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A healthy baby

Before getting pregnant, and even as long as I can remember, I hoped to have a son. It was probably a mix of some clinging to gender stereotypes and wanting to go out on lots of manly adventures with my son, but I know it was born more of a fear of the unknown.

I never had sisters growing up. Most of my interactions with the fairer sex between the ages of 3 and 13 were spent keeping my distance. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t terribly afraid of girls. They just seemed to play with different toys and have different interests. Even writing this, I catch myself referring back to relics of the times where boys and girls had entirely different toys that were marketed to us in obscenely stereotypical ways.

Flash forward to getting pregnant.

I tell myself that I’ve matured, I’m a grown up now, I must not have the same fear. Right? Wrong!

Going into the doctor’s office to find out the results of some diagnostic tests that would also give us the sex of the baby, I found myself falling back into the same thought process I swore I wouldn’t. I kept telling myself that the important thing is having a healthy baby. I can adapt and overcome being told the baby is a girl. And yes, I’m aware how terribly that sounds as I read it now, months later.

The appointment went very well. All of the tests came back with the results we were hoping: a healthy baby! GIRL! Admittedly, I was a bit disappointed at first. I found myself simply overjoyed with the fact that we are going to have a healthy baby girl. In the end, health is most important.

What activities could we possibly do together?

In the few weeks that followed, I spent time wondering what kind of interests that I could have in common with my daughter as she grows up. “Surely, my interests are far too manly for a little girl,” a phrase not unlike something that went through my head.

An incredibly pleasant epiphany hit me square in the face on two separate occasions, and both on the same day! I decided to spend a Saturday doing two activities that I really enjoy; Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and indoor rock climbing. I’m not sure if it was due to the fact that I was more aware, but I started to notice that there were lots of girls between the ages of 3 and 13 practicing both sports. Even more reassuring was the number of incredibly proud dads watching their daughters dominate their male opponents on the mats and on the rock walls.

And there it was, right in front of me, my “Aha” moment. Girls can do all of the same things that boys can. Dads can share their interests with their daughters because the interest is not the important detail. The most important part is finding something that you both enjoy doing together.

What’s next?

So, bring it on world, I look forward to finding even more interests that we can share in the years to come. And yes, I’ll gladly sit down to a tea party or to braid her hair whenever she wants. Why? Because I’m her dad and I’ll do anything for her.

That’s the story of how my logo came to be.

5 things to do when you find out she’s pregnant

1. Do some initial research

For future dads like us, sadly, there aren’t a ton of resources out there. You’re going to run into a lot of content directed at future moms. Do not discount the information because it will be helpful to understand what she’ll be going through over the next 9-10 months.

Look into a few of the companion apps out there for your phone. They can give you a good bit of information as a starting point. It’s also fun to follow along in the development of your baby with an app that compares the fetus to common items like fruits and vegetables. Personally, I really liked the DaddyUp app.

2. Get acquainted with the medical process

If the mother of your future baby wants and expects you to attend the majority of her doctor appointments, then you should know you’re going to be visiting the doctor about once per month in the first 6 months and then every two weeks from week 28 until the end of the pregnancy. Some of the appointments are really exciting like the ones where you’ll see your baby with the help of an ultrasound. Hearing your baby’s heartbeat for the first time will stick with you for a long time!

Obviously, it’s not all fun and games. You’re going to be called on to decide as a couple whether to go through a battery of tests designed to detect birth defects in the baby and make some tough decisions based on the results. Make sure you talk about how you both feel about potential results ahead of accepting any of these tests!

3. Understand what she expects of you throughout her pregnancy

If you’re like me, then you found out she’s pregnant around week 5. That’s pretty early in the process and the generally accepted wisdom is that you shouldn’t announce until after the end of the first trimester. (Week 12) There are a number of reasons for this but they all center around the risk of miscarriage in the first trimester.

I thought waiting another 2 months to tell anyone was far too difficult and I couldn’t imagine going through a miscarriage without any outside support. We make a very good team and I’m not discounting how much we support each other. We both decided we would tell a couple of friends so they were aware and we had other people to talk to about the experience.

Have you thought about a potential nursery? Will you need to renovate in order to accommodate the new addition?

4. Get your shit on track

I have always needed a routine to succeed. For some people, it can be as simple as waking up around the same time daily, but I need more structure. I highly recommend taking an inventory of what you need to feel like you’ve won the day and turn those activities and habits into a routine ahead of the baby’s arrival.

As an example, I need to work out daily. Now, I don’t mean two full hours in the gym. It can be as simple as doing push-ups to failure just to get the blood flowing. I know these types of activities are going to help when the sleepless nights start and will help me stay positive and level-headed.

5. Take a deep breath

Lastly, and most importantly, don’t forget to breathe. Pregnancy is not a sprint and it takes close to 10 months before you get to meet your new baby. There are going to be some trying times throughout the process, but you need to remember to take time for yourself to make sure that you’re in the right headspace. Mindfulness meditation can help to center you during some of the trying times and will likely help you when your significant other goes into labor.

There are lots of people who try very hard to get pregnant without any luck so be thankful that you get to experience it and remember to enjoy every second.

We’re Pregnant!

We spent what felt like years discussing whether or not we wanted to have children. Most conversations ended with the conclusion that we weren’t ready. We said we would revisit the topic at a later time. Going into the summer of 2019, we both had a change of heart and decided we wanted to have a child.

The summer felt even shorter considering we were counting down the days to when we would know whether she was pregnant or not. There was a level of disappointment that was totally unexpected at the end of the month when we found out she wasn’t pregnant. Of course, I’d expected that there would be at least a couple of months between ending the use of the contraceptive pill and the possibility of becoming pregnant.

Then came the beginning of September. Officially three months after we decided to stop the pill and start trying to have a baby. She had officially missed her period by a week, so we thought it best to take a test.

Diana went to the bathroom and peed on the pregnancy test while I waited in the kitchen. She brought it out to me. We started a timer and waited impatiently. After the mandatory wait time, I picked up the test and saw a single blue line in each window. I don’t know anything about how to read a pregnancy test. Without saying anything, I picked up the box to figure out what it all meant.

“We’re pregnant! I’m going to be a dad and you’re going to be a mom!”

We kissed. We hugged and then hugged our puppies. I teared up. This was all the confirmation that I am ready to have a baby and raise a child. I’m ready to be a dad.

The next thought that came to mind was, “what did I get myself in to and I have a lot to learn!”

Earning My Second Stripe on My White Belt

It is difficult to go from most activities being goal and achievement oriented to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu where the focus is on learning techniques and bettering yourself ahead of earning belts and stripes. BJJ remains the most humbling sport I have ever practiced. You can try to just out muscle your opponent but, in my experience, has just led me to gas out and have an even harder time. That’s especially true when facing someone bigger and stronger than me. No truer than when rolling with a more experienced practitioner who understands the fine art of using your effort against you.

My main focus in the last three months has been to regain what I learned three years ago and approach the whole experience in a different way. I’d love to say a more mature way but who am I kidding? Patience has been the key to any success that I’ve had on the mat since coming back. I have learned to take my time and wait for my openings rather than forcing it. Test my opponents’ reactions to small movements to guarantee a higher rate of success. And, as is frequently the case, when I’m unsuccessful, to manage my breathing and exertion so as to have energy for the entire round and beyond.

I have caught myself hoping and silently pleading for the end of class to come and to learn that I’d earned another stripe on my belt. It is the need for validation that I know all too well and that finds a way to creep back into my life. It is a feeling that I have longed for at different times and I have worked to manage more effectively. There is no more important time to manage that feeling than on the mat.

At the end of class today, the professor lined us up as he normally does with his call to “fix your belts, fix your gis.” We lined up in order from highest rank to lowest rank and I was content with my performance. At the first thought of whether today would be the day for that new stripe, I caught myself and refocused on the true goal of doing jiu-jitsu; I am here to learn and thrive on the process. That calmed my nerves and I was back. To my astonishment, Professor David called me to the front to give me my second stripe on my white belt. I could not have been prouder of my achievement in that moment save for one thing: I managed my expectation for validation and was simply happy. I was in the moment and being mindful. Validation that all of my hard work in the last few years is coming to fruition.

Now to continue learning more and getting after it

A Bigger Opponent

My last roll today was with someone about 4 inches taller and 80 pounds heavier. He is a blue belt and I’m still working on my white belt. I find rolling with much larger opponents to be when I truly test my will and determination. Today was no different. I gave up and tapped on two different occasions when I knew I didn’t have much of a chance to reverse the position and was truly discouraged. The round wasn’t over, so I knew I had to get back into it. This is where things are truly different from where I was three years ago. I would have given up and let myself leave the gym discouraged. Instead of getting down on myself, I took a few seconds to do exactly as Jocko Willink prescribes:

Get Up
Dust Off
Go out on the attack

After starting in Full Mount, I was able to bridge and roll my opponent. The best part was his reaction when he was astonished that I still had energy in the tank to lift and roll him. What a rush!

Want to know more about Jocko’s prescription?

My Return to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Gym rat has never been a term I would use to describe myself. I prefer functional workouts and activities to mindless weightlifting. I’ve had countless gym memberships that have gone to waste because I easily get bored of general training without applying it to an activity. I’ve spent the better part of the last decade playing in a men’s hockey league a few nights every week. It’s a good mix of a workout, competitive atmosphere and a good outlet for the stress that builds up each week.

I’ve loosely followed MMA and the UFC since it garnered popularity after Dana White took over in 2001. I wanted to get into a martial art and needed to decide on a discipline. I dabbled in martial arts through kickboxing when I was a kid, but most striking disciplines have been ruled out because I have a history of concussions. Grappling and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu was the next alternative to consider. Funny enough, I have always been enthralled when watching a match go to the ground when a lot of fans see it as the most boring part of any fight. It’s understandable that you would want to watch two people try to knock each other out because that lends itself to highlight reel footage.

I prefer the cerebral art of BJJ. It is calculated and analytical. You lure your opponent into a trap through a number of different moves used to deliberately distract from your true motive. I also thought that my build and musculature would lend itself to overpowering my opponents. And therein lies the trap that most white belts fall into when they start the sport. It is far too easy to rely on your strength which just lends itself to you gassing out and anyone with experience will know just how to capitalize and make you pay for your newbie transgressions.

When I started practicing BJJ in 2016, I weighed 230 pounds. I was one of the heavier guys in the gym on a regular basis, but my stamina and endurance were not there. I was working on losing weight and was down around 205 within the first few months. I saw a stark improvement in my performance. I’m obviously not discounting the technical knowledge I’d gained which was like drinking from a firehose.

I was forced to take some time off due to a nagging shoulder injury that would not go away. I’m not one for seeking medical help so I assumed time off would be the best remedy. Yes, I was wrong. I did not return to the mat in 2016 because I was not ready mentally. I needed to come to terms with other issues that I had not yet been ready to face. More on that in another post but suffice it to say that if you are not in the right mental state. I was chasing validation and greatness because that is what my ego needs. It is the fuel I was craving.

Fast-forward to November 2019. My Gi is hanging in my closet where it has collected dust for 3 years. I made sure to put it somewhere very visible as a reminder of something I loved that I had given up. It was a motivation to get back to it once I’d sorted out the demons. I went into the gym for my first class on November 26. I was immediately humbled by the reception from my professor and teammates, and then again by the beating I took on the mat. Along with the work I put into my mental state, I am in much better physical shape than I was in 2016. I have lost 45 pounds, have completed physical therapy for my shoulder and my endurance is much stronger.

I have the distinct advantage of having been on the mat before so I know that the reliance on strength will only hurt your performance and growth in the sport. Mindfulness practice has helped me to come back to my breathing to slow things down and refocus even at the most inopportune times during a roll with an opponent like when you’re on your back and have a face full of groin.

I am lucky to have the support system inside and outside the gym giving me the opportunity to give this incredible sport a second try. I do not take that for granted and am thankful for every second I get on the mat. I have a newfound respect for the art of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and I plan to continue working hard to learn everything that I can. I continue to remind myself to remain humble and ask questions of everyone around me because that is the only way I will learn. There is no place for ego on the mat.

Building the Nest

I’ve found a different level of motivation in the last 6 months. The pregnancy has helped me to find a constant flow of motivation that has ranged from physical improvement through to nesting. I have always tried to provide for those around me whenever I can, and this is almost unheard of for me.

I’ve learned so much about renovations in the last 6 months and that has led me to finishing my basement, building my own folding squat rack out of wood, reorganized my laundry room, and finishing the baby’s room. I am very lucky to have a father who was the handiest person I’ve ever met, and he taught me a lot of what I know. YouTube has also provided me with the ability to go out and learn just about anything I need to know about any topic. Much of the work I did in the house recently was based on information I got from different channels online.

The nursery has been a challenge and I’ve embraced every second of it. I often find myself procrastinating but have not experienced any of that with the nursery. All in all, the nursery has probably taken about 20 hours of work including cleaning, painting, building furniture and staging. Aside from a few small details, the room is all done and I could not be more proud of the work we did.

From my perspective, pregnancy and expecting a child have been underwhelming. It is very easy to be disconnected from the process. Yes, you can spend lots of time shopping and at doctor’s appointments, but you are relegated to a supporting role. Nesting has become my way of being fully part of the pregnancy and it feels like my contribution aside from the obvious one at the beginning. As the pregnancy moves toward the third trimester and the home stretch, I’m excited that I’ve been able to put together a lasting gift to both my wife and my future daughter.