This is the man that I love, the father of my child:
His name is Jonathan Hepworth Armstrong, and he is tall and lovely and has perpetually unkempt hair. Three years ago last week I looked across a wobbly table at Dupar’s on Third and Fairfax in Los Angeles and decided that I wanted my children to inherit this man’s eyes. That was our first date.
This is our child, and she has his eyes (and his nose and his profile and his forehead and his hands and his everything else):
Sometimes it seems that this parenthood thing is lopsided, that the mother has to suffer all sorts of unimaginable pain to bring the child into the world while the father gets to sit to the side, smoke cigars, and pat the kid on the butt from time to time. And while that’s not an entirely accurate depiction of our roles in Leta’s life, it’s a pretty accurate depiction of the intrinsic nature of this process.
Let me explain: Becoming a mother has been very hard for me. My pregnancy was marked with nausea and bloating and swelling and 30 pounds of weight gain and heart burn and insomnia and a neverending need to go pee. Labor wasn’t so bad, if you can say such a thing about that kind of pain, it being “not so bad.” I was fortunate in that I didn’t experience any complications, but the aftermath was Biblical in its devastation.
[note to potential new mothers: do not fear labor, fear the aftermath of labor]
There were stitches and chronic constipation and crying and hemorrhoids and bladder infections and back pains and bleeding and crying and cracked nipples and crying and lumpy breasts with the texture and firmness of granite. And then there were weeks and weeks of crying and sleep deprivation and depression and anxiety and hard, hard, uncomfortable breasts.
Jon got to share in the sleep deprivation, but his main physical contribution to bringing this baby into the world, aside from his Very Potent Sperm (Jon looked at me naked and we got pregnant), was carrying me EVERY STEP OF THE WAY. He hasn’t had to experience ANY of the physical pain of this process, but he has picked me up off the floor more times than is required under the law for men who are married to Really Difficult Women.
He held my head when I puked, he cheered for me when I tried to pee. He helped me turn over in the middle of the night when I was so whale-like in size that I couldn’t turn over by myself.
He pushed with me during labor and almost passed out from depriving his brain of oxygen. He changed Leta’s first diaper even though we both hadn’t slept in 48 hours and the diapers in the hospital were all BROKEN and WOULDN’T STAY ON, and the meconium stuck to every pore in his forearm.
He stood outside the door when I went poop for the first time after labor, The Most Horrible Day of My Life, coaching me like I was going through labor again, giving birth to Leta’s twin. And then he held my head as I cried afterward.
He has come home from work early (more times than I’m proud to admit) to wipe away my tears, to calm the baby’s screaming as I screamed in the other room.
He rubs my feet BECAUSE HE WANTS TO, not because I ask him to. He lets me sleep an extra 30 minutes in the morning at least three or four times a week because he knows that those extra sleep minutes are the key to my sanity.
He lets me spew NONSENSE every night, and then he lets me cry and cry some more. And then he holds me again.
And then there is his relationship with Leta. Pardon me while I weep for just a second.
Jon puts Leta to bed every night. He reads her a story, and then they turn off the lamp, and then he puts her in the crib. When I see them together in the rocking chair, sharing those quiet evening moments, father and daughter, my heart breaks into a million pieces. I think about how he could have chosen someone else. He could have looked at me across that table at Dupar’s and said, “You are nice and all, but I need to see other women.” He could have walked out of my life any number of times. He could have given another woman a child with his eyes.
But there he is, my husband, Leta’s father. He has endured pain he never knew he would have to endure at the hands of my disease, and he has stood by me, carried me through many sleepless nights. His contribution is as vital as mine.
The best part of my day is when Jon carries Leta back to the changing table after her bath, and she’s lying there wrapped in the towel, her hand shoved as far as she can get it into the back of her mouth. He leans down and pretends to eat her neck and she laughs like she laughs for no one else, a full-body laugh that shakes her belly and causes her to let go of her hand for a second. Her giggles fill the house and echo through the baby monitor into the living room and out to the street. I imagine that those echoing giggles are what the background music in heaven sound like.
Happy Father’s Day, Jon. We love you.