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Singing the praises of a first child

By Chris Goltermann

"Wimoweh, Wimoweh ?"

The sounds of another 3 a.m. feeding hope to soothe the tiny creature that swings cradled in my arms.

But what one might perceive as the sound of a child mightily sucking on her bottle, is instead the voice of her father singing to his newborn daughter into the early morning.

Surely one day in the future Mary Ellen Goltermann will plead for her father, whose vocals can only be described with William Hung in the category of "American Idol" reject, to simply "Shut up."

But as a first-time father, and a rookie Dad of a one-month old girl, my cracking acappella version of The Tokens' classic "The Lion Sleeps Tonight," led by the incessant ?Wimoweh, Wimoweh,' are the only sounds that seem to soothe the savage, or at least wide awake, baby.

Just knowing that my own voice could comfort a child so much my own, but as much a miniature version of the woman I've so grown to love over the past 13 years, seems magical. That a tiny human being suddenly depends solely on my wife and me for survival seems both scary and overwhelming.

And understanding that I'm now a member of the same special fraternity to be "honored" on this Father's Day, seems unfathomable - even while closing in fast on my 31st birthday.

Still, approximately 30 days ago, they were the same feelings that came to mind on the day Mary Ellen arrived into our world.

The only thing we seemed sure about, was the name my wife Kimberly and I had decided upon. Mary came from Kim's late grandmother and Ellen was after my aunt. The hope was also that the initials M.E.G. might find a suitable second option for our daughter in case the Apple's and Coco's of the Class of 2022 berate her in grade school for having ?too plain,' a name. Still we figured Goltermann is tough enough of a hassle for teachers to maneuver on the first day of class.

Mary Ellen's birth was much like parenting, one moment confident, the next chaotic. Kim was scheduled to be induced on May 20 due to her gestational diabetes, and for us, there was no turning back.

We've always been planners by nature and parenthood wasn't much different. Kim and I met in high school, and dated nearly 10 years before we finally married, both of us moving south from Long Island, N.Y. at different points in our relationship. Nearly three years as newlyweds the thought became "if it happens, it happens," and not long afterward, Kim became pregnant to a small, but delightful shock.

Nine months of books, articles, classes and conversations from friends, family and doctors, however, can't prepare you for the fateful day. A call from my close friend Ken, a father of two, the night before P-Day revealed nothing new.

"I can't explain it," he said. "But when it happens, you'll never forget the feeling as long as you live."

We'd realize soon enough what Ken was trying to tell us.

It took Kim 13 minutes of pushing for that moment to become a reality. Following a much appreciated epidural after four solid hours of contractions and a frantic cell phone call to me after being kicked out of the room to soothe a migraine with food, my wife came through with her most impressive, and appreciated, achievement yet.

Somehow, however, I expected there to be some glowing light from above as her 6 pound, 5.9 ounce peanut-like body popped out. As if some pixie sprinkled us with parent-dust and said, "Poof, you're ready."

Don't count on it kids.

One learns quickly, though, that children, especially infants, are anything but typical. Sure the average month-old sleeps 18 hours a day. But they aren't done consecutively. Four hours becomes a Godsend.

Still, we picked up on certain quirks immediately. Mary Ellen came out naked screaming and pretty much does the same whenever it time for a bath or a diaper change. Modesty isn't the worst character trait to have in a little girl's life these days.

Fears of diaper changes, at least as a father, were overblown. After the first week, you kind of treat them like scientists do with experiments. What caused that? That's a new color. Whoa, how you get that all the way up your back kiddo. Stuff like that.

Soon you concocted your own mad theories, like how come she explodes every time we put a Pampers on her with ?Bert' from Sesame Street instead of Winnie the Pooh.

Meanwhile, our parents try their absolute best to soothe our worries and fears. Babies, they said, basically eat, sleep and poop as newborns, and they were partly right. The only problem is determining what stage of the baby triangle the little one is at when arriving home from work when Kim's asleep in bed. And those are some of the most frustrating times.

Complete ease has yet to set in. At least once a day my fingers seem to poke under sleeping Mary Ellen's nose to make sure she's still breathing. The slightest noise on the baby monitor has me thundering down the steps from our computer room to her bassinet to make sure she's OK.

Welcome to the world of parenthood we're told. And it's always in the same sly, shrewd manner that seems to dictate that life will never be exactly the same again. And maybe they're right.

We can't just take off on vacation anymore. We can't just go out for dinner and a late movie - at least without thinking about baby sitters, or heaven forbid what people will do to us should we take our newborn.

Sorry, Harry and Shrek, you'll both have to wait. You too big screen TV, TIVO, I-POD, PS2 or any other electronic gadget that could cause the average man to drool and his wallet to open.

That's the magical world of parenthood in a nutshell should it hit. What once was important to you, takes a backseat.

Being No. 3 is OK when No. 1 and No. 2 are your wife and daughter. And Bronze can be just as good as gold.

Somebody real special seemed to get me ready to accept that notion.

I think his name was ?Dad.'

(Goltermann is a Page Designer for the Daily Herald and News-Daily newspapers. He can be e-mailed at cgoltermann@news-daily.com His wife Kim is a former Morrow resident and was a member of the grand opening team at the Truett's Grill in McDonough. She operates the Chick-fil-A at the LaGrange Mall.)