“Do you want to hold him?” my BFF asked.
I’d been peering at him through the plastic drawer for a few minutes. At the soft, wrinkled skin of his 2-day old face. At the faded, hospital-issued hat that was rolled above his eyes.
The lighting in the room was hazy, kind of dreamy. The shades were drawn, the yellow of the hallway seeping in from under the door. The room spun around me as I watched my NEPHEW. I’d felt as if I’d climbed to the top of a precipice and was gazing down at the panoramic view below me. I was filled with a clichéd wonder so strong that it made me dizzy enough to need the support of the hospital bed behind me. It was the kind of feeling I’d expected to feel when I beheld my daughters for the first time.
But never did.
“Yes,” I whispered. I did want to hold him. Of course I wanted to hold him. He was my nephew. But as I took a step forward, I realized that I’d forgotten how to pick up a new baby. How had I forgotten that? I stepped back, still lightheaded. Was I going to swoon? Had my nephew and I connected in our first few minutes together? Was this how fake Jacob felt the first time he saw fake Renesmee? (Though I assure you my nephew was much more appropriately named.)
It was surreal.
“Did you want to pick him up or…” my BFF trailed off. I’m sure if I could’ve looked away from the baby I would’ve noticed her giving me a really strange look.
“No,” I said. I definitely did not. So I watched her pick up her son, her first child, and hand him over to me. We were both relieved to find that I wouldn’t drop him. My arms remembered what to do, even though my brain did not.
He quickly escaped his swaddle and started to cry. I panicked. I’d made him cry. I laughed at myself amidst these thoughts. I knew it had nothing to do with me. He was probably hungry, but still, I couldn’t pass him off fast enough. I felt like a teenage boy holding his new cousin because his mom made him do it for a photo. Accept I’d forgotten to ask the BFF to take our picture.
I couldn’t shake the swoony feeling for the rest of the day.The world kind of swam around me. Literally. I took my glasses off in case it was the new prescription, but it didn’t help. I’d never reacted like that to a child before. Was this a new stage in motherhood? Responding to other people’s babies because I was done having my own?
The next day, while my girls were at school, I babysat a 2YO who was pretty much part of our family. We were playing dolls on the porch when the swoony, dreamlike feeling reappeared. I was immediately racked with guilt. I NEVER felt this way when I played with my girls. Was it because time was passing and that was what it took for me to appreciate things like this? Was I destined to catch only a whiff of childhood as it passed through my kids, and to enjoy the full fragrance with children who weren’t mine?
And as I looked down to change the 2YO’s diaper, the swoony feeling became so strong that I nearly vomited on her head. It was a really bad diaper. The room was spinning. It snapped me out of my melancholy.
That night as I went to bed the swooning returned, as though I’d stood too fast. I stared at the ceiling, but it didn’t pass. It got worse until I finally fell asleep. The feeling was still there when I woke up in the morning and I realized I hadn’t been swooning; I had vertigo. My mom had vertigo for an extended period of time, as did one of my close friends. So I knew the signs, I’d just misread them.
“Mama!” a voice cried from downstairs. “Come quick!”
I raced down the stairs, gripping the railing with one hand, and the wall with the other. I was spinning in circles by the time I finally entered the bathroom. And there was one of my daughters, sitting on the toilet, moaning about throwing up. The room reeked of what had come out of her other end. I held my breath and handed her a trashcan. I kept her hair back behind her head while she vomited, and steadied myself with the wall. The dizziness was so intense while she puked that I started sliding to the floor.
For a minute I thought it might be lights out for me. But I wasn’t to be that lucky. No, I was to remain conscious. Swooning almost to the point of blindness in what smelled, and sounded like, a Johnny-on-the-Spot.
But at least it was for my own kid this time.
© 2012 CEK. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
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