Been There

A friend at work had a baby two weeks ago. Today, she brought him into the office.

I turn into an idiot when I’m around children. If there’s a kid within my field of vision, I’ll do my best to make friends and play. This generally involves contorted facial expressions and hiding behind things, which doesn’t sound so strange unless you happen to be with me. Then, I’m told, it’s embarrassing. Oh, well. I like kids, and they like me.

When my friend brought her newborn son through the door, of course I was drawn like a magnet. Newborns tend not to respond well to large, sudden movements, so my childish tendencies downshifted to soft whispers, squinty eyes, and gently prodding fingers.

The feet. The hands. The fingernails. The smell. Oh, the smell.

A co-worker placed him in my arms, and I started to sway. There’s just something about holding a baby that causes me to rock back and forth. It’s a compulsion. Maybe I want them to feel at ease, or maybe they’re just so light that I want the inertia of rocking to push them further into my arms, so I can hold them more.

And then I remembered Ian, and how terrified and awestruck I was when I held him for the first time. I felt clumsy and overbearing, like me holding such a fragile creature was like using a forklift to carry eggs. My arms are good for carrying suitcases and heavy boxes; maybe a vase, if it’s not an antique.

As with Ian, my hand started patting the baby’s back, and I could speak only in whispers. I started to get annoyed when anyone raised their voice, because I could feel his body flinch and I knew he’d been disturbed. We’d known each other for only a few minutes, and already I was protective and attuned.

I placed the baby in his carrier, careful to support his head and to make the transition as smooth as possible. Ian has no trouble supporting his own head. We race each other upstairs, to see who grabs his toothbrush first. He crawls into my lap – and out of it. He knocks me over, dances, sings, and falls asleep with a book wedged in his face. His eyes are open, all the time, and his arms fit perfectly around my neck.

I can’t wait to go home.

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