Chapter 29 – Fatherhood

Let me just say, Bonnie is a Super Hero.

She thrived during her entire pregnancy. She was running four-milers up until she was eight months pregnant and she never complained about anything. Not even about being my designated driver for an entire nine months! But it wasn’t until she gave Lexi a 100% Natural, Underwater Birth without any interventions that I truly recognized her strength. She was composed and determined, focused and unwavering throughout the entire experience.

And all I could do was just stand by her side and watch.

Sure, I applied counter-pressure to her lower back during back-labor and I brushed the hair out of her face in between contractions. I even tried to give her a sip of the “labor-aide” that she had prepared, but it was right as she was starting another contraction so all I got was her patented “stink-face” expression. In other words, my job was one primarily of moral support and physical presence. This was the Bonnie show and I was simply a fan on the sidelines.

Then, after about four hours of active labor, at 12:34pm EST on September 18, 2012, Alexis Isabella Bravo was born and our lives immediately changed.

As Bonnie reached down and lifted Lexi out of the water, I was simply in awe. Lexi sat in Bonnie’s lap in the tub, wide-eyed, looking around. Not crying or whimpering, just looking around and taking it all in.

My eyes filled up with tears as Bonnie looked down at Lexi and Lexi stared up at Bonnie. Then, after waiting for the cord-blood to finish pumping, I cut the umbilical cord and Lexi was officially free.

Immediately after that, the midwives had me take of my shirt and quickly put Lexi on my chest while Bonnie went into the shower to deliver the placenta.

Lexi was still purple and covered with vernix as she laid on my chest and looked up at me. We sat in the rocking chair and just stared at each other for what felt like nothing more than a couple minutes when Bonnie emerged from the bathroom. The midwives immediately took Lexi from me and placed her on Bonnie’s chest so she could do the “breast crawl” and begin nursing. At which point my job was pretty much complete.

Over the next few days and weeks, Lexi really had no need for me. She needed her mother’s milk and she wanted to hear her mother’s heartbeat and her mother’s voice. I could help change diapers, but aside from that, my job was simply to go to work and keep the lights on.

Again, I could help cook and clean and take care of Bonnie, but that was more about my job as a good husband, not my role as a father. With regards to my responsibility as a father, there really wasn’t much for me to do early on. Lexi didn’t “need” me. She needed Bonnie.

As Lexi got older, things started to change. When she was about four months old, Bonnie started teaching classes a couple nights a week at an after school program, leaving me and Lexi to fend for ourselves. Though she was only gone for about three hours, they were a long three hours. Not that Lexi was bad, but if I didn’t keep her entertained she would focus on the fact that Bonnie was gone. So as to not let that happen, I would strap her into the Baby Bjorn (baby carrier) and we would go for a nice four mile walk around the lake. I suppose it could have been easier to put her in the stroller as opposed to wearing her, except for the fact that she hated the stroller and would scream bloody murder the second I would set her down in it.

Either way, three hours at a time, Lexi and started to develop a relationship. After our walks, she would often times want to nurse. Unfortunately, I just am not equipped for that. I would try to give her a bottle of the breast milk that Bonnie would pump, but Lexi wanted nothing to do with the imitation nipple. So, more often than not, Lexi would get frustrated with me and just cry. This was tough for me during those first month weeks, but Lexi continued to grow and understand that though Bonnie left, she always came back. As that understanding grew, she grew more comfortable with me as well.

It wasn’t until Lexi was about a year old that we really, really started to bond. I would put her in the WeeRide on the front of my mountain bike and we would go for rides to the park down my the water. She would wear this enormous Winnie-the-Pooh bike helmet and every time we would pass by someone (which was constantly) I would whisper in her ear to say “hi” to them.

I could see the expression on each person’s face as we approached. They would see her giant helmet and smile and then comment about how cool the WeeRide was. Then, when she would actually say “hi” to them with her tiny one-year old voice, their faces would completely light up! Though it had nothing to do with me, I had a blast seeing this little girl spread joy all over the downtown area.

Halfway through our ride, we would stop at this awesome little park that was right on the bay and next to a small municipal airport. We’d watch the planes take off and land and Lexi would climb up and down the slides. By the time we would get home, Lexi would be tired enough to actually nap and when Bonnie would arrive she would find both of us asleep on the couch.

Since then, our relationship has continued to grow stronger. Not because we spend more time together, but because of the quality of time we spend together. As I work outside of the home for 40 hours / week and Bonnie works as a stay at home mom 168 hours / week, there is no way for me to have the same type of relationship with Lex that she does. Despite the fact that I only do two things in life: 1) Go to work and 2) Come home and play with kids,. It’s just not possible, and that’s that I don’t work long hours. I’m home everyday by 5:00pm and my work never takes me out of town. Even so, I still only get to see the kids for about three and a half hours a day before they have to go to bed.

As this isn’t much time, I have to be intentional about we spend it and make sure that it’s quality time. Whether we’re out for a bike ride to the park or playing in the back yard or going for a walk or going out for ice cream or wrestling or dancing a reading books or playing legos… Our time has to be focused.

Unfortunately, being a Papa isn’t all fun and games. Though my roles include Provider, Protector, and Leader, also included is the role of Disciplinarian. Yes, Bonnie is strict and does a fantastic job of keeping the kids in line, but her voice is no where near as deep or as loud as mine and because she spends so much time with the kids it’s almost impossible for her to be the “bad cop”. So by default, when necessary, it’s usually my job to put the foot down.

This is a tough role, but it has to be done. It’s tough because my time with the kids is already limited and I hate to spend the little time I do have correcting them, but the fact remains that it has to be done. As much as I’d like to be their best friends, that’s not my primary job. My job is to teach them to love God and their neighbor through my words and my actions and when they aren’t behaving in that loving manner, they have to be corrected. Either I do it now, or the local law enforcement officers will do it later.

That said, my job as a father is a balance, much of it behind the scenes. I go to work and provide for the family, I mow the lawn and take out the trash so we all have a clean place to play and live, I lead by example, I sacrifice regularly, and I raise my voice when I have to. This all grants me the honor of dances in the kitchen, wrestling matches in the living room, bike rides through the park, and the big piece of chicken at dinner.

And I’ve never been happier.