(UVMC, Montana Chapter)
I spin my phone in a circle on the kitchen counter and contemplate my options. Holly expects me to be able to handle anything baby related, and usually I’m a master at getting Trent to stop crying, but he’s been wailing for an hour. I have no idea what’s wrong. In addition to burping him, I’ve checked his diaper and I’ve tried to feed him. He wasn’t hungry and his diaper was clean. I followed the checklist Holly left me and tried to give him a pacifier. It didn’t help. He immediately spit it out, and then glared at me before launching into an even louder meltdown. I’ve tried rubbing his back, playing classical music, and I’ve even sung to him. Nothing’s working. He’s strapped to my chest and despite all the rocking and bouncing I’ve been doing, he’s still screaming bloody murder.
I promised Holly that I’d be fine today. It’s the first day she’s been away from us since Trent was born six months ago. She deserves a day off. I don’t want to bother her, but I don’t know what else to do. But if I call her, then I may as well admit that I’m a terrible father. Then she’ll leave me, and I’ll never get to see—wait a minute!
An idea pops into my sleep-deprived brain. There is someone else I could call for backup. He’s also a relatively new dad, but he’s over a year ahead of me, so he might know what to do.
I punch Scar’s number into my phone. When he answers, I launch into an explanation about what’s happening, ending with, “Pres, I have no idea what to do. I don’t want my woman to think she can’t leave us alone for a few hours.”
“I’m on my way,” Scar says.
While I wait for him to arrive, I pack back and forth. “It’s okay, Trent. Daddy loves you and he’s going to figure this shi—stuff out.”
When Scar strolls in the front door, I breathe a sigh of relief. “Thank God you’re here.”
“How’s my little nephew?” Scar coos at Trent. The baby stops crying long enough to give him a curious look. “Remember me? Uncle Scar?”
Trent’s brow furrows for a second before he reaches out his tiny, pudgy hands to Scar. “Baa!”
“Hand him over,” Scar says.
After lifting him out of the baby carrier, I hand him to Scar. He may be the gruff president of our motorcycle club, but when it comes to kids, he’s a total softie. He cradles Trent in his arms and rocks him.
“What’s going on, buddy?” Scar uses his baby voice, which would be hilarious in a normal situation, but right now, I’m too desperate to make fun of my only hope for peace.
“I already checked the usual suspects.”
“Maybe he’s bored.”
“Where was he when he started crying?”
“In the crib in the living room. I was watching the game with one eye and checking on him with the other. I turned the TV off so I could try playing some classical music.”
“That usually works for Eli.”
“Trent hates it.”
“Well, you did name him after a rock star. Maybe try playing some Zeppelin, or Queen, or the Rolling Stones. Eli’s favorite song is Kashmir.”
“Nope.” Scar grins. “Works every time.”
“Let me pull it up.” I open the music app on my phone. It’s connected to the speakers throughout the house. A few taps later and Kashmir fills the air. Trent cocks his head to one side. A hint of a smile tugs at his little lips.
“Give him a minute to appreciate Plant’s perfect pitch.”
“I didn’t know you were so into music.” I plot down on the couch in the living room. Exhaustion isn’t new. It’s plagued me since Trent was born, but some days are worse than others.
“How are you holding up?” Scar asks.
“I’m fuc—frickin’ tired, man.” I lean back and close my eyes.
“The first year sucks. Not going to lie. But it gets better.”
“Don’t get my wrong.” I open my eyes and sit up. “I love him more than I’ve ever loved anything or anyone in my life, but sometimes I miss the before times.”
“Before times?” Scar laughs. “I like that. I’m going to tell Julia that one.”
“God, no. Please don’t. She’ll tell Holly and then my woman will realize I’m totally incompetent when it comes to this stuff.”
“You’re doing fine.” Scar expertly shifts Trent from one arm to the other. My boy’s looking at his favorite uncle like he’s hung the moon and the stars.
“I wish I had your gift. Kids love you.”
“Listen, I’m going to let you in on a little secret. I was stressed the fuck out the entire time Julia was pregnant. I was convinced I’d be a terrible dad, especially after all the shit I went through when I was a kid. But you know what? I figured it out, little by little. You will too. It just takes some time.”
“Maybe I’m not like you. Maybe I don’t have what it takes to be a good dad.”
“If you weren’t a good father, you would have left him in the crib to cry his lungs out. You wouldn’t have called me.”
“Or worse, you’d shake the hell out of him until he stopped screaming.”
“Never!” I’m on my feet, furious at the thought.
“Calm down. Like I said, you’re not one of those guys. Being a parent is the hardest thing you will ever do. I’m not going to lie to you about that. But I’ll always be a phone call away if you have questions. Julia and Nina would be happy to talk about baby stuff too. You know we’re all here for you, right?”
“Yeah. I just hate asking for help.”
“You and me both. Let go of all that prideful bullshit. Reach out when you need a hand. You don’t know how many times I’ve had to call Nina at two a.m. to get advice or to have her calm me down. Having a baby is extremely stressful, but you’re a survivor. We all are. And that’s what makes us good fathers. The hell we went through prepared us for fatherhood.”
“We know what not to do. Figuring out what to do isn’t always easy, but we will get it eventually. More importantly, we won’t fuck up the way our parents did. We won’t be like the people at Blackstone’s place. They tried to break us, but they failed. There’s something we’ve got that they will never have, something they couldn’t beat out of us.”
“Love in our hearts.”
“Sometimes I think my chest is going to explode because I love him so much.”
“I know the feeling. I’m like that with Eli.”
“It’s always going to be like that. Eventually Eli’s going to grow up, but he’s never going to stop being my little boy. I know this whole thing is terrifying, but you’ve got this. Some days it might feel like you have no idea what you’re doing and that’s normal. If you thought you had the whole thing figured out, then I’d be worried.”
“I definitely don’t have that.”
“None of the good dads do. The bad ones think they’re experts at being fathers. They’re not.” Scar carefully lays Trent down in his crib. He watches the baby for a second before dragging a chair over. He sits beside the crib and continues to monitor my son.
I move to stand next to the crib. Trent hasn’t started crying again. He’s finally content. “Kashmir, hu?”
“Works like a charm.” Scar grins. “Got any beer?”
“Just bought a six pack last night.” I grab two ice cold beers from the fridge and hand one to Scar. We pop the tops before tapping them. “To fatherhood.”
“To being the best fathers we can be.” Scar takes a long drink before setting the can on the coffee table. “What time’s Holly coming home?”
“In an hour or two. It depends. She’s with Nina and Julia, which is why I couldn’t call one of them.”
“You should talk to Holly about what’s going on in your head. I tried to hide my fear from Julia, but she knew something wasn’t right. I finally confessed everything one night when I was too tired to hide it.”
“What happened?” I take another sip before setting the beer aside.
“She was happy that I confided in her. That’s what marriage is all about. When one of us is scared and can’t deal with something, the other one steps in. Julia helped me work through my fears about being a dad.”
“You were scared too?”
“Language.” I grit my teeth and check to see if Trent heard him.
“He’s asleep. And besides, do you really think you’re going to keep him from hearing us cuss at the clubhouse?”
“I guess not.” I chuckle.
“I don’t expect the other guys to clean up their language just because I’ve got a kid now. That’s not a battle worth fighting.”
“No, I guess it isn’t.”
“You’ll have enough to worry about when he gets older. Save up your energy for the terrible twos.”
“I’m already dreading it.”
The front door opens and Holly, Julia, and Nina stroll in. Bags in every shape, size, and color hang from their hands. They drop them all in a heap in the center of the living room.
“What are you dreading, babe?” Holly asks before kissing me.
“The next diaper change.”
“Nitro.” Scar’s tone carries a hint of admonishment.
“I’ll tell you later,” I say to Holly.
“Okay.” She frowns for a second before heading to the crib. “There’s my baby boy!”
“Shh! Woman! We just got him to sleep.” I’m on my feet, dragging her away from the crib before she can startle him awake.
“We should get going,” Nina whispers.
“Scar can drive me home,” Julia says to Nina before kissing her on the cheek. “Today was a blast. We should do it again next weekend.”
“Count me in,” Nina says. “Bye, boys.”
“Bye, Nina,” Scar says.
“I’ll call you later,” I tell her.
“You’d better.” Nina peers into the crib. “He’s so precious.”
After everyone leaves, Holly turns to me. “Honey, how was today, really?”
I sigh and pull her into my arms. “I had to call in reinforcements.”
“Is that why Scar was here?”
“What happened?” She slowly strokes my hair, soothing me.
“Trent wouldn’t stop crying. I tried everything.”
“He seems so peaceful right now.”
“Thanks to Scar. He played Kashmir and that calmed our baby down.”
“You know, Led Zeppelin?”
“Yes, I know Zeppelin.” She laughs softly. “It’s just an interesting choice. Mozart didn’t work?”
“No. I guess our kid is into classic rock.” I give her a sheepish smile.
“Well, you learn something new every day. That’s what being a parent is all about. It’s an adventure.” The enthusiasm in her voice brightens my day. She hasn’t sounded this cheerful and energetic in months.
“How did shopping go?” I ask.
“Fun. But I don’t want to talk about that right now.”
“Oh?” I see the twinkle in her eyes, and I already know where this is going.
“Since Trent’s asleep, he won’t hear us fooling around.”
“Fooling around? Really? You sound like someone’s grandparent.” I laugh.
“Wow, you just lost your blowjob.”
“Wait! What? Why?”
“For making fun of me.”
“Woman! I’m tired and burnt out and kind of crazy from not sleeping for six months and—”
“Quit whining and kiss me.”
“Okay.” I drag her down onto the couch and lay next to her. “But later on, I want to talk about today.”
“We will.” She kisses me with so much passion I’m left gasping for breath. “But first, make love to me, daddy.”
“Daddy?” I raise a brow.
“Oh, yeah.” She gives me the sexiest smile I’ve seen in months. “It’s a lot hotter than ‘hubby’, isn’t it?”
“It’s hot enough to make me want to put another baby in you,” I growl while shoving her dress up and pulling her panties down.
“Then do it, daddy.”
And I do. Our second son, Robert, is born almost exactly nine months later. We named him after the lead singer for Led Zeppelin. It seemed appropriate since I’m pretty sure our baby was conceived somewhere between Custard Pie and The Wanton Song. If we keep this up, we’ll have enough boys for a whole band and frankly, I can’t fucking wait! This dad stuff is so much easier the second time around.