Caleb’s Story: Parentnoia

In late September I wrote an entry promising that I would write at least once more about the first few days after Caleb’s birth. Over three months have passed, and this is long overdue, but it must be done because some pieces of this fascinate me still. I want to move forward and write several more entries on other topics, so this is the last entry I’ll write on Caleb’s birth. I mean, I only posted once in December. Once! Am I really still a blogger? I’m not sure. But here I go, anyhow.

People say that the first time you see your child, something changes or shifts inside of you that is completely irreversible. They usually follow that statement up with, “You fall in love with that child completely, instantly.” For me, that wasn’t quite true. In the intervening four months, it has become true as I’ve gotten to know Caleb, but the emotion I actually felt instantaneously was a desire to protect Caleb from harm.

I found myself watching him carefully, watching the nurses handle him, constantly thinking about what might go wrong and how I could stop any bad things from happening. How I might… I don’t know, scoop Caleb up with my left arm while fighting off his attackers with my right. (What kind of baby has attackers, anyhow?) I’ve never had thoughts like that come flooding into my mind before, and for the first few days after Caleb was born, they didn’t stop. Is he still breathing? Is he hurt? Who is that nurse that says she needs to take him into the next room and how long has she worked here? I haven’t seen her before. What if she’s a fake? What if someone kidnaps him? (Even though he had a special proximity security tag literally strapped to his ankle by the hospital.)

Steph had some of these same feelings, and we took to calling it “parentnoia.” I can only imagine how hellish the lives of people with actual paranoia must be. Thankfully for Steph and me, the more extreme, ridiculous parts of these feelings lasted only for the first few days after he was born. Once we had left the hospital four days later, we were back to normal.

Aside from the parentnoia, there was one other moment in the first few days that really stood out to me as being really seminal. About an hour after Caleb’s birth the room started to calm down and the nurses went back to business as usual, taking care of Steph and me, asking questions, and doing paperwork as the rising sun came over the eastern hills and poured through our window. At one point Steph turned to me as I stood next to her bed and asked, “Do you want to hold him?” Keep in mind, now, that I have no experience with babies. I think before this point I had held two other babies in my life, and had never taken care of any. To me, babies were made of glass; they were priceless and delicate and one ought not handle them for the same reasons one would also not handle the Ming vase on display in a museum. So I hesitated for a second at Stephanie’s question. She didn’t look disappointed or judge me, she just smiled softly and said, “He’s your son.”

Whew! Excuse me for a second. I’m literally tearing up as I write this.

I didn’t hesitate after I heard that. I took him from her, wrapped tightly in his little hospital-supplied receiving blanket, and sat in a rocking chair by the window. As I looked down into his face, something inside me kinda tipped and fell over. I began to cry, and I just couldn’t stop. I wept like a little girl for probably fifteen minutes, rocking in that sunlit chair, my tears splashing down on his sleeping face. I’ve since then referred to this emotion as “superjoy.” I’ve never felt anything like it before or since then. It was amazing. I think that moment in the rocking chair was probably the moment that Caleb shifted inside my mind from being a baby to being my son. As I move forward, I’m finding those two things are entirely, completely different. Things other people’s kids have done for years that I never cared about or noticed are now deeply interesting and entertaining to me as Caleb does them. Conversely, other things are slightly less important to me now that he’s around. Priorities shift, it’s true. But it seems to me to be a very worthwhile shift. The currency I’m paid in by Caleb didn’t exist before his birth, but it’s very real and very valuable to me.

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