Explaining The Inexplicable
Before Dezi was born, I asked every parent I came into contact with the same question: what is one thing you wish you were told about parenting? And what’s one thing you were told over and over again but didn’t end up being true for you? I figured the responses to these questions would change my brain chemistry a bit, and maybe make me slightly more prepared.
The responses were interesting. Most notably, some parents said they wish they were told how much love they’d feel for their child upon their arrival… about how post-birth, some part of them unlocks, and they suddenly “get it.”
And some parents told me that they were told they’d feel intense amounts of love, but instead mostly felt a sense of duty and responsibility at first. And anxiety. The love grew as the child did.
I wondered into which camp I would fall.
And when he arrived… at first I was just bewildered. Here was this tiny exhausted little creature, with hair patterns on his shoulder and back that looked like mine. He slept on Liza, and then on me, and then the doctors put him on the warming table.
And for the first time I got to see his curious face, his eyes darting around the room, his legs kicking around like some horizontal break dance. I remember that I told him that I’m his dad, and also informed him that I’m just making this parenting thing up moment by moment. I heard his coos, which started on Day 1 and are still going strong six months later. And then he looked up at me for the first time, squinting through his puffy little eyelids, and I felt my heart trying to escape my chest. That settles it, I figured. I was firmly in the intense love camp. Anxiety, responsibility and duty were in there somewhere too, but I was overcome.
But there was something I didn’t realize at the time.
As time went on, and I got to know him, it didn’t feel like I was meeting a new person. It felt like I was meeting an old friend or family member, someone I’d known my entire life, or maybe someone I’d known even before life itself. I looked at his newborn face and just knew who he was somehow, felt his jovial energy, his gentle presence, his wonder.
And even more strange was that he appeared like some undulating fourth dimensional creature, transcending time itself. At any moment, I could look at him and see him as as a 3 year old, a 20 year old, and an 80 year old all in one glance.
And every day, it felt like I was stepping deeper into a pool that was potentially infinite. That love I felt when he looked at me on the warming table, that warm feeling I thought I understood… that was tiny. A seed. Every day it intensifies, grows, strengthens. I wouldn’t describe it as love increasing every day. it’s not like a balloon that keeps expanding. Not like seeing the entire coastline from the shore.
No, it’s more like stargazing and having no concept of how far away the moon or the stars or the planets are, but just feeling comforted that they’re there.
Those parents who so sweetly answered my question about what to expect, they were actually all attempting to convey the same emotion. It’s just that it’s so hard to explain something so inexplicable. Words like love, responsibility, joy, anxiety, and fear… lack the specificity needed to even come close to describing how it feels.
This is my life right now: It’s like when Alice finds the rabbit hole, or when TS Eliot builds in a poetic turn, or when Jack finds Desmond in the hatch. Your entire perspective shifts and you realize you’ve been skating dopily on the ice above a mysterious and stunning universe down below.
And this is just the first six months. I’m holding on tight, I promise.