Over the last few months, individuals around the world have been faced with uncertainty and hardships due to COVID-19. For Bills guard Ike Boettger and his wife Katie, a period already marked by significant change proved even more life-altering when they welcomed a baby boy to the world amid the pandemic.
The couple's first child, Clayton Timothy Boettger, "Clay" for short, was born in Ike and Katie's home state of Iowa on Saturday, March 21, at 2:34 a.m. A blessing during a difficult time, Clay instantly became the apple of his father's eye.
"I was definitely excited knowing that I was going to have a little boy," said Boettger. "It's something that I've always wanted, basically my entire life."
Despite doing his due diligence to prepare for Clay's arrival and his new role as a father, Boettger could not have anticipated that he would simultaneously be adjusting to life in quarantine.
"It was just me and my wife hanging out and my wife's mom would be in and out," he said. "No one else was allowed to visit. I think that part of it was unique…So, that was something interesting and then just being very careful with Clay. [We were mindful about] not having a lot of people who had been in big groups or who had been traveling a lot holding him or getting close. There are just a lot of unique things during this time, and during the last few months, that have really played big roles in his life already that we for sure didn't plan on."
While no easy feat, the Bills lineman has found that parenthood has not only allowed his relationship with Katie to grow even stronger, it has also taught him valuable lessons.
"So many people have different options [on parenting]," he said. "It's just taking all those opinions and then deciding how you're going to do things as a couple. That was something that me and my wife Katie talked about a lot and are still talking about all the time – how to navigate certain things. There are a lot of different ways to do things and just feeling the most comfortable about decisions together is what has made things a lot easier for me and her.
"He's been a very easy baby to take care of so far. So, I haven't really been tested, but when we go to do anything now, having that patience and knowing that we're going to be planning for another 15-20 minutes getting ready – getting him ready, getting him in the car seat – [is important]. Just planning my day more flexible, which is something I'm definitely not used to. I like to follow a strict schedule, a stricter routine and this has definitely taught me to take a deep breath and think, 'There are more important things than just my schedule or my routine that I thought I was going to have for that day.'"
On Sunday, June 21, exactly three months since Clay's arrival, Boettger – like his teammates Micah Hyde, Dion Dawkins and Mitch Morse – will celebrate his first Father's Day. Planning to golf, grill and spend quality time with his family, Boettger will also reflect on the joys of being a dad.
"It's super small but just every time he smiles, or I can get a little giggle out of him, just hanging out with him, that's probably the most rewarding thing at this point," he said. "He's still really young and there will be a lot of cool things as he grows up and gets older but just enjoying something as small as him smiling right now, has been, probably, my favorite thing."