Joy, Makes Me Sigh, Snips And Snails

Fragile No More

As I sit here watching my little boy jumping off the coffee table with a tiny toy guitar tucked under his arm like David Lee Roth, I can’t believe he is the same fragile four-pound baby that we brought home from the hospital just before Thanksgiving in 2003.

We are nearly three years into this parenting gig and sometimes Antique Daddy and I still can’t believe the hospital turned us loose with an infant that weighed less than my handbag. We were so clueless.

As we were packing up to leave the hospital, we told the doctor as clearly as we could that even though we appeared to be grown ups, we were only cheap imitations. We were terrified at the thought of being responsible for our baby. Beyond the fact that childbirth had left Antique Daddy with a bad case of the shingles and me an emotional and physical wreck — we had no idea how to take care of a baby, a premature baby at that. We knew about dogs, not babies and they wanted us to take home a baby, not a puppy.  We begged anyone wearing scrubs to come home with us. “We’ll take any of you, doctor, nurse, janitor — it doesn’t matter. Please! Just come with us!”

As the NICU nurse handed over our tiny bundle of poop, she shook her head sadly — not sad because she wanted to go with us, but sad because she was required by law to send two idiots like us home with a helpless little human being. “You’ll do fine,” she lied. I knew she was lying and she knew I knew she was lying because she was the one who valiantly tried to teach me how to change a diaper. “Remember, picture on front,” she said holding up a diaper no bigger than a Kleenex. “Are you going to have some help at home?” she asked in the same pointed way that my mother does when she wants to disguise a suggestion as a question.

As we strapped Sean into the car seat for the first time to take him home, his little head bobbled back and forth and front and back like a drunk. Even though I had read every book in print on babies, on the drive home I convinced myself that I missed the one page with all the crucial how-not-to-kill-your-baby information. I was certain that I would not know something that everyone knows and I would accidentally kill him and then I would be a nightly news story of a stupid Dallas woman who accidentally killed her own baby doing something stupid and then everyone would say “I thought everyone knew that! How stupid!”

I was afraid that I would give him 1/8 of a scoop too little formula and kill him. I was afraid I would give him 1/8 of a scoop too much formula and kill him. I was afraid if I stopped looking at him, he would die. I was afraid if I stopped looking at him, I would die.

000_1109aWhen we finally got him home (we drove so slowly that a 45 minute trip took about two hours) we laid him on the floor in the den on a blanket and stood back and looked at him. And waited. The dog moseyed over and sniffed him and looked up at us like “Now what?” Antique Daddy and I looked at each like “Now what?” and then we both looked back at the dog hoping she had thought of something.

As I looked at him laying there, just a tiny spot of baby on his little blanket, I noticed that he was not even as big as the stain on the rug where I spilled an entire pepperoni pizza face down on the brand new carpet the day before we moved into the house. My fears about doing something stupid were suddenly rationalized.

Before he was a year old, I had found my groove and relaxed and quit making myself crazy worrying that I might break him. I learned to wing it and appreciate my benign ineptitude. It turns out that, just like me, he’s of sturdy and stubborn stock and there aren’t enough Band-aids in the world to convince him that he can’t fly. Consequently, bumps and scrapes and bruises are part of every day and so far, I haven’t ended up on the nightly news.

This summer he is anything but fragile. He is all legs and energy and imp and tease. He is impossibly independent and fearless and he is so bright and delicious to watch at play that it makes my eyes hurt and my heart ache knowing that something so marvelous came from my battle worn body. 100_4995a

This boy is such a source of life and light and joy in this house. And though I now know that he won’t die if I stop looking at him, I still think I just might.

Top Left Photo: Cooper Ann and I are discussing what could be done with a crying baby.  She suggested that we offer him a milkbone or take him for a ride in the car. 

Bottom Right Photo:  Road Warrior

23 thoughts on “Fragile No More

  1. This is so sweet, and I think your fears are similar to many new parents’ fears. My brother-in-law has a great quote: Children aren’t china, they’re tupperware.
    And, well, I think that sums it up!

  2. Oh my goodness, my Friend! You’ve captured the feeling of motherhood with exacting clarity. Though ours was not small (10 lbs.) I felt just as you did. Beautiful.

  3. Those feelings and crazy thoughts are nearly universal among first-time parents! “You mean you’re just GIVING me this baby?! You’re not going to check up on me?! Is there no hand to hold… even a severed one would do! Oh my goodness, WHAT have we done?!? We’re going to break him!”
    As a birth doula, I’ll sometimes casually mention to postpartum moms in the hospital that, at some point during the process of bringing their baby home, they just may cry and feel completely overwhelmed with feelings they’ve never quite known before– and that this is NORMAL for good, conscientious parents, and that they are good, strong women (after all, did they not just give birth? One good reason that empowering birth experiences with servant-hearted doctors are so important to get mothering off to a great start… ok, off of my soapbox.) What a great description of this oh-so-familiar internal experience!

  4. I remember one night praying over my infant because I gave him drops for “gas” and some baby Tylenol. Then I had a melt down afraid I was killing him with a deadly drug interation. I prayed and prayed, sure I had killed him and then realizing much later that the gas drops had worked and the tylenol brought down the fever he was having and so he slept! I wasn’t a horrible mom after all!

  5. Perfect.
    I remember bringing my firstborn newborn to the hospital emergency room because there was NO WAY that what was coming out of her butt was normal.
    Turns out that, yep, that’s what baby poop looks like.

  6. I know all mothers love their children passionately, but you have a way (a talent) of putting those feelings into words. Your blog makes me tear up almost daily!

  7. Beautiful! What a lovely post. I remember having those same exact feelings, but I was only 21 when #1 child made her way into our hearts. (We stayed awake nights and watched her breathe) By #3, I could have done a great job with one hand tied behind my back. I needed that ability, since #2 was not walking when #3 was born and #1 was not yet three. So, when the kidlets were almost grown, I went to nursing school. In my fifties, I worked maternity, and the older moms were not the ones who frightened me — but the young ones, who thought they knew everything and would allow their day old babies to cry, be wet, hungry, poopy or whatever, because they needed to talk on the phone or visit with daddy (the 16 year old kid with zits) who had slept through the delivery on the fold out couch. It is the Mom with the biggest respect for life, who cares enough to be afraid of her abilities. Sean looks as though you did a stupendous job of mothering!

  8. I was surfing Rocks in my Dryer and decided to check out your blog. I am so glad I did! I have a 2-year old at home and a baby on the way, and I am feeling almost as clueless and helpless about bringing this next “bundle of joy” home as I did the first! I needed to read something that would make me laugh, and your blog did the trick!

  9. I think every parent feels the same way when they realize that they have to bring the baby home, but the nurses are staying behind. It is scary and unnerving and it’s enough to drive anyone insane, not to mention cranky due to all the second guessing and lack of sleep. But slowly, ever so slowly, we begin to see that there is a swing to it all and it’s not as hard as rocket science like we thought. And we see that God has the best sense of humor and our child has the most perfect smile, which is almost as bright as the one we hold ourselves.

    Great post, AM. Beautiful, poignant and decidely clever, as usually.

  10. You say everything I wish I could say. My daughter was born at 25 weeks and extremely premature. I couldnt bring her home until she was 5 pounds. The very first letter I ever wrote her was ALOT like what you just posted here. She turned 21 this year and is a beautiful Godly young woman, and I did it and so can ya’ll. And he will be awesome because all he needs is you and his Daddy Antique and all. And love.

  11. Oh my gosh, this is hilarious–can’t every mom relate? I read a book after my first child was born that talked about how with our first babies, we think they’re only breathing because we’re CONCENTRATING on them breathing. So true!

    You have such a way with words!

  12. well happy birthday!
    I felt the same way when we took home that first baby nearly twenty years ago and even that last one (who weighed 1lb 6oz when he was first born and 7lbs 6oz when he finally went home 4 months later!)
    I’m sure you thought the NICU nurse was fibbing but trust me, we never fib when it comes to discharging those babes from the NICU. You were more than ready and it is obvious that you did just fine. Now send that nurse a nice thank you card with a current pic of your birthday baby! We LOVE followups.

  13. Oh, how I could relate when I took my firstborn home. I, too, wanted to take the nurses home with me, especailly since I had endured complications and was weak as a kitten. And looking back, though I muddled through, I really should have had some help at home for just a little while!
    I really enjoyed reading this…and on my Wordless Wednesday, I posted a pic of my second-born all bundled for the trip home from the hospital…four years ago! It really goes fast!

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