Standing out front of Seton Hospital on a hot summer day is a “sense memory” exercise for me. The cinderblock canyon between the hospital entrance and the parking garage seems to channel the heat directly onto the nape of your neck. Moving from the cool and dark of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit into this bright Texas heat is nothing short of brutal. We did it day in and day out for three long weeks of August 1998.
Yesterday, I was revisiting the hospital just a few weeks shy of my tiny preemie’s 14th birthday, to shoot my contribution for a Philips Norelco video about what it feels like to be a father. I was sporting a freshly trimmed goatee, in honor of the sponsor — a look I like, but the kids frown on any deviation from the full beard — reflecting on the fact that I had recently taught my tiny preemie to shave.
The Seton NICU was the site of my Definitive Fatherhood Moment. And as folks that hang around DadLabs.com know, it’s one that I like to retell because it’s more common than you think. A tough start, plans subverted, but a good outcome. It’s one that I hope the current preemie parents, especially dads of preemies, will hear. With the rise of organizations like Hand to Hold, I’m encouraged that the word is getting out.
Which it should with the help of Philips Norelco and the other witty, insightful, experienced dads that are contributing to this video project. I really can’t wait to see the finished product when it hits the web on Thursday, June 14th. I hope you’ll check it out.
Also on Thursday, Doug French (@LOD) of Dad 2.0 fame, will be leading a twitter party in association with the release of the video. Follow the hashtag #newfaceofdad from 8-9pm for a lively (and certainly funny) discussion of the State of Fatherhood. If you’re not already plugged in to DadLabs on the Tweeter we are @DadLabs, @daddyclay and @daddybrad.
As you can probably guess from the hashtag, the tagline of the Philips Norelco campaign is “The New Face of Dad.” I have to confess that with my tiny preemie now a hulking lacrosse midfielder that loves to loom over me — I don’t feel like a “New” anything. But standing in that heat in front of the hospital, the feeling of being very, very new came back with considerable force. Every experience so unexpected, disorienting, exciting — without precedent. Fourteen years later, I feel a bit more like the Old Face of the New Dads. But I’ll take what I can get.
DadLabs is being compensated for my participation in this project. I’m honored to have been included. Thanks to Philips Norelco for sparking such a cool collaboration.