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By David Brewster

Today, we celebrate the birth of our first child. Born on March 21, 2000, at approximately 8:52 p.m., he is now 12 years old, loves to read, ski, swim and play video games.

He is developing an ear for sarcasm, innuendo, double entendre, and profanity which makes me proud as I caution him about where and when he can explore their various applications without alarming adults or getting his father in trouble with his mother. He has also learned how to share the spotlight with his younger brothers, ages 8 and 7, who each have sparkling personalities in their own rights.

But it occurred to me that today marks the 12th anniversary of another birth. At exactly that same moment, a dad was born. Up until then, “fatherhood” was but a vague and far-away imagination of what it might be like to start a family of my own. I can clearly recall visiting a friend who was baby sitting for a neighbor and having the conscious thought that I would hope to be a good father one day.

But let’s get something straight, people: I am not a planner! I don’t research anything and, although I can read, I generally avoid it. So it should be no surprise that in the 15-year gap between being a lad of 14 years musing over the someday possibility of fatherhood and being a 29-year-old man seeing things in the delivery room that no man should ever bear witness to, I continually find myself completely unprepared for this job!

Just a few days ago I found myself looking at the titles of some of the reference material on the bookshelf. Let the record show that as my polar opposite, the children’s mother is a major planner and researcher.

Here’s a taste of the titles I found: “What to Expect When You’re Expecting,” “The New First Three Years of Life,” “Beyond Jennifer and Jason – What to Name Your Baby,” “Hypnobirthing,” “Pregnancy for Dummies,” “Your Premature Baby and Child,” “While Waiting,” “The Girlfriend’s Guide to Pregnancy,” “The Very Best Baby Name Book,” “What to Expect the First Year,” “Child Of Mine – Feeding with Love and Good Sense,” “Dr. Spock’s Baby and Child Care,” “From Child to Two,” “Raising a Happy, Unspoiled Child,” and “Your Baby & Child.”

I don’t know which of these titles she’s read cover-to-cover versus which ones were gifts from the baby shower, but I assure you that my eyes have not spent more than an hour perusing the pages of any of them — with one exception, which I know she bought for me: “What to Expect When Your Wife’s Expanding.”

This humorous perspective taught me two things: First, I learned how to make home-entertainment purchases for myself that appear to be made in support of my wife’s pre-term comfort or for the benefit of the newborn child. Second, I learned that there would be no way in hell I could comprehend or adequately appreciate what was happening to my wife’s mind and body, so just pay close attention and try not to get in the way.

And so, it is with that complete lack of knowledge that I greeted child birth. Oh, she signed us up for one of those classes at the hospital, so I should have been all set, right? It was supposed to be like having the Cliff Notes to Labor and Delivery. In my mind, it was supposed to be like watching the 90-minute movie instead of reading the book for three weeks. Wrong. As it turns out, if your first child decides that he’d rather come out to play 10 freakin’ weeks earlier than he’s supposed to, the only advantage is that you’ll get to miss everything from the third class forward, including the video where they show some strange, wet little creature emerging from another woman’s vagina.

So there we were, 10 weeks early, in an ambulance and on our way from the local hospital to the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, for you amateurs) at one of the big hospitals in Boston. We would spend two days waiting to see what the little bugger was going to do and were completely unprepared. “Quick! Think! What do I do? What had I learned? Purchase something. No, too late for that now. OK, pay close attention don’t get in the way.”

And that’s what I did. I parked myself right there at the bedside, listening to her and the doctors, and made sure that she heard everything they said and vice versa until it was over. And then, while everybody was resting and being taken care of by professionals with all kinds of experience, credentials and training, I went down to the restaurant across the street from the hospital, sat down at the bar, and had a pint of Guinness along with a moment to collect my thoughts.

And then it began.

Dave Brewster is a stay-home-dad being raised by three young boys in Groton. Find more at www.ADadIsBorn.com.