Father Figures: Sleep Deprivation

“My wife and I planned it. We read every book, we picked the time to ‘pull the goalie,’ my wife missed one period, and there we were.

When the doctors give you the date it seems like there’s plenty of time to get that and do that and have that ready; you don’t realize it creeps up on you super fast.

The day it happened: my wife’s water broke, but it wasn’t a lot, there was no mucus plug on the bed, there were no contractions, just one of like five signs so we weren’t worried about it. We called our doctor’s office and were told to go in, at about 10am. By 9:30 p.m. we had a healthy 8 lb. 9 oz. baby girl! We were in love with that little blob of joy!

We planned everything except having money, and my job didn’t have paternity leave, so I had to go right back to work. We did have a support system in place though; tons of friends helped us out and we created a schedule so my wife wasn’t at home alone all day with our daughter. When I got home I would help any way I could. (10 hour shifts, doubles; restaurant work sucks when you’re trying to be a new parent.) I was aware of everything – except my wife’s sleeping pattern.

We were parents for two weeks, we couldn’t have been happier, we were so in love, but my wife was not sleeping and was slipping into a delirious stage. One night we were getting into bed and my wife started voicing concerns about how a baby should be sleeping 4 hours at a time and why does she still wake up at 1-2 hours still… I tried to calm her down and tell her babies are all different we need to embrace this and try to sleep while she sleeps.

After about 20 minutes of my wife tossing and turning she got up and just started screaming at me and saying that she was going to kill me and our daughter. I somehow got into two places at once because I stayed in between her, the baby, and the kitchen. After a couple hits to my face I was able to subdue her and call 911.

The next day I called work and told them I wouldn’t be in for awhile. I followed that up with a call to my mother-in-law. She hoped on a flight the next morning, with my mom. My next call was to my wife’s boss who was more like a father to her. Everyone was supportive, having the two mothers there we were able to come up with a plan to have extensive care for my wife and our baby girl, this meant moving us all back to Wisconsin.

My wife was in a mental health ward for a month, our baby girl was in Wisconsin, and I was alone in our new apartment; packing, closing accounts, and back to full-time work to help pay for this move. When she got out she was not the same: timid, sad, and ‘cloudy.’ She had no recollection of what she had done nor where she had been. We had my mother-in-law come down with the baby after her release so they could reconnect. So new plan my wife would not have to get up at night someone else would feed the baby mother-in-law or sister-in-law or me…. Just someone else, and she only had to focus on herself at night. (Especially with the meds she was on.)

That was nearly 8 years ago. Since then we bought a house, I have a 9-to-5 job (actually more like 6-to-3 but I get to see my family more) and we had a second child. After our first experience, we were prepared, and we had a doctor that my wife loved and felt safe enough around to tell her about our past experience so that we got ahead of any more changes.

If there are any other fathers out there, whether you have faced anything similar, more severe, less severe, or even had an easy time, we are all the same! We are fathers and husbands. We would all die for our families! We would all love to not work and just raise our kids and have fun. The only thing we can do is love ourselves, love our families, and expect that nothing is the same as anyone else.

Our differences make us special.”

– Curtis Fristed

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Check out the previous editions of Father Figures here.

Father Figures: Always Daddy

“Josh and I were married in 2005. We both came from large families and were ready to start a family of our own. For the next 3 years, nothing seemed to work, so we began fertility treatments in 2008.

It was a true test of our marriage as even the treatments failed us. I began to research adoption in 2011 and Josh was on board too. But as we started my research, we found out just how expensive adoption would be. We both felt defeated and decided that maybe a few years from now, we would look again.

Fast forward to January 5th, 2013. Josh is cleaning the garage and I am taking down Christmas items when we get a phone call that will change our world forever. It is my best friend… her coworker knows of a baby due in the next week whose adoption fell through and, well, what can we (myself and Josh) do in the next week to get this baby girl? The answer: anything and everything.

Over the next few days, Josh and I moved mountains and came up with the money and won over the birth mom. I was in the delivery room when Ella was born and held her first and then Josh came in and held her and immediately started to cry. This was our baby. The one we had waited so long for! He could not stop thanking everyone in the room for making him a daddy.

To add to this wonderful story, 2 years later, we rescued/adopted Ella’s half-sibling, Shelby! Shelby was 2 months old when she came to our home and has added so much joy and happiness to our family! She is daddy’s little girl: you ask her who she loves most and it is always Daddy.

Josh is a wonderful father. His motto is always safety-first, and I make fun of him sometimes, but am so thankful for him. He does everything with them and tells me that he wanted them for so long and can’t seem to be away too long.

Josh was made for this role. You can see the happiness in their eyes when he is around. Josh often tells people that he is in a house full of females but he would not have it any other way.”

– Tiffany Stuart

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Father Figures: Wouldn’t Trade a Thing

“Growing up, my dad was in and out of my life.

I would see him occasionally when he felt like it. He was one to make promises and not deliver and time after time I would be let down. It was through all this that I learned exactly what not to do to raise a child. That being said, I wasn’t sure if I would ever be ready for parenthood.

My wife Erin and I married in 2014 and in 2016 our first child, Aiden, was born. The moment I saw him, an overwhelming feeling of love came over me that I never had experienced before. It was one of the greatest feelings ever that you don’t truly understand until you have your first child. Two years later we had our daughter, Emmy. It was another rush of emotions and love; one can’t imagine what life was like before them.

Life isn’t always perfect, but these two kiddos make it all worth it. From running to the door when I get home to laughing nonstop as we play airplane and I chase them throughout the house, there is never a dull moment. I work a lot, being in retail management, so the time I have with them is limited, but I do my best to make every minute count.

I could not do it without the love and support of my wonderful wife, Erin. She is the glue that keeps the family together when I am gone, and the better part of me. She knows how to calm our kids and is always the biggest comfort for them. She plays both mom and dad when I am gone for long periods and does it without a hitch.

They say that the best in things in life you can’t buy and they are right. From teaching your kids to make snow angels, to potty training, playing monster, the snuggles, and everything else in between, they truly are what makes life wonderful.

I will do everything in my power to make sure they are taken care of and that they end up having the best life they can. You can’t give your children the entire world, but as long as you are present, keep giving it all your all, and helping them learn this world you are succeeding!

I wouldn’t trade a thing for fatherhood and I am very blessed and proud to have these 2 kiddos call me dad!”

– Brent Grotjahn

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Father Figures: Ready For This

I remember calling him after our third date. I knew I was in love with him already. My situation was complicated; I had a little girl of my own.

I asked him if he was sure he was ready for this.

“I want a family. I want you. I want her. I want to come home to you guys every day.” We stayed on the phone until we both fell asleep, and I’d never felt more peace.

At some point, my health tanked. I had a stroke 6 months after our wedding, and needed immense help during my recovery to do basic things. He fed me and never complained. He bathed me and never complained. He helped dress me every day, and still didn’t complain.

I thought back to that phone call. How I gave him an out and he didn’t take it then. I decided to give him another chance to walk away from this chaos he didn’t ask for.

I looked at him in tears and said, “If this is too much, the kids, the recovery, the weight you’re carrying for us, I understand. This is not how we planned to spend our first few years together.”

He was quiet for a moment… and then, “I planned to spend these years with you. I’m exactly where I want to be. I’m not going anywhere so you’ll have to do better than a stroke to get rid of me.”

He never shakes when faced with a struggle, and picks our family up when we have nothing left to hold us. I’m thankful he chose me, and her, and us.

We’ve since added two more daughters to the mix, and I’m thankful every moment he’s their dad.”

– Stashia Tracy

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Father Figures: No Parent Should Ever

“I’m in a category of dads that no dad should ever have to be a part of.

I have been a dad for 5 years to 3 children a little girl (4) a little boy (3) and a baby girl (6 mos). Each time one of my children were born I had the same thoughts most dads have: excited, but scared as hell, am I gonna be the man they look up to, are they gonna say daddy first, etc. Each kid brought the same feelings but one thing I was sure of is that I loved them and was gonna do my absolute best.

On October 26, 2018, my baby girl was born and having been through two previous kids, I had it figured out. Or so I thought. Her name was Parker, and she was perfect, but on Easter Sunday, April 21, 2019, something happened that no dad or parent should ever have to deal with: our baby girl passed and went home to be with the Lord. At just 6 months old, she was gone. No more hugs, no more laughing, crying, dirty diapers, waking up in the middle of the night; it was all gone in the blink of an eye.

It was hard on us it was hard on our other kids they didn’t understand why there sister went to be with Jesus and we didn’t know what to say. Still to this day I wake up constantly to check on my kids every night. My wife and I hold it together for the kids but I can see the pain in her eyes and there’s nothing that can fix it other than time.

I just want my story to be inspiration to other parents to just remind them to enjoy the times they have with their children. They want to fight about eating a snack before supper? So what, let them have it.

I’m not saying just completely stop parenting and setting rules, but the little things that don’t really matter? Just let them go, because you never know what could happen and how quickly your life can change; in just seconds our little girl was gone, and no parent should ever have to go through it.”

– JT Ward

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Father Figures: Soft Dad

“When my wife and I found out that we were having a baby, I was excited for this next step, but also terrified of the changes to the life we had grown accustomed to.

As the pregnancy progressed, the excitement began to outweigh the anxiety — I was fully on board. Fast forward to labor and delivery, ‘the big reveal’ since we hadn’t found out the gender ahead of time, and it’s a girl. The anxiety comes racing back. How in the hell am I going to be a girl dad?

The truth is, my dad loves me, but he’s not an ‘affectionate’ or ’emotional’ guy. He showed his love through late nights on the baseball field, the front rows of basketball courts, and by always showing up. I know that I can ALWAYS count on him.

Having a daughter is different. And that scared me. There’s a softness that’s comes in raising a girl. How am I ever going to pave the way for a confident young woman in this world?

I’ll tell you: simply take a page out of my dad’s playbook — be present every day in her life. And along the way, through her gentle voice, deep giggles, and tender hugs, she’s showing me what it’s like to be a ‘soft’ dad.”

– Kevin Johnson

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Father Figures: Exact Opposite

“I am a dad of three boys and everything I base my parenting on is the exact opposite of how my father was.

To bring you up to speed: my father was an abusive alcoholic. This abuse ranged from the physical abuse of my mother, brother, and myself, to the mental and emotional abuse that this man pushed upon our family. My mother finally decided (or forced herself) to divorce this man when I was 5 years old (1985) and I still remember as vividly as possible sitting on the stairs up to where our bedrooms were, crying hysterically, somehow mad at my mom.

Over the following 3 years my father would appear sporadically, threatening my mother with a custody battle or some other bullshit, all in the hopes of avoiding child support.

It wasn’t until 2003 when my mother came home from work in tears that everything came full circle. My father was found dead in his work van and we were notified as next of kin. As part of this responsibility, we were to cover his funeral expenses and my mother, against our wishes, agreed to cover them. The grace with which she conducted herself, despite the hardships this asshole had forced her to confront alone, still amazes me to this day.

Fast forward to 2019 and I am now a dad of three boys and there isn’t a single decision I make where the impact of my father doesn’t weigh heavily. I have never called my father ‘dad’ and I dread the thought of my boys never calling me dad. I love being a dad to three amazing boys and I cherish the opportunity to help ensure that they will be dads to their children and not just fathers.”

– Mike Olsen

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Father Figures: You Better Believe It!

“Was it hard to go from 0 to 6 kids overnight, ummmmmm yeah.

Was it worth every stress filled moment? You better believe it!

I never thought in a million years I’d have five kids. Nevertheless, on our journey into adoption we were presented with these 5 little gems – ages 6, 4, 3, 2 and 6 months – who had a rough go in the beginning of their lives.

Separated into 3 different foster homes we brought them all together and introduced them to their forever home and adopted them as soon as we could.

My military service in the Marines left me with a disability but provides me an opportunity to be a stay at home dad and I think we’re all having a great time together learning, laughing and loving.

I am so incredibly proud to be their father.”

– Robert Embry

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Father Figures: Following His Lead

“Chris and I have been married for almost four years and in that time we have had a stillbirth, moved in with parents, lost important jobs, and been given the joy of raising two girls.

Our two-year-old was diagnosed with a rare disease last year, and she will be getting a bone marrow transplant soon. It will require we move out of state for several months to give her the best doctor possible.

Chris was let go unexpectedly from his job as a youth minister a week before our two month old was born. So as he interviews during the day and waits tables at night, we’re preparing for the most difficult part of parenthood yet – taking a chance to give our daughter a better future.

I’m following Chris’s lead because that’s what he’s been doing from the beginning. He let me leave work after our stillbirth even though it meant losing financial stability. He has worked two jobs for three years so he could do work that was important for future generations. He has worked on himself in therapy to be the best dad for his girls.

He is always looking ahead, knowing that all the hard stuff is worth it, and I couldn’t be prouder to have chosen him as the father to my kids.”

– Chris Johnson

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Father Figures: No Greater Feeling

“I found out I was going to become a father after I had just finished my last tour in Afghanistan. Before finding out, I’d wanted to go back, but of course after hearing I was going to become a father there was no way I could do it. The idea of something happening and me not being able to be there for my daughter was something I just could not take.

Every day that she has been here has been an absolute blessing.

Sadly she and her mother live in a different country than I do so it is often very hard because I do not have them with me. But the moments I do get to spend with her have all been the best moments in my entire life. Not having my father around much when I was growing up has made me want to be there for her that much more. Although my father and I are beyond good now, he has actually become an amazing grandfather. No one can tell him anything when it comes to her LOL!

To any fathers who may happen to be physically distant from their children and spouse let me be the first to tell you that that distance does not determine you being a good father or not. Any and everything I can do for her I always do and any chance I get to fly to go be with her I take. We are working on the immigration process now so hopefully we can be together soon but there is no greater feeling than having your child in your life.

I for one know that no matter what I have accomplished in the past there is nothing greater than being a father. #GirlDad”

– Kegan Hall

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Father Figures: Becoming a Man

“My father, Tom, passed away last Thursday at 3:48 a.m.

He had fought cancer off for six years. He bought himself six years of life through his determination and pure stubbornness in the face of what most people give up during.

He bought himself enough time to see four more of his grand-kids be born. He got the time to see all of his kids get married. He got to go fishing with his boys. He got to go out on dates with our stepmom. He went to concerts and plays and football games. Our dad was even still going to work as of three weeks ago.

He never gave up.

Some people talk about it but our dad was about it. He could have given in to cancer and the treatments and stayed home a lot. Not our dad. He lived his life. He may have needed a cane and and he had to sit down a lot more than he used to but dammit he showed up.

At his funeral this last Sunday, one of his good friends told me that you don’t truly become a man until two things happen:

1.) You become a father
2.) Your father dies

The first because you are suddenly responsible for another human life. The second because you can no longer lean on the advice and leadership of your lifelong mentor.

So I guess I’m a man now.

All things considered, I sure wish I wasn’t a man yet. I’d like to call my old man and talk to him one more time. So fellas, if your pops is still kicking, give him a ring. One day you won’t be able to do it.

Cheers and love to all the dads out there! But especially here’s to mine!

– Kyle E.

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Father Figures: Sacrificed So Much

“This picture is of my husband Jordan and our daughter Palmer.

At 24 weeks, I was diagnosed with severe preeclampsia and sent from our local hospital in Loveland, CO to the university hospital in Denver, in case our baby was born soon.

Jordan came to the hospital every single day after work and stayed with me every single night. He would wake up and drive the hour back to northern Colorado to work for the day then be right back as soon as his day was done.

He sacrificed so much for us. In the meantime he had taken a job back in the Midwest where our families live and we were in the process of selling our house and buying a new one. Jordan dealt with everything while I was on bed rest.

He truly took care of absolutely everything while I couldn’t do anything. He even got our dogs back to Iowa to be with family so they could get more attention while we were stuck in antepartum.

We were transferred at 30 weeks back up to northern Colorado to a hospital in Ft. Collins to be closer to home for our inevitable NICU stay. At 34 weeks our baby was born weighing 5 lbs 4 ounces and so, so perfect.

Jordan still went to work every day and was at the hospital as much as possible. He was our rock through the 10 week antepartum stay and 3.5 week NICU stay.

He takes care of me and Palmer every single day and we wouldn’t be anywhere without him. Just wanted to share our story with you all because he truly is a perfect dad!

– Whitney Howe

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Father Figures: A Reminder

“This picture is from 2014. I had lost my job and we were so broke we had to move into a back bedroom at my wife’s grandmother’s house.

I took a job driving a school bus and substitute teaching to get back on my feet. I would wake up at 5:00, commute 30 minutes, drive a morning route, teach all day, drive an afternoon route, and come home. Sarah’s grandmother would always have dinner ready when I came in.

This is my then one-year-old, climbing all over me, trying to get to my chili.

Fast forward to 2020, I work in insurance, we have our own house, own cars, three kids now, and just got back from taking the boys to Chicago for their birthday. We are more blessed than we have ever been.

I keep this pic to remind me how hard those days were, and to keep me from ever being ungrateful for what we have now.”

– Andy Runyan

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