By Cameron Rhodes, NU Scholar and Member of the Mind and Body Wellness Student Organization
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As soon as I was old enough to understand what being a father meant sometime during my teenage years, I have looked forward to the day that I would receive the title of dad. That day came a short (or long depending on the previous night) two months ago when my son, Grant Robert Rhodes was born on the morning of June 27th, 2021.
Life from that point forward would be forever different than it was just a few hours before. There are a few things that I hope to accomplish in this blog post, by laying them out here will help me to keep this piece from being 20 pages long. I will describe a bit of my background as a kid growing up and what helped to shape my views of parenthood. Second, I will discuss the experience of pregnancy from my point of view, preparing for Grant, and how we are navigating new challenges presented every day. Last, I will share what it is like having our first child in the middle of a pandemic, while working full time in a small family business, while grinding through nursing school. I am not the first, nor will I be the last to have a story with this plot, but I hope to share a little bit about my unique experience with you.
I was lucky as a kid who grew up in a small town surrounded by men that led with a passion to serve God, their families, community, and the next generation via coaching, teaching, and/or volunteering. As the 9 months of anxious anticipation passed, I took the time to reflect on the most impactful and memorable experiences that I had growing up as it related to the principles of parenthood.
In the moment, as a child I obviously didn’t understand the implications of being treating as a son by all the men in my life, but it did help shape the way that I see my role as a man in society. It has helped me to construct a foundation of principles that I can model my behavior around to pay it forward to the next generation. It takes intentionality to break down the barriers of the well-established masculine culture that makes it easy to say, “toughen up” but difficult to express, “I love you.” While I give credit to the men I was surrounded by during my childhood, I can already hear the words coming out of their mouths, “We love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). A refreshing reminder for me that these men were led by the creator of unconditional love, and that’s where my focus needs to be.
Grant has brought so much joy to our family in the short time that he has been a part of it which began the day we found out my wife was pregnant. It was an answered prayer that we had been waiting for eagerly for close to 8 months.
Conception didn’t come easy for us, which took an emotional toll because we worked so hard to live a healthy lifestyle thinking that was the ticket for a baby.
There were many months of failure which led to mounting frustration coupled with the stress of maintaining grades and both of us working full time jobs. We learned how critical clear and consistent communication and grace for one another was (a theme that continues to hold supreme importance in parenthood). On a morning around the time of Thanksgiving, I was in the office working on a grant proposal and our big dogs came barging in to greet me when I noticed they had some new bandanas on. The tears started flowing as soon as I read the words on the bandana, “My parents are getting me a human.” The day had finally come that God had chosen for us to become parents. Looking back the timing Grant was conceived was perfect (His timing is always perfect).
As Katie began making both the physical and emotional transformation into motherhood, I quickly realized what a miraculous marvel childbearing is getting to experience it all secondhand. It just so happened that we had our obstetrics and pediatrics courses just a few short months before Grant would arrive. What an incredible opportunity it was to get to dive deeply into the physiological processes that occur in pregnancy and early childhood development while living it at the same time.
Sleep is a very coveted physiological process in our household as it is a foundational pillar of optimizing health. When Grant was born, sleep was no longer the main priority at night time, it was caring for the needs of our newborn child. Those first 3 weeks were really difficult; if I don’t get quality rest, I am far from my best. This led to a period of forced adaptation where I had to learn to perform under sleep deprivation – school wasn’t pausing, I couldn’t take time off work (only 3 people in our business), and in between I had to make the time to get some form of physical exercise in for my wellbeing.
The most difficult thing about parenting for me has been that my responsibilities have been added to and restructured, but the expectations stay exactly the same.
Thankfully, Grant has picked up on our nighttime routine and after just 6 weeks began sleeping in consistent 5 hour stretches at nighttime (Fun fact: did you know your baby’s circadian sleep/wake routine gets initiated in the womb?). Two weeks ago, our employee got sick with Covid19 which meant my dad and I would have to split his job duties while he was out. It was a stressful and tiring time for our family, but good communication and grace got us through (our employee is back and healthy!).
Now that things have settled back down, Grant comes to the office to hang with dad and grandpa once a week! It is a coveted day each week as we get to share time bonding while mom gets a day to completely care for herself.
Parenting has been the most “learn on the fly” that I have experienced in my 30 years on this earth. Everyone has parenting advice based on their unique experience (which I love whenever someone drops me some wisdom), but no child and no situation will ever be identical.
We are still navigating and working to improve awareness regarding these differences, and we are confident that over time our teamwork improves our child’s development.
As I get closer to finishing my time in nursing school, I look back on the most stressful moments over the past two years and thank God for every one of them. This part of my journey is sharpening some tools that help me to be a better man, husband, dad, student, employee, volunteer, and community member.