to a vibrant, loving, spastic, fun, bright, couch jumping big girl. Her little arms are capable of engulfing me with every hug. Her smile is infectious. The faces she makes can get me laughing even when I want to yell.  She is my Emma.
It might well be impossible, as a parent, to think we will have all the answers to all the questions and situations are kids will raise but experience can be a great teacher. Our first kid knocked us silly. It took a while before my wife or I stopped seeing stars. And after that first time we could have stopped altogether but I am so happy and so thankful, 5 years ago, I took that second punch.

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