As I write this column, I am attempting to process something that just happened a few hours ago.
My wife and I went to her doctor for her first ultrasound appointment, and I just heard my baby's heartbeat for the first time.
I was a bit nervous, I suppose, before the nurse called my wife's name. I didn't know what to expect, how long the process would take, or whether the nurse would need me to do anything.
I've never been a daddy before. I'm new at this, and still have a lot to learn. Prior to going to the doctor, I was just hoping the baby was still there -- that we weren't the victims of some cruel joke.
But, when I saw the tiny figure which is growing inside my wife's body, all those fears faded away.
As I watched this little person on the screen in the doctor's office, and heard the baby's rapid pulse, I couldn't help grabbing my wife's hand in utter awe, and smiling like never before.
As we walked away from the office toward our respective cars -- both of us still had to go to work -- we could barely contain our excitement. Each of us also came face to face with the reality before us, that we are going to be parents.
It's really real. It's not a joke, and we're not actors playing a part.
Our baby is on his or her way in a few short months, and life will never been the same again.
When I was on my way to the office after leaving our appointment, I started thinking about all the aspects of my life that will have to change now.
My karaoke days will be much more infrequent, after the baby is born, and we will probably be much more careful about what we allow ourselves to watch on television.
My wife and I will undoubtedly have to make some adjustments to our budget, because although having a baby is a wonderful experience, it isn't cheap.
We'll also have to cut down on how much time we spend with friends and family, because the baby will demand all of our attention.
The strange thing is, I am not bothered in the least by these adjustments, or any others which will accompany this baby.
Being a father is the dream of a lifetime, and I will do whatever I have to do, in order to give this child the best life I can.
As of this writing, I have a picture on my desk, from the ultrasound, tucked into a photograph of my wife and me. I want to keep it there as long as I can, as a reminder of that precious heartbeat I heard with my wife.
The picture will also remind me, on a constant basis, that my life will never be the same again.
I wouldn't have it any other way.
Jason A. Smith covers crime and courts for the Henry Daily Herald. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.