Voices from Fathers

I know a lot of fathers with special connections with their children and asked them if they would share a few words for Father’s Day. If you have a tradition you’d like me to add to this post, please let me know. If you’re dad out there, enjoy your special day.

Douglas Heikinin's son, Cale 'Bird' climbing his Portland tree in the mist.

I was the guy who waited forever to have a you.I was the guy who did whatever­, whenever and however long he wanted to.  I didn’t have a care in the world, but what I wanted.  I thought that was really living. Almost three years ago, you changed all that—you ended the selfish. Now, you’re all I do—all the time.  You are better than a lifetime of Christmases. It shouldn’t be called Father’s day, since I really don’t deserve anything. To me, it’s Cale Day since you warrant it all.

Happy Cale Day, Calebird!

Doug Heikkinen, Portland, OR

One tradition I have with my kids, nine-year-old boy/girl twins, Nico and Devi, is to tell stories during our 20-minute walk to school. We have about five or six sequel themes we draw from, all are made up, and any given story might last a couple weeks or a month.  The kids love it.  I love it.  If I’m drawing a blank, I steal shamelessly from movies or books — because once 8 a.m. comes every morning when we hit the sidewalk, I need content!

Ed Garnero's twins, Devi (l) and Niko (r), master storytellers of the Arizona desert.

I weave in life experiences I think are important for them to consider, classic good versus evil (they actually *insist* on having bad guys, and let me know when I’ve failed in the depth of his/her evil nature), our inner divinity (even the bad guys), and so on.  Our most recent one was “Sarah The Squirrel.” Sarah has a ton of relatives.  They live in our backyard (so we are sometimes in the story). The plot usually revolves around her younger brother Billy, who loves appliances — sneaks into homes, steals stuff (like one time, our green blender). The ‘bad guys’ featured foxes, Vinnie and Vito, but the last story involved a new neighbor animal-hating kid ‘Bozic’, who Billy tries to shoot with a stolen gun. Morris the Gopher (who lives four doors down from our house) saves the day and Bozic survives and turns good in the end. Telling these stories pushes me to be creative every day and together, we explore the vast domains of adventure, emotion, conflict and resolution. What’s great is that I see my kids do the same in their own art and fantasy.

At first, it was just fun but then there was the period where the storytelling felt like duty, “Shoot. They’re going to want a story in ten- minutes.  I’m empty!” Now, it is totally blessing. We journey together, deeply, in these moments. Some days, even when we’ve maxed out the suspense and arrive at the playground, I finish a sentence and they want a little more.

Edward Garnero, Tuscon, AZ

Jim Migdal teaches his daughters Eliza (l) and Blair (r) pizza making and salad dressing in Silicon Valley.

As the father of two daughters,it is incumbent upon me to teach the girls how to (a) throw and catch properly (b) make a pizza and a salad dressing from scratch, and (c) be a good companion on a walk with your dad, all of which are evolving traditions in our house. The throwing and catching gets better each year as the girls develop a nice 3/4 delivery and are able to catch various types of balls.  Pizza-making evolves and becomes more elaborate each year as we perfect our technique and make a bigger mess of the kitchen.  The walks take place around the neighborhood and get more interesting as we go and the girls grow.

Jim Migdal, Palo Alto, CA

Dan Weaver and his baby girl, Gracelyn Rose, hike above the Pacific Ocean.

Each morning, I share a few rituals
with my daughter Gracelyn Rose of 14 months, who loves to wake up early. Maybe a little too early for my wishes, but we make the best of it! If it’s a “Water the Plants Day”, I strap on the Bjorn, strap on Gracelyn and her fascination with plants, dirt, bugs, birdies and water begins. Excitation is generally signified by an outstretched hand coupled with a monkey like mew…eeeeEEERRHHH!  After that it’s back inside and time for oatmeal, but my favorite part of the morning is dancing with her. We hook up the I-Pod and she bounces up and down with excitation and wildly pushes the buttons…and bits of Vivaldi, Afrobeat, Motown, and a podcast here and there randomly staccato out of the speakers. I scoop her into my arms, dial up some Motown, and start counting the beat while I dance around the living room with her in my arms. I remember when music filled our household growing up and I want my daughter to feel the joy and resonance of melody and rhythm, too.  I think she’s slowly learning the subtle ‘head nod’ or that is my projection. You go, Gracelyn!  I put her down, she holds up her arms for one more dance and every once in awhile, more often than not, tears well up in my eyes from the sweetness of it all.
Daniel Weaver, Mill Valley, CA

'Pirate Tom' Croley and his oldest son Cameron explore the beach in San Diego.

I love spending one-on-one time with the boys as ‘Pirate Tom’. One tradition we have is bed time stories. Not the kind you read, but making them up on the fly, like Captain Jack setting sail from San Francisco looking for treasure around the world. His sailboat crew includes his dog Lucy, Pete the Parrot, and in the water, his friends Willy the Whale and Monty the Manta Ray. Sharing these stories is a great way for us to connect and just be in the moment, while our imaginations run wild. The boys remember every word and even catch me when I retelling a story from a month old.

Tom Croley, Mill Valley, CA

Mike Payne with his daughters Madison (l) and Ava (r) sharing yet another laugh.

My daughters, Madison (9) and Ava (5), and I enjoy riding our bikes after dinner or on weekend mornings.  Ava rides tandem with me on a “trail-along” bike and she is able to pedal and thankfully contribute to climbing hills.  We ride around five miles and usually stop halfway at our town park for some fun on the swings or slides.  When it’s really hot, we will ride to a local ice cream shop for a treat or finish up at our neighborhood pool for a refreshing swim.  When our timing is just right, we sometimes ride along the community green-path trails and catch the spray from water sprinklers to cool us off and leaving us laughing as we speed through the make-shift bike wash.  The girls love the outdoor adventures on their bikes and I love combining quality time and exercise with them. And yes, I also like the occasional ice cream.

Mike Payne, Keller, TX


Meet the Moment

Meet The Moment

Baby Charlotte

Dianna Kearn and her daughter Catherine Kira Kearn born in Los Angeles, California April 11, 2011.

It takes a miracle
to bring any baby into the world. Factor in the decision to conceive and give birth as a single mother and even the greatest skeptic might believe in magic. The birth of Catherine Kira Kearn*, who arrived April 11, 2011, is proof.

Eight weeks later, her mother, Dianna Kearn*, has emerged from the postpartum blur and is facing the reality of her situation. She is a mother. She has a daughter, and a sweet dog Cash. They are a family and she is their life-line, their everything.

And she is doing this alone. At 40. Statistics aside, this is remarkable. Log the sleep deprivation, the 1000 calorie burning days (from breastfeeding), the constant running on adrenaline and you’d think my friend is a professional Eco Challenge athlete. The comparison is not outrageous. A few years before Dianna chose the ultimate challenge of motherhood, she started to train for marathons. She traveled around the world solo. She moved from her comfort zone in LA to start a new job and a new life in Northern California. She wanted to challenge herself and change the focus of her life.

The Vision

In the summer of 2009, one year before she turned 40, Dianna started to think about becoming a mother, though she told no one of her plan. “I knew 40 was a big birthday but it didn’t freak me out. It just made me take stock. I didn’t feel behind,” she said this week on a rare call between two hour feedings with baby Catherine. “But I knew it was time — even though the media tells us we can get pregnant at 57 these days. They’re not telling us that we’ll be spending tens of thousands of dollars on fertility treatments.”

While Dianna held an established career in the film industry, she wasn’t in the position to wait any longer. She wasn’t dating at the time or waiting for Mr. Right. Using IUI – Intrauterine Insemination was the most viable option for her when she moved forward with the plan to get pregnant in 2010.

“I was unbelievably grateful to have turned 40 in 2010 and be living in California where there are so many acceptable versions of what it means to be a family,” she said, even though the picture of her becoming a mother wasn’t exactly what she envisioned. “Is the way I wanted to do it? No. But I never imagined not becoming a mother.”

Catherine, life of the party called Life.

Anyone who knows Dianna knows motherhood is wired in her DNA. She made all her friend’s children the envy of each other – each vying to have ‘Dianna’ as their exclusive special friend, a role she created to nurture these children as they grew up. She even created a long-distance book club with her Goddaughter Molly on the East Coast.

The Announcement

She had no doubt she would find a supportive West Coast community; however, she was uncertain as to how her family would react. Her parents lived in South Carolina and came from very traditional East Coast roots. “There are born again Christians, Catholics and Conservative Republicans in my family. I was the outlier,” she said, “Living in LA and working in the film industry. It made me really empathize with my gay friends who came out because I had to say to my own family, look, this is who I am and I hope you are okay with it.”

Her family was the first to surprise her with their support. Her employer was second. Both wanted to help Dianna make this happen. She didn’t need to convince anyone that if there was a woman in the world who would make an outstanding mother it was her.

More proof of that: Dianna’s the only person I know who was given four baby showers – two on the East Coast and two on the West Coast. Her film industry colleagues put together a book called Eat Love Poop, the result of a friendly conspiracy where her friends contributed motherhood wisdom and photos with their own babies, in response to Dianna’s many questions that kept her awake at night during her pregnancy.

The Conception

So how did this all happen? First Dianna, as usual, vetted the best fertility specialists. Her choices came down to Stanford and the Fertility Specialists of Northern California. She chose the later for their warm bedside manner and genuine, heartfelt interest in her story: why she wanted to become a mother, at 40, on her own. They listened fully and supported her.

Once she felt safe with the fertility specialists, she searched for a sperm donor. I won’t go into details here because it’s a separate story, too precious to share in public. But I will say when I heard about the match, I cried. It was so perfect, to the point you get chills thinking maybe there is more to all of this. Maybe, just maybe women like Dianna are not alone when thoughtful men help them realize their dream.

Hey, World. Here I am. I, Catherine Kira Kearn, have arrived at last. Miracle? Uh, yes!

She waited until the spring of 2010 to get started, seeing no chance of a pregnancy during her sister’s upcoming wedding and her 40th birthday in July. She would either get lucky on the first try in May, or wait until later. But after the first IUI didn’t work, she realized how badly she wanted to have a baby. “I was desperate,” she recalls.

Panicked, she immediately scheduled another appointment with the fertility specialist the next week, begging for fertility drugs, anything that would make the pregnancy happen. The doctor gently advised against taking the fertility drugs, which increase the chance of multiples by 10 percent. “She told me, ‘You have to consider the reality of what multiples would mean, even for a couple. And it’s only you. That’s a lot of work.”

In the meanwhile, she was referred to group counseling for women also facing fertility issues. She went to three classes and quit. “It was too stressful. I couldn’t stay in a room and listen to all the reasons why it wasn’t going to work. I wouldn’t let my mind go there.”

Dianna had tested well for FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) and tried again in July, without fertility drugs. It was a Saturday. She had a work conference Sunday in LA. She returned for three more days then flew back to LA for her sister’s wedding the next weekend. “After I talked myself off a ledge, I went the opposite way. I was certain it didn’t happen,” she said, but the day after her sister’s wedding, it was time to check.

She was insistent on buying a home pregnancy test that said pregnant or not pregnant. She didn’t want to decipher lines. She peed on the stick and called her sister from the hotel they were all staying at in Malibu. Her sister’s phone didn’t pick up. She called some friends on the East Coast. They didn’t pick up. She called her sister’s husband, Tucker*, who answered. She asked to speak with Michelle*. “Are you going to kill me because I left my cell phone in your room and it went off at 6 a.m.?”

Dianna said, “No. I’m pregnant.”

Magic and miracles continued for the nine months that followed – even though she was holding her breath until she reached six months. “I had a ridiculously easy pregnancy,” Dianna recalls, having suffered only the expected morning sickness and fatigue. She worked the whole way through her pregnancy up until the last month and fully pregnant, packed up and moved back to LA with the help of friends and family.

Three generations of dimples: Charlotte's grandmother arrives from South Carolina to help Deanne come home.

The Birth

On Monday, April 11, three days prior to her due date, Dianna wrote an email to her friends telling us her baby had a time-line of its own. She had seen her doctor late that morning who assured her there was zero dilation. Six hours later she was timing five minutes between contractions, thinking they were Braxton Hicks. She called a good friend in Texas, who happened to be an OBGYN, who told her to take a bath and that while it was possible she was in labor, highly unlikely.

Less than two hours later, she was calling another friend in LA. “It’s time,” she said. “Get over here!” By 7:45 she was in a car, headed to Cedar’s Sinai hospital, hardly able to see the pain was so acute with three minutes between contractions. She wasn’t worried they wouldn’t make it to the hospital — it took 45 minutes to get across town; she was terrified she wouldn’t survive the contractions until she got an epidural.

By the time they arrived at the hospital, she was astounded to learn she had to re-register and answer questions such as, “What is your highest level of education?” She had already filled in the information required for admission weeks ago. She had no birth plan. “My birth plan was this: you went to medical school, I didn’t. Give me drugs.”

But there was no time for drugs. No sooner could she offer her name, she blurted out, “I have to push!” to which every nurse within earshot said, “Oh, no you don’t.” Sorry folks. They haven’t worked with Dianna who even without a baby torpedoing from her body is and will always be a force to reckon with. You don’t tell Dianna ‘no’ when she needs you to say ‘yes.’ Her baby was coming and she needed everyone to act.

The next thing she knew, she was in a birthing room with about fourteen wide-eyed staff people and a strapping young doctor who, according to her sister, looked like Doogie Howser between her legs. “You’re going to have this baby now,” he said, and she did at 8:22 p.m., less than 45 minutes after she arrived at the hospital. Remarkable? Miraculous? Without a doubt, magical.

Dianna Kearn met the moment she became a mother with as much grace and courage as anyone I’ve ever known. “I was suddenly so calm holding Catherine for the first time. It was the most peaceful I’d ever felt in my life. She was so alert. She had such bright eyes and I swear she was staring right into my soul.”

A night on the town... Dianna and Catherine take to the streets of Pasadena.

For eights weeks, she rode the postpartum waves, day by day, meeting herself and her baby moment to moment, fully present, not always happy, not always rested but without a doubt enriched, evolving and more resolved than ever this was the right choice.

The night we spoke, Monday June 6, was a significant day for Dianna. I will share an excerpt of the letter she sent to friends as testimony, that thanks to modern science and the support of steadfast friends and family, single women can choose motherhood:

Today was the start of a whole new chapter – we are on our own. As I mentioned today was a really good day and if you asked me what happened I wouldn’t tell you anything significant. Catherine slept for two 4 hour chunks of time last night and she maintained her every three hour eating schedule.  We figured out the Ergo baby carrier and took Cash on two really good walks while Charlotte slept against my chest.  I managed to do laundry and eat all three meals.  I made a phone call or two and wrote two complete thank you notes.  Yes, these are all major accomplishments in this new life of mine.  However, what made the day really good is that we were completely on our own for over 24 hours without any visitors/helpers on the horizon.  And for the first time, in my core, I am confident that we can do this.  I am confident that I can do this.  We felt like a team.  We felt like a family – Catherine, Cash and me.    

*Names have been changed to protect the privacy of my friend.