When the doctor handed me the scissors to cut the umbilical cord there were no words exchanged between us other than the unspoken communication of man to man, the language of look, nod, gesture. As I took the instrument from his hand, his eyes told me, This is your move. You cut him loose. So I did. My wife had pushed and groaned and rocked for hours, willing this firstborn son into the world. Now he was here, finally, but he was still tethered to her via that ropy cord. I had to cut him loose. So I did. I repeated that move when our daughters were born as well. It seemed this intrinsically irrational act, but there’s no other phrase that accurately captures the feel of those seconds, those cutting loose moments when I set my children free into this world. Did I fully understand what was going on in those emancipations? No, but I did have an awareness that the ante was suddenly raised, there was no room for bluff. I acknowledged that this was something that had to be done regardless of what would follow.
What followed has been and continues to be one of the most exhilarating, risky, frustrating, and challenging experiences of my life. I have quickly seen there are no guarantees, no fail-safe routes to raising daughters and sons. Anyone who tells you differently or writes a book that tells you differently is a liar. Like attempting to climb Everest, fathering is a triumph of desire over sensibility, something I believe all men hold in common.