Many of you know the story of the Miracle Birth story of Marley Kathleen McCarthy (no, she wasn’t born with the pigs at the MN State Fair!), but now that we’re almost a year and a half into this “parenting” thing, I thought it would be a good time to reflect on where we’ve been over that time.
Before I flash back to the “Miracle Birth,” I’ll give you an important background detail to the story-- we did not know that my amazing wife, Meghan, was pregnant at the time. As a Certified Financial PLANNER, I had charted out a clear path on how the next 5 years of my life would go (LOL at thinking I could do that!). We were in the midst of purchasing a duplex that we planned to live in for a few years while we saved up enough money to buy our “forever home” and start our family at that time.
1st Lesson: There’s no point trying to plan out your life. Get comfortable with the fact that most of what happens to you is out of your control.
Now, flash back to July 4th, 2020 at 4:00A.M.:
We spent the 4th of July weekend at Meghan’s grandmother’s home in Sigourney, a town in Southeast Iowa with a population around 2,000. My holiday began with pure shock: imagine being woken up at 4:00a.m. on the 4th of July in your Grandmother-in-law’s basement bedroom to somebody throwing firecrackers at your head. Now, imagine that they’re not firecrackers—it’s a crying newborn that belongs to you (which you didn’t know existed), and your wife just gave birth, all by herself, in the bathroom shower. And just like that, my life changed forever.
We rushed to the county hospital to make sure Meghan and “the baby” were both healthy, then were moved to the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital for more observation on both of them. We watched fireworks out of our Hospital room window while trying to wrap our heads around what was happening, and going through endless online lists of horrible baby names. What are you supposed to name the thing that had been baking in Meghan’s body for the past 9 months without us knowing? Not even a single kick, or any other indication that you were coming? We spent a total of 3 days at the University of Iowa Childrens’ Hospital learning how to feed, change diapers, and bathe the little raisin we’d named Marley. I’ve never been to a pre-natal class before, but I strongly believe that there’s no better way to learn how to change a dirty diaper than to learn on the job.
The first 6 months:
The first 6 months of Marley’s life were a complete blur—my main memory from those first months was how often I was afraid to “ruin” our perfect baby. I’d set myself daily reminders that billions of people (many of whom were much less intelligent than us) managed to raise good-hearted children despite their personal flaws. Our new family lived as drifted between Marley’s new grandparents’ houses as we started to get more comfortable with our new reality (and to get much-needed emotional/physical support from family).
2nd Lesson: Don’t try to be the perfect parent. Your best is the best you can do. A parent’s job is to love and support them to grow into who they were always going to become, regardless of their parents!
Becoming a father taught me so much more about being a child than I expected. It’s impossible to understand the love a parent can have for their child until you have one of your own. The outpouring of love and support Marley’s received from her grandparents (and aunts/uncles) is something you can only see to believe. Chris Janson talks about his relationship with his mom in his song, “Bye Mom” that hit me hard:
“You don’t know you’re somebody that somebody loves more than themselves. There’s a beauty in the innocence of not knowing that the time they spend is more than one could ask for, and that’s a special kind of love.”
3rd Lesson: Thank your parents for their love and support. Being a parent is a thankless job, and at its worst, it’s exhausting. The selflessness and sacrifice required to be a parent is something you can only experience yourself to understand.
Fast forward to today:
Because of the circumstances, Meghan never got any maternity leave—she never even thought to ask given the surprise situation we found ourselves in. 15 months in, Meghan’s been a full-time employee AND a full-time mother at the same time. It’s a miracle she’s been able to balance the two without letting the pressure crack her.
Marley is the happiest, sweetest, most innocent baby I’ve ever seen. The best part of my day is getting home to see the thrill on her face to have her dad home. I truly can’t remember how I spent my time before Marley was born. I can’t wait to get home every day to spend my evenings with her.
Watching Marley develop over the past 15 months is nothing short of a miracle—to watch her transform from a newborn raisin that could only eat, poop, and cry to an actual miniature human being that I get to chase and be ordered around by is an amazing experience. It’s fascinating to watch her interact with other babies her age at her ECFE class or at the neighborhood park.
15 months into this crazy experiment, I still feel like I have no idea what I’m doing—but that’s also what makes it so enjoyable! I look forward to Marley teaching me many more lessons over the years—and I hope I get the chance soon to do it all over again with another baby!