In honor of Father's Day, senior area sales manager Spencer Sheehan shares his experience of overcoming obstacles, becoming a new first-time dad to a miracle baby girl, and the importance of the paid paternity leave program at GE Appliances.
To those following along in our journey as a family, my wife Meredith and I experienced a literal miracle. It's important to note that in my own human experience, I look at everything through the lens of my Christian faith.
Meredith and I have walked this road towards parenthood for the past seven years, with many twists, turns and pitfalls along the way. We tried just about everything a family could try to start our family, enduring four miscarriages in two years; two ectopics, one chemical, and the most recent at seven weeks.
Each experience feels like our own heart has been ripped from our chest.
That is why Lilly is such a miracle. We found out at 23 weeks and six days that my loving wife was pregnant after we had been walking the road of adoption for nearly six months. In fact, the week we were moving into the placement phase, forwarding all our paperwork, Mere took a test at 4 a.m. to rule out pregnancy, only to find she was pregnant.
Sixteen weeks later, she gave birth to little Lillian Frances Sheehan, the namesake of our grandmothers on our mother's sides. As I write these paragraphs, Lilly has just crossed the threshold of being two weeks old and keeping her Momma and Poppa busy.
That is why I am so grateful for this time away from work through GEA's Paid Paternity Leave Program. It allows up to 12 weeks for fathers of newborn and adopted children to allow for proper bonding.
I don't know how single parents could get by without another person present to help. You're completely out of your depth with a firstborn, drawing on all manner of advice, articles, and any concept you can get your hands around as you fast approach becoming a new parent.
How am I doing so far?
I will tell you, fatherhood, and more specifically, being Dad is the single greatest role I'll ever hold in my life. Apart from my relationship with Jesus and my close bond with my wife, it is the most important role I'll ever have and work I will ever do.
That's why paternity leave is so important.
Dad's matter too. Remember that you being a part of your child's life, from the moment they come bursting into this world, matters. Don't let any person belittle, undermine, or make you feel less of yourself for engaging in these formative moments.
Your child needs you. Your spouse needs you. And you need them.
If anyone says you're babysitting or taking a vacation, kindly dismiss those remarks and keep moving.
As a parent, I will never get these moments back, which makes this bonding time all the more precious to me.
Two weeks have passed, and she is already growing like a beanstalk; she poops constantly, laughs, giggles, and shows us little flashes of her personality more and more each day.
Paternity leave has come a long way since I was born. It's come a long way, even in my time at GE Appliances. I can still remember when the announcement came during my time in customer service that we'd be extending maternity/paternity leave to a full 12 weeks. I was blown away.
That's why I celebrate and advocate for paternity leave all the more. It's important to have this special time with your family to bond and learn how to co-parent with your spouse or significant other. Work is important. Your family is most important, and GE Appliances has always kept that front and center.
Being able to be here for Meredith and Lilly is so wonderful on all fronts because we're learning what it is to be a family of three, 24/7. It allows me to help, learn, and bring a different energy and thought to any situation we face. It gives me the opportunity to encourage and to hear encouragement from my wife and those people closest to our little section of the Sheehan Clan.
I love being a Dad.
We couldn't do this without the benefits we're afforded through our company. I most certainly couldn't do it either without the help and support of several awesome co-workers and friends here at GEA.
A huge shout out to my counterpart Jake Freeman, for taking on a very complex territory, pulling double duty while I'm away. He embodies teamwork and I couldn't do it without his help.
Kudos as well to my Region Manager, JJ Brown, for not only being supportive, but actively encouraging my paternity leave.
Thank you to all my friends and those who have reached out in support throughout the company, throughout the Mid-East and Northeast Regions, and all around the GEA globe who have journeyed alongside us for many, many years.
Finally, I couldn't share such a message without giving a huge shout of praise and thanksgiving to my own father, Pat Sheehan, and my mother, Siobhan Sheehan (a 25-year GE veteran).
My Dad is the example I follow in fatherhood. Always present, always open, always there for me, even today. Alongside my mother, they have provided an enduring example of marriage and parenthood they have developed over their 43 years of marriage.
Even cooler, our daughter was born on their 43rd wedding anniversary. They drove a total of 1,400 miles, forward and backward, sacrificed their time away from their own business, and stayed two extra days just to be here for Lilly's birth and help us settle into parenthood.
I'm so grateful for the Dads in my life, especially my own. I certainly wouldn't be that Dad I am now 14 days in, without his example, love and support.
Happy Father's Day!
*Last year, GE Appliances wrote about the Sheehans' journey to adoption when Spencer ran 30 days of half marathons to raise awareness. You can read that story here.