June 20, 2011

A Father's Perspective

I am not the typical man. I have always known I had one goal: to be a daddy. In kindergarten when the teacher asked what everybody wanted to be when they grew up I answered, “A dad.”

Once I had found the right girl I figured all I had to do was be patient and wait for the family portrait I had dreamed of all my life to become a reality. I believed that within a decade or so I would be well on my way to seeing it populated with a beautiful bride and four lovely daughters, even if I was still waiting on some of them to come into the world.

After dating for four years, my wife and I got married. We knew we needed to build a strong marriage before we began to bring children into a family, so we decided to wait five years.

We both started college the fall semester after our first anniversary. We had planned to practice birth control until the second semester of our senior years. If things had gone as we had planned, our first child would have been born at the end of the summer following graduation.

We started down that road but it didn’t end up where I had thought it would. It turned into one of the most devastating times in my life. Becoming a dad was the one thing in my life that I had no control over, but it felt like the greatest failure of my life. In the midst of this, I turned thirty. I was so depressed over not having already become a father I insisted I had nothing to celebrate and refused to even attend a milestone birthday party if one was held for me.

This was a shock to my wife. She had no idea I was even hurting. This wasn’t because I was keeping my feelings from her. I really wanted to share them with her, but she was struggling with her own infertility battle and I knew how deeply she had been hurting. Out of my desire to protect her I couldn’t add to her pain by unloading mine on her. Unless a moment like this one had come along, she never would have known how much I was hurting too.

Sometimes we have dreams that never come to pass and we have to let them go, but this was not one of them. This was a dream that was burned into my DNA. I had always known that I was supposed to be a daddy, but for some reason that dream was being kept from me, and it had become more than I could bear. On my darkest day I cried out to God and begged him to take my life. I didn’t want to live another day on this earth if I was never going to hear a child’s voice call me “Daddy.”

That was a very dark moment and it still brings up deep emotions when I recall it but, ironically, at that very same moment of desperation, God had already been moving on my behalf to bring my oldest son into my family. It was only fifteen minutes later that the telephone rang and the voice on the other end said that a baby boy had been born that morning and he could be ours if we wanted him.

Since then we have experienced one miscarriage and two successful pregnancies, through which God has blessed us with a daughter and another son. I wish I could say that this has made everything complete, but my heart still has a longing that has not yet been filled.

I have always envisioned my family portrait as being populated with more children and that hasn’t changed. I am not yet satisfied. Is that wrong? I am happy with my three but my heart looks at the pictures on my wall and misses the one lost to miscarriage and wonders if there is room for more that we have yet to meet.

We are all at different places on our own journeys, and even though sometimes we may feel like “If I only had just one, I could be satisfied”, the truth is unless our dream has always been for just one, we will never truly be satisfied with one.

The writer of Proverbs wrote, “Happy is the man whose quiver is full.” For many years I hated that verse. I felt stung by it because my quiver had a large vacancy in it. I had fashioned a quiver perfectly sized to hold four children and I had to carry it around empty. Though it was metaphorical and no one really saw it, it hung on my heart like a badge of shame. It became a burden much to heavy to bear.

Even as children began to enter my family and one by one arrows began to fill up my quiver, I still saw the empty space and that vacancy weighed far more than the arrows did.

God has taught me through this experience that all of us have unfulfilled dreams. It doesn’t matter how much of those dreams we may have experienced the completion of, it is the portions that remain incomplete that weigh on us. This does not make us ungrateful children of God. It just makes us honest. What is important is to not to become so consumed by the unfulfilled desire that you rob yourself of the ability to experience the happiness God wants you to live in right now.

John is married to Julie, the founder of Ladies in Waiting an online ministry to women dealing with infertility that merged with Hannah’s Prayer in 2002. John has recently returned to working full-time after being a stay-at-home dad for nearly fourteen years. John is a champion for father-daughter relationships, which you can read about on his blog.

Author Website: Every Daddy's Princess