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HAGEN: The first steps of fatherhood

Luke Hagen, Assistant Editor  The heartbeat made it real.

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It wasn’t the home pregnancy test Shannon, my wife of five years, took. It wasn’t when her blood was drawn and the nurse confirmed what we already figured.

The reality that this 27-year-old is going to be a father set in when that little drum echoed across the doctor’s office during the first ultrasound.

Thump, thump. Thump, thump. Thump, thump — with almost no pause between each beat.

There are a few moments in my life I wish I could live over again, because living it the first time is such a pure and wonderful experience. Hearing our first child’s heartbeat is one of those times.

Certainly, it’s much different for a father to experience his wife’s pregnancy than her first-hand account of watching her body change and stomach grow. Dads are forced to watch on the sideline like coaches and the moms are on the field running the plays.

For Shannon, the day pregnancy became a reality was right after the blood test, which was the first of what will become several hospital visits. Right then, she knew her lifestyle would drastically change with slight mood swings, morning sickness and body aches — all of which she’s encountered. Still, knowing all of those things would be coming, the smile on her face was reminiscent of the ones from our wedding day.

About a month later, we went back to the doctor to start monthly checkups. This was the first one, where we heard our due date is set for June 9. On Oct. 23, we walked into an ultrasound room and saw pictures of a little baby, who at the time was about eight weeks and about the size of a kidney bean.

Then, without any warning, the heartbeat sounded.

I froze and had no idea how to react.

In many aspects of life, I try to preplan and anticipate what’s to come, and starting a family was no exception. Shannon took her first pregnancy tests on the day of our five-year wedding anniversary, which was exactly what we discussed soon after getting married. We put ourselves on a fiveyear plan to eliminate some debt that many young adults collect while in college. Now, I worry about providing for Shannon and our child.

But I had no time to prepare myself to hear that heartbeat. I was blindsided. The rapid beating just appeared over the speakers in the hospital room.

I can imagine even the toughest of men get brought to their weakest emotions when hearing that for the first time. Quiet, deep breaths were all I could do to appear to be calm.

Shannon was tearing up when I looked over at her, and that “pregnancy glow” had already overtaken her. She was beaming, but quiet, just like me.

It was undeniably a life-changing moment. I knew for about a month prior to that day Shannon was pregnant. But nothing, absolutely nothing, is like hearing that little heartbeat.

For me, those were the first steps of fatherhood.