There are times in every man’s life that are life-altering, life-changing, life-crashing. That first date. The first time you kiss a girl. The first time you drive on your own with no one else. The first time your heart gets broken. Your first speeding ticket. That perfect moment when you get down on one knee. That breathtaking pause until she says yes and you can breathe again. Moments like these can stop a man’s heart cold and remind him just how alive he really is.
There are moments in a man’s life however, that show him how incredible life truly is. For me that moment was when Stephanie blindly led me into our apartment and told me that we were going to have a baby. In that very moment my world came into life, burst into flame, went to the clouds, came crashing down, gave me purpose. Everything in my life to that point seems so meaningless. I was about to embark on a journey that would take me to heights and valleys I could have never dreamed of.
So many people have followed my perfect wife and my amazing daughter since this journey began, but so many do not know the other side of the story. The story of a man struggling to hold himself together and be the father, husband, and provider that God meant for him to be. His story is full of love and laughter, but also full of hurt and heartbreak. His story is my own, and I want to share with the world, and with my gorgeous daughter, Addison Olivia, the story of how from the moment of discovery, to your first birthday, your father’s life has traveled. That first moment I discovered I was going to be a father my heart stopped beating. I could not breathe. How was I going to provide for them? What if it’s multiples? What if Stephanie has a miscarriage? What if something is wrong with the child? What if the child is special needs? Will I survive? Will I be able to stay strong? Will I have faith? Will I run away? Can I be as good of a father as my own? What about my grandfather? Can I be even a fraction of the men I grew up with? Will I make enough money? Can we survive? Will Stephanie keep working? Should I keep her home? So many questions ran through my mind and I could not even breathe.
All I knew was that I was both the happiest man in the world and the most scared. I was about to help bring a child into the world with the perfect woman. I had (and still have) the most incredible woman by my side. She’s beautiful, loving, smart, full of life, and a teacher on top of it all. How could any child be any luckier than ours? They would come into the world with a mother that God broke the mold on right after making her. Then came the fear again. If my child would have Stephanie would they need me? Would they love me? Would I ever measure up to my wife? I was terrified that I would become irrelevant, and that thought scared me to death.
The first part of the pregnancy was like a dream. Picking out names for a boy or girl. Coming up with nursery ideas. Looking for a new place to live. So many things were incredible, but there were things that were not. Where I was working was turning upside down. I moved to a new location and received a huge promotion. To most this would be a victory, but to me it was a nightmare. All of a sudden my responsibilities were endless, and I had more on my plate than I knew what to do with. My hours went from bad to worse. Starting during the second trimester with Stephanie I went from working 49 hours a week to almost 70. I left for work at 5:45am and did not come home until almost 8:00pm. Even my weekends consisted of 10-12 hour days when others I worked with only had to work 4-5 hours on those days. Inside I was a wreck. I was worried about everything going on at work on top of the pregnancy. I began to suffer from intense depression and melancholy, and for almost a year I was a completely different person. I withdrew from friends and family. I lived at work and only slept at home. I took my wife for granted and lived selfishly with my time. I would rather go out and get plastered with my work buddies than go home to Stephanie and take care of her and help plan for our child. I numbed myself with alcohol until I would forget everything. What was driving me to this?
We had gone to our gender scan at Stephanie’s OBGYN and found that our perfect girl was going to be different. When we found out, I pretended to be strong and faithful and be the rock to steady Stephanie, but I was more of a destroyed wreck inside than she was. All of a sudden I realized that I was going to be the sole provider at a job where I was unhappy at, and I feared that a prayer I had prayed months before had come to fruition to test my faith.
The day after I found out that Stephanie was pregnant I prayed that no matter what happened I would be strong enough to accept it and deal with it, and that no matter what, that I would love and accept anything that happened to our child. Whether they were perfectly normal, or had special needs, or even surgery, that I would be able to embrace it all and be strong. When I found out that Addison was going to need her first surgery and that she would have to be monitored incredibly closely during her pregnancy I went to a dark place that a man should never have to go. All of a sudden I wished that Stephanie wasn’t pregnant. I found myself wishing I was someone else. I wanted to leave with no explanation and go off the grid. I entered a place so dark that light could not penetrate it no matter how bright. I felt I had prayed faithfully and been dealt this hand.
I was furious with God. How could my loving God condemn my family to this hardship? How could he do this when I was so fragile already? I felt damned by my own prayer, but I put on a brave face and stuck with Stephanie and went to all of her appointments and helped to make decisions that would affect our lives forever. Inside I was dead. I felt like a tree devoid of water or roots, withered and crumbling, full of rot. As the months went on Stephanie’s pregnancy went from bad to worse. Everything that could go wrong in a pregnancy began to happen to her, and I kept numbing myself with alcohol to escape it all. What makes this so hard for me write is that my family, and not even Stephanie knew that I would get drunk so I wouldn’t feel anything at home. All I wanted to do was go to my miserable work and not have to deal with what was about to happen. If I got drunk then when I went home I could just pass out and not think about the complications. Then, two weeks before Addison came I got so drunk that I was stumbling over myself and knocking over furniture at the house. Stephanie was in so much discomfort from the pregnancy that she could not physically help me. That next morning, hurting and hungover like I had never been before I realized that I could not escape what was coming and I couldn’t put my family in that position again. What if Stephanie had gone into labor and I could not have driven her to the hospital? What if I was passed out and missed the birth of my first child? I could not let this happen, and so I stopped drinking.
That entire day I spent apologizing to Stephanie for my actions and prayed that I would be strong enough to support my family when Addison came. The weeks went on and then a midnight trip to the hospital we knew that Addison was coming early. The doctors induced Stephanie’s labor and for endless hours we waited while she pushed and pushed, but to no avail. Addison was not going to come naturally. Waiting for the surgeon to arrive was the most panicked I had ever been in my entire life up to that point. What if something happened to either of them before the doc got there? Surrounded by family and loved ones I had never felt so alone and smothered at the same time.
When the surgeon arrived he walked straight up to me and said something that I will never forget as long as I live. The words he spoke instantly calmed me and prepared me for Addison and Stephanie’s surgery. He walked up to me, looked me straight in the eye while shaking my hand and said: “I’ve got this.” It was the most powerful sentence anyone had ever said to me in my entire life. I then got ready and went in to the operating room and help Stephanie’s hand as the team brought Addison into this world. When I saw her for the first time my heart erupted into joy. Even though she wasn’t breathing she was absolutely beautiful, and she was mine. My daughter. Not just my daughter. She was our daughter. I ran following the nurses and the woman who caught Addison into the NICU and heard Addison’s voice for the first of 3 times in my life, and it was the sound of angels singing. That raspy little cry was the sound of every choir and every angel that ever had sung. I began to cry looking at her beautiful eyes and I kissed her head for the first time.
As I ran back into the operating room I told Stephanie that our daughter was perfect and beautiful and we both cried together. The time had come for us to be a family. We knew that she was going to have surgery in a few weeks to have a cystic tumor removed, so we weren’t worried at all. Life was getting ready to be beautiful, but then the tumor became the least of our worries. We found she had a hole in her heart, and then came the murmur, and then we discovered she couldn’t breathe without artificial support. I wrote it off and thought that a few procedures would cover it all and she would be ok within a month. This was not to be the case.
What followed over the next ten months was surgery after surgery, trips to Houston, helicopter rides, flights on planes to and from hospitals, road trips all over for her, all the while I was having to maintain my hours at work. Things at work only deteriorated from there. I was stressed to a point where I thought it was impossible to come back from, and then a miracle! Addison came home. Stephanie and I were overjoyed to the point of not even believing that what was happening was real. It was too good to be true, and unfortunately that was the truth. The weather during those six days was the worst all winter. Snow, sleet, ice, frozen rain, and freezing temperatures. What made it so hard was that after I worked 13 hours a day, I would find out from Stephanie that the nurse called in, and then we would have to stay awake all night to watch after her. I was at my limit, and we decided that we needed to take her to the PICU so she could get better.
This is where things started to get better. We started getting answers that we had been searching months for. We found out why she couldn’t breathe and finally had a solution to get her ventilator settings right so she could come home. What followed was two months of working 13 hour days and trips up to the hospital almost every day. Now at this point I still was deep in my depression. I was distant from my family and friends because I kept thinking that Addison was never going to come home, and that she would spend her whole life in the hospital. I have never been so wrong.
When we finally took her home our lives began to come together. Days were happier, nights more peaceful. The nurses began showing up to their shifts and taking beautiful care of Addison. Life was almost perfect until my work transferred me an hour south of our home so I lost another 2 hours a day of time with my family to my commuting on the most dangerous stretch of road in Texas. Finally I had enough.
I decided that I needed to make a huge change in my life to better take care of myself and my family. I submitted my resignation from my job of four years, began to seek counselling, and started to reconnect with my beautiful wife, my perfect daughter, my loving family, and the steadfast friends who never left my side during the entire ordeal. I can’t continue without naming those that gave me the greatest comfort during this time: The first is my incredible wife Stephanie. There is no stronger, nor more incredible woman in the world than her. The second is my immediate family: My steadfast father Clint, my warrior of a mother Julie, my fireball sister Kristin. My unflinching father in law Gerald, my patient mother in law Cindy, and my encouraging sister in law Heather. They never left my side. Lastly, the friends that never gave up on me no matter what was going on. They all know who they are. Ian, Adam, Blake, Ben, Richard, Jacob, Benton, David, Daniel, Phillip, and my cousin Kevin. You men kept me alive during my darkest hour. I couldn’t leave out Rozanna. She mentored me at work and is a fellow NICU parent. My family would never have made it without her.
After coming home I started a new job with a strong, Christian man with deep roots in the community, and my family has begun to heal. I have an even 40 hours a week, I have good benefits, good pay, and I’m only two minutes from home now. God has taken me from my darkness and put me into the light and shown me how far He can deliver me. Now my daughter is a year old and I cannot begin to express just how incredible and amazing she is. When I get home I kiss her and watch her smile as my beard tickles her cheeks. He eyes light up when she sees me, and I know she sees me. She grabs my face and starts clicking her tongue out of excitement and everything that I fear or worry about just disappears. I see her face and I see heaven. I see her beautiful mother. I see her strength and her determination. Even when she cries I am happy because she is crying at home and not in the hospital.
Each and every day I get to kiss my baby girl when I leave and when I get home. I can kiss my stunning wife every morning and every night. I spend quality time with them every day, and I begin to heal. I can hold my family in my arms and feel the love of God all around me. I know everything is going to be OK, and I pray thanks to God for bringing me back to my family out of my darkness.
My prayer for you, my perfect, beautiful, strong, determined, spunky, hilarious, smiling little angle of a child Addison Olivia Wolfe is that you come to know one day how much your Mommy and Papa love you. I wish I could share with you the endless amount of lives you have touched with your strength. The millions who have prayed for you. I hope one day you can read this and know how truly loved you are. Words do not even come close to describing the intense passion and love I carry for you and your mother. I will never leave you again. I will never submit to the evils of this world and try to numb myself. I will always protect you. I will always defend you and your mother. I WILL ALWAYS BE YOUR PAPA. No matter what happens in life. Whether God takes any of us back home or war tears us apart, or the end of the world comes I WILL ALWAYS BE YOUR PAPA. You are loved more intensely than you could possibly ever imagine. The only one who loves you more than your mother and I is God, and He only loves you barely more than us.
Little girl, your father was once a broken man, but he is returned to you whole, and full of love and determination to be the best father the world has ever seen. I will take you to your first dance. I will intimidate the first boy that comes calling on you. I will cry as I give you away to your husband and dance my last dance with you. I will love your children and your husband’s family. Your mother and I will always love you. No matter what happens in life. When your mother and I got married we made a family crest and set our family motto. It is “Love Endures.” This is your life that you will lead. Love will endure every day and into eternity. On your first birthday my love, know that your Papa is the proudest man in the world, and that his love for you will endure past this life and into eternity.
I love you my perfect Daughter. Addison Olivia Wolfe. You are loved endlessly. Happy First Birthday.