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.
When 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.
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