I’m proud to announce that on April 18, 2011*, my wife and I experienced the joyous birth of our first child, Linus Theodore Walker, at 7 lbs. 3 oz., 20” long, and with a full head of beautiful dark hair.
I ran a piece last December (you may recall) wherein I discussed my anxieties vs. my hopes about having a baby. I promised at the end of that piece that I’d keep you posted on my thoughts about becoming a parent -- the "afterbirth", if you will. Hence, this part 2.
So what’s it like?
Like any writer who struggles with how to illustrate beauty through words, I first tested my analogies on my friends. Most got some version of what turned out to be my top three analogies, the runners up being: “love at first sight”; and “world knocked off its axis”, both of which apply to parenthood, and both of which have fine talking points. However, my first place analogy is, well, [insert teenage girl voice] SO GOOD!, that it was the only one I deemed ultimately worthy for print:
the Grinch’s heart.
Before Linus was born, I was worried that the bond with my wife, and that extended bond which runs between us and to our cats and dogs, might somehow be disrupted by this new little being, who (no doubt) would be a demand on all of us. We have a lovely life, and I was worried how we would manage with a new, unknown and untested member joining our ranks. One who won’t at first sleep through the night, and who has no regard for the time your favorite news program airs, and who has a habit of puking on you as well as pooping in his pants.
What if this new life destroys the lovely life we’d built?
It just so happens, I got the Grinch heart…
… just like his when he was trying to save Christmas, I felt my heart grow three sizes the day that Linus was born, so that there was more than enough room in there for all of us to share.
And it seems to me like everyone in this house feels the same way, dogs and cats included. From what I can see (and I’ve been daily observing these guys for a while), our animals can sense that this new guy is one of us. I have seen the dogs and cats both gather around if Linus cries out, showing their concern for him. Lolly, always the most obvious of our pack at expressing her emotions, will proudly walk next to his stroller on walks together, occasionally peering in with what appears to me to be pure love.
It really is amazing, when you feel such love for your child. The mistakes you’re worried you are making as a new parent, the sleepless nights, the first cut finger when you're trying to cut those little fingernails, the dread of returning to the work when you just want to raise your kid -– none of it matters in those few precious moments you make each day to just hold your baby. The rest of it all melts. When I pick him up to hold against my chest, his little arms and legs squirming at first, just before he finds his comfortable spot, and turns his head just so that it fits into the crook of my neck, like he and I are jigsaw puzzle pieces, and he sighs, stops squirming, and his weight collapses onto me, it all melts away. It is the purest form of joy I may have ever known.
The disgusting moments are non-issues. Changing diapers, spit-up: it’s no big deal. You’re more focused on helping your little one than contemplating the “ewww” factor. Moreover, the really really yucky moments, the poop on your clothes, the pee in your face -- you’ll tell other parents about those, and you’ll all laugh together and smile as they one-up you. How's that for sick?
I hate to play up the awesomeness of it all too much, for fear some couple whose relationship is rocky (at best) might hear about this feeling of love and closeness brought about by a child, and think that they should have one to build that bond. I'm pretty sure that is not how it works -- I suppose that the bond has to be strong already, and the baby will make it stronger, and conversely, that a weak bond might well chance breaking under the strain of a young child.
Don't think that this isn't work. I hit the pillow really feeling like I've "worked" at the end of the evening, far more so than any time I can remember.
The times your child is crying can push your emotions to frightful places. A partner's failing to put on a diaper correctly, resulting in a "blow-out", can lead to hard feelings and fights. If you have any tendency to altercations with your partner, I would suggest that a child is not a good way to smooth over that trend.
But short of that, if you've considered a child, and you have the means and time, and you have a loving partner to help (or, to be P.C., you have at least someone else you can count on to help out at least when you might need to shower, take a nap, etc.), then this former "never going to have a child" guy is here to tell you, that you might want to reconsider. After being with my wife for about a decade, it's fun for us to both have the chance together to fall in love all over again.
*Technically, the birth started on April 16, 2011, and was over 46 hours of labor. I want to acknowledge that my super woman of a wife went over 32 of those hours before calling for the epidural (something I would have accepted on the first day, if they'd have given me one). Amanda, my heart grew even more for you that day, too, and I never thought that could be possible. Thanks for pushing us to take this amazing journey together.
ABOUT JEFFREY D. WALKER
A practicing attorney and semi-professional musician, Walker writes for his own amusement, for the sake of opinion, to garner a couple of laughs, and to perhaps provoke a question or two, but otherwise, he doesn't think it'll amount to much.
They get less cute and cuddly, but the feelings don't change.
5.22.11 @ 12:15p
Nice piece. I don't know that it's so much that your heart grows but that suddenly a dormant section of it - a large dormant section - wakes up and kicks in, so that everything is kind of amplified.
And I always tell people that while I knew it would be great in all the usual, cliched ways, I didn't expect all the bullshit (diaper changes, middle-of-the-night stuff, lack of sleep) to be so insignificant and incidental. All the stuff I expected to suck sucks so much less than I anticipated because at the end of the day, it's all basically meaningless, compared to making sure he's okay, in every way.
But let me get back to you after we've survived our flight back to NYC tomorrow. ;)
7.5.11 @ 11:34a
I need my husband to read this one and I think he'd agree, 100%. Our son was actually born on April 16th and my husband was a VERY reulctant father when we were first trying. Once Alexander was born it was though it was meant to be especially since he strongly resembles my husband. Enjoy the ride I know now that ours is highly mobile (climbed on the kitchen table last week) it's getting very busy around here!