7 years ago today, at 9:11 pm, Caleb was born. When the nurse told me the time of his birth, I asked her to put 9:12 on the permanent record because I apparently had become superstitious of the numbers 9:11.
The birth was not unusual, though he was a large child entering the world at 9 lbs 8 oz. He had an extremely large head which tore me up pretty good and I had trouble walking for a good month. But that’s probably too much information.
Like all new mothers, I was stunned that they just let us walk out of the hospital with him, into freezing cold January weather. We lived in a crappy duplex. We had covered the windows with cellophane because they hadn’t been replaced since the house’s conception in the mid-seventies. Surely if the hospital had known this, they would have allowed us just to live there at the hospital, coddled by the nurses, snug in the overheated delivery room.
Caleb screamed through the first night at home. John and I took turns rocking him while the other feigned sleep. It was the first of many cold and lonely nights.
I did everything all wrong with Caleb. I spent most of my days holding him and staring at him and curled up sleeping next to him on the couch. Three times a day. I remember feeling like I could have slept for the rest of my life.
At about four in the afternoon each day, the crying commenced. It sometimes did not stop until 2:00 am. He would stop crying for brief intervals if we put him in his swing and played the remix of Elvis’s "A Little Less Conversation," loudly.
I had anxiety about being a mother. I was terrified that if I took him Caleb out into the dark, cold, and dangerous world, he would be taken. I imagined scenarios such as the following: I walk along the trail next to Tonawanda Creek and a strange, deranged individual snatches my baby from the stroller and throws him into the water. I jump into the water and search and dive and swim but I can’t find him. This anxiety-ridden fantasy inevitably turns into a recurring nightmare that haunts my waking and sleeping hours.
Things, you will be glad to know, are better now. A lot changes in 7 years.
Caleb no longer cries for hours at a time. He no longer takes naps and can sleep independently at night.
He still enjoys Elvis. He still has an unusually large head.
I love all of my children equally, but Caleb… Caleb is an anomaly. We used to (okay... still) joke that Caleb is Gallant and Ben is Goofus. Caleb is polite and considerate and quite possibly the most selfless person I know.
(Ben’s okay, too. He’s just, um, he’s a greedy little booger, let me tell you what.)
Dinner tonight was typical. I served Caleb’s favorite food: salmon. He happily ate while everyone else screamed.
Everything we did this evening was set to the soundtrack of wailing and whimpering and whining. Caleb did not complain. He waited patiently all day until his father came home from work and then through dinner to open his gifts. Then, he allowed Daniel to open one and Ben to help him open the others.
Ben burst into tears when I told him the gifts were Caleb’s only.
Caleb does not enjoy seeing and hearing his siblings cry.
“We can share it, Ben! We can share!” Caleb assured Ben he could play with all of the new toys while he was at school tomorrow.
Tonight, before he descended into the basement to play his new Wii Batman game, Caleb said, “These are the best presents in the world. Thanks, mom.”
Caleb isn’t perfect. He wouldn’t eat his mashed potatoes tonight. Sometimes, he leaves the front door open behind him after he comes home from school. He occasionally misses the toilet and pees on the floor. He often changes his mind at the worst possible time.
When I first found out I was pregnant, I secretly wanted a girl. I imagined I was carrying a girl. I even bought a little girl outfit I ran across on the clearance rack. I was surprised when they pointed out the penis on the ultrasound, but ultimately, not disappointed.
It’s wonderful when the right people swagger, stumble, or fall into your life. At first, you may not realize they are the right people. They might have, say, colic, and initially be a pain in your butt (or in my case- hoo-hoo.) You might feel overwhelmed by their presence: they demand more from you than you ever thought you had to give. But you find these hidden reserves you didn’t know existed, and the giving begins to pay off. They start giving back. And before you know it, you don’t remember what it felt like before they came into your life, and the idea of ever being without them scares the living crap out of you. And this is the joy and the pain of loving someone. The pain is all that more compounded when that person is so easy to love.
And Caleb… he’s so easy to love.
Happy Birthday, my love.