Bernadette Marie Hayward was born on June 6, 2015, so it’s been a little over a month since I became a dad. It’s been a tremendous, life-changing experience.

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She really hasn’t been that alert so far. For the most part, she just sleeps, eats, and poops. But anytime she opens her eyes and she looks at me, it definitely makes everything stop for a moment.

The day of the birth was pretty incredible. Robyn was induced, so we actually checked into the hospital the night before and she stayed over. The next day, we hung out pretty much the whole day waiting.

Once the medical staff was about ready to induce, they gave her medicine to help her get dilated, and an epidural to manage the pain. That’s the part I was worried about. I didn’t want her to be in pain. For the first 45 minutes or so, she said she was fine, but for whatever reason, she metabolized the medicine too fast, and the epidural kind of kept wearing off. So she had bouts of pain throughout the day.

Throughout the whole process, that was definitely the most difficult part for me: seeing her in pain, and not really being able to do anything about it. There was a moment right before she started pushing where she said the pain was like a 10, and she had tears coming down her face. I had to try to do everything I could to not cry myself, and be strong for her. That may be one of the most difficult things I’ve had to watch my entire life.

Luckily, that didn’t last that long. They gave her another dose of the epidural — I think it was a different type of medicine — and it kicked in pretty quickly.

At that point, Robyn had been pushing for about half an hour, and the doctor came in to check on her. Robyn had known this particular doctor from a young age. They started making small talk. Robyn started asking about her daughter, that sort of thing. All I could think was, “Robyn, focus right now. You’re trying to push our baby out. Come on, let’s go!” But it also made me smile a little bit. If she was chatting it up and small-talking, that meant she was feeling fine and wasn’t hurting.

She did a great job. She only ended up pushing for an hour, which was pretty good for a first-time mom from what they told us. While she was pushing, I was able to stand right by her side, and I did everything that the nurse was doing on the other side of the bed. Despite a lot of people telling me not to look, I did. I got to witness the entire thing, and I thought it was a pretty amazing experience. It’s a miracle that kids come into the world like that. It’s a gift from God.

When the baby comes out, everything is kind of a blur. Your head fills with all these thoughts. It’s amazing that a baby is inside her mom for months, almost under water, and then she comes out and immediately knows how to breathe and move around. It was cool to witness what she was going through, and experience everything for the first time. I cut the umbilical cord, which was pretty cool. In no time, they put Bernadette on Robyn’s chest.

Afterward, I held Bernadette for the first time. She has my eyes. Other people have said that she’s got my wife’s mouth and nose. I can’t really tell yet, but she definitely has my eyes. I’ll never forget the way she looked at me. I don’t know if she could see me or anything, but I felt like there was a connection there. She knew who I was. That was pretty awesome.

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Holding her was definitely the best part of the experience for me. I didn’t know what to expect at all, and I’ve never been a baby person. But it’s different now. I love holding her.

It’s actually pretty funny that Bernadette was born on June 6th, the same day that American Pharaoh became the first Triple Crown winner in something like 30-plus years. That can be her little claim to fame.

A lot of people have asked why we picked Bernadette for the name. Bernadette Marie is a combination of two family names on Robyn’s side. If we’d had a boy, it was going to be Gordon. (I’m actually the fourth Gordon, and it’s a matter of carrying on a family legacy.) So Robyn got to choose the girl’s name. Bernadette comes from her grandfather Bernard, and Robyn’s confirmation name is Bernadette, so that’s pretty neat. Then Marie is Robyn’s middle name, and her mother’s middle name, so that’s another family legacy.

So when it comes down to it, the second we knew we were having a girl, I really had no choice in the name. I actually like the name a lot, and contrary to popular belief, Bernadette did not come from the Big Bang Theory character.

For now, at least while she’s a baby, we’re going to call her “Bernie.”

BEING BERNIE’S DAD

0717_gh_bernie4I’m learning new things every day about Bernadette and being a father.

Robyn was in the hospital for about 48 hours after she had the baby, which was a good way to start. They have the nursery, and Robyn was actually able to get some sleep at night while the nurses took care of the baby. Sometimes, they would come in and wake Robyn up to feed the baby. Other than that, they took the baby at night and let Robyn sleep. Robyn also let me go home each night, which was great.

But as good as having the help was, about 36 hours into the stay, we were all itching to get out of there and take the baby home. I would just go back each day and we would all hang out, and it got pretty boring. So we were glad to check out and head home when we did.

Once we did that, the car ride home was like no other I’ve ever experienced in my life. I’ve never been more safe as a driver. I had my hands on 10 and 2 the entire time, and I think my hands were kind of sweating on the steering wheel, too. I wanted to make sure I was doing everything right. As parents, you realize that you’ve got another life in your hands now that needs you and has been entrusted to you.

Everything has been changing in the last month or so, in a good way. It makes you immediately grow up a little bit when you have a baby. I have a father’s mindset now, which I never really had.

I take care of things a little bit more, and I immediately felt and started acting more responsible. That instinct kind of kicked in instantly. Now, before I do anything else, I check and see, “Is Bernadette okay? Does she need anything?” There were times before she was born when my alarm would go off and I’d still be pretty tired, so I’d hit the snooze even if I was supposed to do something. But now it’s different. I get right up. I know I’ve got to go help with Bernie, or I have to go get something done for Robyn.

As I was told and expected, sleep has been at a minimum since Bernie arrived. But I can’t say enough about how great Robyn has been through the whole process, and how much she’s been doing for the baby since she was born. She stays up with the baby pretty much every night, and doesn’t get much sleep. We feed Bernadette every two to three hours, so Robyn kind of stays up with her, and does that every night. I go to bed around 12, and she lets me sleep in sometimes. I get up around 6 or 7 in the morning, and then let Robyn take a two or three hour nap before I have to go work out. But she’s been tremendous with the baby. I’m so grateful for that. I know it’s taken a toll on her body and her mind, but she’s been great, going back throughout the whole pregnancy.

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I look at Robyn differently now. And that’s not to say I love her more. I loved her with my whole heart before. But I’ve experienced these other feelings toward her, feelings that are more than love. I see her as not only my wife, but also as a protector and a mom. It’s pretty cool. I look at her with so much more respect, in awe at what she was able to do. When I watch her take care of Bernie, I see something different about her. It definitely just creates a lot more respect and adoration for her from my perspective. It’s hard to explain.

PERFECT TIMING

I’m very, very glad this all happened during the offseason. The timing pretty much worked out perfectly, especially for it being our first baby. It probably won’t be this perfect next time. It was great for us to be able to have all this time together, and be able to do it Indianapolis, which is home for both of us. Both of our families were there for the birth, and for this first month, we’ve had a bunch of help. Her parents are right down the street, and my parents are down the street.

0717_gh_bernie5I’m really enjoying the whole experience and spending time with Bernie and my family. Sometimes, it’s just fun to look at her. She’s not that alert right now, and she doesn’t really react. So when we make faces or noises at her, we’re really just making fools of ourselves. She’s probably just thinking, “These idiots are looking stupid.”

But when she does smile back, it’s definitely an amazing feeling.

Just the little noises that she makes are funny too. She farts all the time, and that’s funny to me, because she makes this face when she does it. Then afterwards, she just goes back to normal. Like she’s thinking, “Ahhhh, all better now.” Other times you can tell she’s pooping because she has no expression on her face. She doesn’t even blink when she does it sometimes, and it’s just like, “Wow, really? You’re not even going to make a face to acknowledge that this just happened?” After she’s done, she just sits there looking around, which is kind of funny, because then we have to deal with that mess.

Changing diapers is an experience for me. It’s a lot different when I do it than when my wife does it. I’m pretty inefficient, for one thing. I use like seven wipes each time, and I don’t know if I do it nearly as fast as she does. And then I usually struggle getting the diaper on. Bernadette always kicks her legs, so as soon as I get one of the sides on, she kicks it off.

I haven’t really done much practicing. I did a little bit at the beginning, but now I kind of just wing it. I’m going to do it so many times that’s practice enough. But Robyn was a natural from the start.

It’s still kicking in how much our lives have changed. We’re obviously very early in the parenthood experience. Bernie is still so small, but each and every day she feels more like a person. Once she starts crawling around, making noises more, and she’s more active, it will be a little different.

But I’m enjoying every minute.