From Worrier to Warrior: A Brief Reflection on Fatherhood

“Congratulations to you, your new wife and your bonus kid. I don’t like the word step-kid.” The words from my good friend, Rick, pierced through my soul as my groomsmen surrounded and prayed for me right before my wedding on September 5th, 2015. Although I’d been cultivating my relationship with Amani (bonus daughter) for five years, the gravity of everything being cemented by the union of her mother and I, was evident in each of us.

As I stood at the altar I remember looking over to her and her face was flush red, eyes flooded with tears. I worried if those were tears of joy, fear or frustration. She was (and is still) very hard to read and to say our journey to that point was like a roller coaster ride is a gross understatement. Over the years I could always sense an internal wrestling going on with her as to whether she should embrace me or resist me; she is a true Daddy’s Girl (with her birth father) and that is a relationship that I support. This moment was no different.

As the evening progressed I watched her loosen up and enjoy herself. She even got in the mix of the bouquet toss where she was knocked to the ground by my older sister. She laughed it off and continued to dance the night away. These are the types of moments that I wish could last forever.

 

Then there are the moments I wish I could forget. Once, I introduced Amani to a friend during a beautiful evening of celebration at my good friend, Wilson’s, engagement dinner. When I introduced her as my daughter she surprisingly returned this scowling look of disgust that left me feeling deflated and embarrassed. Needless to say, our relationship has continued to evolve over the years and now there is a growing respect and understanding from her that I have her best interest and I’m not going anywhere.

Before the ink could dry on our marriage certificate it seemed like the next natural question for people to ask was, “When are you going to have children?” I was in no rush to add another child to this equation, as I was still trying to build with Amani, but my wife was definitely getting a case a baby fever so we compromised. We decided that we would not intentionally try but we also wouldn’t try to stop it either. I’m sure you can guess what happened next.

I remember the moment vividly when she told me she was pregnant. I’d walked in the door from a long, stressful day at work. It was one of those days where you feel like throwing in the towel. She looked me in my eyes and uttered those beautiful words, “We’re having a baby.” My emotions immediately overtook me and I cried tears of joy. The next month or so was filled with excitement and anticipation. I couldn’t hold the news in. I wanted to tell the world about our growing family.

Unfortunately, this joyous time was short lived. Over a weekend my wife had been experiencing some stomach pains and other symptoms so she scheduled a doctor appointment. That same day when I went into work I received news that a close friend of mine had passed away. We’d recently had lunch and there were no signs that anything bad was going on so I took it pretty hard. Upon arriving home that day, hoping to find some comfort and peace of mind, my wife shared some more news that left me crying in her arms again. This time it wasn’t because we were going to be having a baby; she’d had a miscarriage.

Baby Sykes (angel in Heaven)

A season of mourning ensued. On the surface I tried to stay strong for my wife but I was hurting deep inside. The doctor’s explanation that miscarriage is common did nothing to ease any pain. Still, we persevered with the thought that if it was God’s will for us to have a child then it would happen. If not, then I was completely satisfied with having the privilege to raise Amani. Besides, I was afraid to try again. What if we tried again and there was another miscarriage? I didn’t want my wife to endure that again.

As the holiday season approached I could sense baby fever creeping into the home again. I told my wife to wait until Christmas to tell me if she was pregnant but early one November morning she ran downstairs and said, “We’re having a baby!” For me, the reaction was one of more worry this time around. We kept the news secure for quite a while, sharing with more family and friends after each milestone date.

The most challenging moment came when we told Amani she was really going to be a big sister this time around. While I did not expect her to be thrilled about it, I didn’t expect her to storm away in anger. Her reaction then stirred some anger within me but I suppressed it with hopes that she would come along eventually. I worried about what the new addition would do to our family dynamics as a whole and how it would impact my relationship with her. I definitely love Amani but I’d also never experienced having a child of my own and I didn’t want to feel differently about one than the other. I thank God that Amani opened up to the idea! Glory to God and many thanks to my wife.

The process in leading up to the birth of Miss Cara Rose Sykes has been nothing short of joyful. Since the moment she was born at 4:05 a.m. on July 23, 2017 I feel as if I’ve been suspended in time. It feels as if, for the first time in my life, I am not experiencing anxiety or worry. Over the years, I’ve dampened many great moments because my mind was elsewhere. This time has been different. I’ve felt present in each moment with all five senses activated and a heart full of love. Miss Cara Rose Sykes is like the ingredient that enables the other elements of the recipe to blend and hold everything together.

At times, I’ve wished there was a script or a “how to guide” on how to navigate these different aspects of Fatherhood but if it were easy then there wouldn’t be growth. I believe our life’s tests are meant to build our character. They are meant to prepare us not only for greater challenges down the road, but also meant to prepare us to receive the blessings that God has in store for us.

A quote that always resonates with me is, “If you are going to worry then why pray and if you are going to pray then why worry?” With all the ambiguity of being a parent it has helped me to trust God more. It has also helped me to understand that the last thing a warrior should be doing is worrying. If you can’t be fully present in the battle then you are more vulnerable to the enemy’s attacks. I know this next chapter won’t be easy but there is no turning back. We’ve had a baby!!

 

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