I recently wrote a story about my dad on Father’s Day and how he was one of the people instrumental in me deciding to become a father myself. In recent dealings with people who do not know or like me at all, it was brought up again that somehow I wasn’t a good father. My newest thing is trying not to let things bother me, but I couldn’t get the thought out of my head that what if something were to happen to me before Ren was old enough to hear everyone’s perspective including mine, and all she had to go on were stories made up by those trying to hurt me. The only reason for this blog post is for her to get everyone’s perspective that was there so that one day, she can make up her own mind about what she believes. Anything not directly quoted is my opinion, and I do not in any way claim to speak for others.
This is not the first time I have heard this from people that were not there, so here are my recollections along with others that were there in the first years of Serenity’s life.
As far as the myth that I wasn’t a good father in the first year of my daughter’s life, from my perspective, it was made up whole cloth.
One of the tales told is how I didn’t change Serenity’s diapers, and I wasn’t there in the first year of her life. That is simply untrue.
I changed her first diaper, and most of her diapers the first two weeks as her mom was still recovering from the difficult birth and I wanted to be the best Dad I could be even though I had no idea what I was doing. I thought that being a pseudo stepdad a few times had prepared me, but when it’s your own child it’s a whole different level. My paternity leave ended. When I did go back to work I didn’t change diapers while I was physically at work or traveling to and from. When I got back home and showered the restaurant grease off, I would freely and gladly take over diaper duty.
We, like all new parents sometimes played the “not it” game, but 75% of the time we were all three home I would be the diaper changer. We were both so tired, I’m sure it felt that way to both of us. I didn’t mind it. I enjoyed it. I got the same good feeling as I still get whenever as a parent I cover Serenity with a blanket while she is sleeping. Instinct rewarded with serotonin and oxytocin, yay for evolution.
I wanted to try and be as good of a father as mine was for me. My mom often tells the story of how when I was brought home from the hospital my mom woke up the next day and started freaking out that she had slept all night and not changed my diaper, my dad reassured her that he had been up and took care of me. My mom was surprised because her first husband Joe had not changed diapers even with them having four kids in four years. Having heard that story many times and wanting to follow my dad’s example, he was my hero and I wanted to emulate him, I wanted to do all the things I could to be the best dad I could be.
I was no stranger to changing diapers as I was engaged to a woman named Connie years previous, she moved in with me with her two daughters Heather Elizabeth and Sara Ann. Lil’ heather was only six months old when I got her, I had the kids for about five years, her mom and I often worked opposite shifts, so there were many diapers to change. The girls still call my mom grandma and we are invited to Heather’s wedding this December pandemic allowing.
As a new dad, I did not keep a diaper journal or video record of diaper changes, I had no idea I would have to defend myself in the future. This was a very loving time and I thought it would be that way forever. My mom was there for the first years of Serenity’s life. When I told her that a rumor was going around that I didn’t change diapers and I wasn’t there for my baby, she was in shock and said I had changed most of them. My Mom’s name is Mary, Please feel free to speak with her about this. We moved in with my Mom at that time because she was falling often, her health was in decline and she had asked us to move in with her and we agreed. I asked my ex-fiancé Connie (same one) to move in my place for roughly the same price as my mortgage, not to make a profit, but so I could help my mom out with the expenses, and keep up with mine at the same time. It was only myself, Serenity, Heather, and my mom in those first few years living together. Serenity’s maternal grandmother did babysit for a while in the early mornings while her mom and I were working and there was an overlap and I was trying to get much-needed sleep before work. The help from all the family was greatly appreciated. It does take a village.
This mistruth is the easiest way to hurt my feelings because I love being a father and it really has defined my life. Serenity is my favorite thing in the world, the moment she was born I did have the parental click in every way, my heart existed outside my body and I knew from that moment on, my life was not about me, but I existed only to love and take care of my baby.
I often tell the story of Renny’s ear. With all the classes and research we did, I had no idea that sometimes babies come into the world with folded ears. With all the things happening during the birth, time was slowed down and at the point in time Renny was placed on her mom’s chest, her one ear facing only me was folded in on itself and in that few seconds, I knew I loved her unconditionally, and that she was unique and special, and I formulated a plan to get a second job to pay for any corrective surgery she may need for hearing issues or just cosmetic reasons, I was going through my list of people I was friends with that could hire me for that second job and I was determined to do everything I could to take care of her, that was all in about two seconds then…Pop! Her beautiful ear was as perfect as the rest of her.
The reason this story of not being a good father is the most hurtful to me, I suspect it plays into my feelings of inadequacy as a father, my fear of failure, my imposter syndrome, my anxiety, times of self-loathing, and it simply hurts my feelings. Yes, I am a man and I do have feelings. I’m empathetic, and sensitive.
Since I, Renny’s Mom, Serenity, and my mother were the only ones around all day on a daily basis while Renny was a baby I asked her to share her thoughts and memories from that time in our lives. She wrote a handwritten letter that I have transcribed. The scans of the original writings can be found below the text.
“I would like to share my joy!
In 2014, When my health was not at it’s best. My son Albie, his wife Heather, and their baby girl Serenity Lynn Burdge moved in my house with me. It was such a blessing watching Serenity’s daily developing and watching my son become such a wonderful father –
I was so glad to see that like his father he enjoyed changing her diapers and enjoyed changing her clothes. She was always looking so cute.
Their play time was often learning time. The ABC song, so forth.
As a toddler, her favorite show was Mickey Mouse Club, every time the hot dog song came on he got up and danced with serenity. Oh such happy memories that brings me.
Then there was nights Serenity would not sleep, he would walk for hours singing quietly to her while rocking her, so sweet to watch.
Every time she learned something new, Serenity was praised by Albie. Telling her how special she is and how smart she is. I love to see how happy my son is when Serenity is in his arms. Such Joy!!
Albie and Heather cooked her favorite foods, Serenity would sit between them in the dining room, so they could help her learn how to eat properly.
I got a kick out of Serenity even at an early age, if she did not like something, she would not eat it. Down on the floor it went.
If Serenity or Heather wanted something, no matter day or night Albie would run down to Walmart for it. It seemed like she had something new almost every day. As Serenity grew he loved building things with her, not only puzzles (but) play cars out of cardboard and silly stuff.
I love the fact that he read to her every night before bed, as it is so important to know how to read early.
When Heather was not feeling well due to her Crohn’s disease he became Super Dad, the only thing he could not do was nurse her, but Serenity being nursed for so long, I feel it has been part of her becoming the strong person she is.
When Heather went to art class or out for the evening, Albie enjoyed his time with Serenity.
It has been my joy to see like his father before him he has become a kind caring loving father.
He makes me a happy mom.”
-Mary Alice Burdge
July 2, 2020
The third person that was there every day was her Mom…
“Happy Anniversary to the love of my life. You’ve taught me that life is more fun when you don’t mind waiting in line. You always believe in me and have always been my biggest supporter. You make me laugh every single day and have made our lives such an adventure. I am so lucky that I get to share my life (with) you, and I am so very glad that Ren has such an amazing father.”
-Heather Lynn Burdge November 7, 2015
As parents, we both tried as much as we could for Renny. Were we both perfect parents? Of course not, we learned as we went, and made a lot of mistakes. eg. Even with all the babyproofing we did, I didn’t know not to put her bassinet near the shelves in our bedroom and on my watch, a light bright looking lamp fell on her. After that, I became an overprotective helicopter parent channeling my inner Nicolas Cage in Next (2007)
It is my understanding that both of us parents had forms of postpartum depression. We had researched everything we could prior to Serenity’s birth but it was almost all about the birth itself and nothing about what to do after we had her. I had no idea what postpartum depression was, or what to look for, or what steps to take if it happened. I had no clue at the time. If I could change one thing about those times I would be more understanding of our struggles. I don’t blame her mom for any of her illnesses, as I shouldn’t be blamed for mine. Depression is just as real a disease as her Crohn’s disease, and my post Lyme/chronic Lyme disease, and type one diabetes. My Extreme fatigue/chronic fatigue as a result of chronic Lyme and additionally diabetes sapping the energy out of me the rest of the time, coupled with my neurological damage, most affecting but not only affecting the sleep center of my brain has been my greatest challenge in life and especially as a parent. Not just as a parent, but as a husband, friend, employee, student, etc. It’s not fun to not always be able to wake up or stay awake all the time. I’ve fallen asleep on first dates, at midnight movies, at work standing over a 350-degree grill, even in very pleasurable (cough) circumstances. Luckily I’ve been surrounded by very understanding and compassionate people for most of my life. Especially my bosses. Many of us have something hindering our hopes and dreams, those who don’t have a life-altering illness may never know what it’s like and judge something without fully understanding it. I’ve had this problem since around second grade, so as far back as I can remember really, it was what it is, and I don’t know any different. I have ups and downs, some years or months are better than others. The worst feeling that comes from this is knowing when I wake up someone will be angry or disappointed in me for sleeping. The past couple of years have been better as I’ve been able to make my own schedule at my job, and have lighter work nights most of the time on the nights I do have Renny while she is sleeping, and heavier workloads and also being able to take naps as needed while Serenity is with her mom. I have found that uninterrupted sleep is a big help recuperating on my solo days. I also have found a doctor who is educated in Lyme. I’m just putting this out there by the way, never trust a doctor who calls it “Limes disease” It’s named after a town in Connecticut, not multiples of a fruit.
Above all else, I love Serenity and whatever life throws at me, I am committed to giving her my all.