When my daughter was born, my wife and I spent most of a week in the hospital.
Near the end of that time, I headed home to take care of a few things—the mail, the trash, clean up a bit, that kind of thing—and I realized something:
I never felt better in my life.
There was no stress. No anxiety. No worries. I felt this overwhelming sense of relaxation – of everything being right and good with the world. It was amazing.
Thinking about it later, my euphoria could be explained by a few things. For one, my entire life that week was wrapped up in caring for my newborn daughter. I rarely thought of myself, or my needs. Everything I did was for her (and, in close second, my wife). Selflessness breeds good vibes.
For two, I was severely lacking in sleep. A hospital cot is no place to get good, quality rest. So some of that stress-free feeling could have come from a profound mental tiredness. Who knows?
Also, I felt like an older version of me had passed away, and I had taken on this new role of “father.” I was a daddy. My old life, as I knew it, was gone. A new, exciting, terrifying future was in front of me. It was awesome in the old sense of the word (“full of awe”).
People often say that, facing a near-death experience, their post-experience life takes on a new shine. Their survival comes with a burden and an opportunity – a kind of second chance. It’s the only similar experience I can think of that describes what I felt on that drive home from the hospital to run some errands.
My headaches were gone. My shoulders weren’t all bunched up around my neck. Everything was rainbows and sunshine. It was weird! And it was something I’ll never forget.
That feeling is, as of today, a year old, along with my daughter. While that feeling faded, it never truly went away. It’s hung around, a quiet buzzing along the edges of everyday life, and it gets louder every time I see or hold my baby. Lots of parents know this feeling. In fact, many people tried to tell me what it’s like before I became a father.
But you don’t really know that feeling until it happens. I relay that message to fellow parents when I see them; I give them a wink and a nod of understanding.
“You know what it’s like,” I say. “And before it happened, you didn’t know.”
So I get the chance to put that feeling into the photos that I take of my daughter. She’s had a year of daddy sticking a camera in her face, as many children and many generations before her have experienced. Usually, she’s a good sport.
What she doesn’t know yet is that daddy tries to take that special feeling, from a year ago, and translate it through the photos I make of her. I hope that someday, many years from now, she’ll see the photos and understand how much I love her.