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I Thought I Knew What Life Is Until I Met My Daughter

I wasn’t the “Oh, who’s the boo? Who’s the boo-boo zhoo-zhoo boo?” dad that I’d always heard you turn into when you first see your kids.

The first I saw of my daughter was her foot poking up out of my wife.

My first thought cannot be appropriately described in words, but it was something like the first time you see the Grand Canyon.

You know what the Canyon looks like. You know it’s going to be big. But when you see it, you still have this, “Holy crap, that’s not a picture, that’s a big gaping maw gouged out of the Earth, and I’m a grain of rice on a platter of sushi it could swallow in one bite without even giving it a thought” moment because it’s real and physical and monumental and now it’s a part of your life that will always be with you.

After that, we took the kids back into our patient recovery room. And they were gorgeous. And not the “Oh, they’re just gorgeous” gorgeous, but the real thing. Which hit me again as a surprise for two reasons. First, because I am not. And second, because while most babies are cute-baby shaped, these kids were gorgeous-new-people shaped (no bias).

My son was covered in light down all over his forehead and cheeks. But his face was round and the most inviting face I’ve ever seen. My daughter, I don’t know how to describe her. She was flush pink. And the only thing I can say is that the attending doctor came into our room at about 1:15 a.m. and stood over her bassinet for about 45 minutes (at 1 o’clock in the morning) without saying a word, then walked out without saying a word. That’s what a force of nature she was.

And all I could think was:

daughter and dad

That’s what was in my head. I remember someone asking me, “How is it being a father?” and I couldn’t say. I just drew two phantom lines on the wall. “I thought I knew what life was. Now I’m doing something completely different, and I don’t know what this thing is that I’m doing anymore. I’ll let you know…”

And it took me about 18 months to come close to figuring it out. Though I have to say 15 years later, I still don’t have it locked down…

This post originally appeared on Quora.

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